Breaking down ladies’ amateur competition barriersWritten by Amanda Ducheminsky
Shirley Tong, Irene Bateman and Judy Thompson in the scoring area after their second day of Alberta Ladies’ Am competition.
With multiple flight categories and a 25.0-handicap factor limit, the Sun Life Financial Alberta Ladies’ Amateur Championship is a unique opportunity for players of all ages and abilities to shine. This week, both young and experienced golfers get to test their hand at one of the province’s most acclaimed golf courses. With only 35% of this year’s Ladies’ Am roster full, returning competitors Judy Thompson and Irene Bateman are shocked that more women aren’t competing.
“I like having the chance to golf at this year’s private course, that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. I love the game. I can’t believe more women aren’t golfing this week with the handicap you’re allowed to have and to still be able to get in. It doesn’t make any sense. There are a lot of women that I know, fantastic women, that should be here,” says 51-year-old Bateman.
After volunteering for the past two days, Red Deer Golf & Country Club Ladies’ Club President Darlene Bates agrees that more local members should have signed up.
“After watching, I feel that more and more of the ladies here could be competing. I just feel that the majority of our ladies thought that it was for more professional golfers. I guess we all aren’t listening to the word ‘amateur.’ I just feel with a little nudge from executive we can get more in. It’s the experience. What do you have to lose? Because everybody is playing their own game.”
Fellow 60-year-old competitor Judy Thompson, believes that majority of ladies are afraid to fail and are unsure about who they might be next to. Many women don’t know that tournament pairings are determined by handicap, and are re-seeded each day based on their previous results. This means that everyday players are competing amongst their same skill level. Thompson says that after playing in her first tournament and beyond, it’s surprising how you feel after.
“At my first tournament, I was so nervous. At the start of the event, I said to myself, ‘Why am I here?’ I couldn’t believe I was there, but then I got over it and I got a really good friend out of it – one that I’m still friends with today. I tried to get some more ladies interested, but they said, ‘Oh, I’m not going to be able to golf there, and I’m not going to do well. I’m scared.’ I’m having a good time at the Ladies’ Am. It’s awesome. It’s fun. I feel good. Scoring aside, I feel really good and I’m happy for the experience.”
Thompson and Bateman are a part of a handful of players competing in this year’s tournament who are helping to break down the barriers of competitive women’s amateur golf. They are trying to convey the message that competition, and golf in general, shouldn’t be scary and that more women should play.
“My scores weren’t the best today, but I would still sign up to do it again, even if I’m not hitting well. Who cares? It’s all about learning and being more comfortable at different places. Women golfers need to be more confident, no matter what they’re hitting. I think maybe women are afraid to go to their first one. Women need to be willing to not just golf with their friends and their husbands. They need to be confident enough, that if you happen to be in a town that you really like, and there is a golf course, to go sign up by yourself. You’re worthy of being able to do something that is near and dear to your heart. If you like to golf, then go golf,” says Bateman.
Thompson explains that no matter what level you are at, you just need to have a positive and realistic attitude to help tame competition insecurities.
“I knew that there are players here that are better than me, but my expectation was to do well – better than I’ve done in the past. I’ve shot 97 and 99 so far, and I know I can shoot better, but the expectation is just to do how I’m used to doing. I know I can’t do the same as what I do at other golf courses. Here there are faster greens and there are longer tee boxes to the green, but I know if I put the ball in the middle of the fairway and can get on it in two, that’s what’s required. I didn’t expect to shoot birdies and what not, but to push myself to shoot a little better each time.”
Through tournament play, female golfers can become better players overall. Bates says that encouraging one another is where women need to start, in order to get better and to be more involved in the game.
“A little more self-confidence and perhaps better golf scores, can result by going into event’s like these,” says Bates. “There are so many of us, and we just need to practice and we just need to play golf. You have to come out and convince as many ladies as you can to play in it and in regular ladies’ leagues. That’s the only way that you get to know one another, and it’s the only way that you get to know the rules. An established golfer can provide advice and help build up an upcoming golfer’s confidence.”
There are still two great Alberta Golf competition options left to try this season. A great way for women to get started is the Golf Fore the Cure Alberta Ladies’ Team Classic, in Canmore. The Ladies’ Team Classic is a fundraising team based event. For $200 per team, pairs of golfers get to play at the Stewart Creek Golf Club on August 1st. Meal and cart included.
Another great option is the Alberta Net Amateur Championship, hosted at the Lacombe Golf & Country Club, from August 30th to 31st. With both men and women competing, the event awards players with the best overall score in relationship to their handicap.