As with most professionals, sometimes your career takes a turn that you never could have expected. Pam Swensen, CEO of the Executive Women’s Golf Association, is no different. Ten years ago, she had anticipated a long career in advertising, not running the country’s largest women’s golf organization and helping to start the EWGA Foundation, one of the company’s biggest accomplishments to date. Pam spent a few minutes with me to share what golf has meant to her.
SSP: How did you start golfing and what has kept you in the game?
PS: I headed up business advertising for a telecommunication company in Boston and was tapped to develop a plan using golf to entertain our top clients. Not playing the sport myself, I looked locally for resources and found a local group called the Executive Women’s Golf Association to get me started learning how to play golf. I became a charter member of the Boston Chapter of the EWGA (in 1994!!!).
Working within golf has been wonderful. I have been very fortunate to meet so many people in the golf industry. While, it all started with building a corporate entertainment program using the sport of golf – I’ve never looked back! The game of golf has opened so many doors for me over the last 20 years!
SSP: How has golf changed your life?
PS: Golf has opened doors personally and professionally, has enabled me to meet incredible people across the US and abroad, has provided me with a profession that I love, and through my leadership of the EWGA for the past 6 years as CEO to be the face and voice of our wonderful organization to the golf industry. So many members have been touched by the kindness of other members. There are countless stories of women supporting women in challenging times whether it be personally or professionally. It makes you really proud to represent over 100,000 women who have been in the EWGA during our 20 year history.
SSP: How can women start golfing?
PS: There’s a great national program being offered coast-to-coast called Get Golf Ready for $99 in 5 lessons. It’s a wonderful intro to this fun game! Women need to step up and get involved. It’s great for fitness and fun! And you get to be outdoors too! And how about meeting new friends too! [For more information on Get Golf Ready, go to http://www.playgolfamerica.com/ggr/.]
SSP: We’ve found that most women start golfing because of a man, whether a husband, dad, boyfriend or boss. How is the EWGA working to change this?
PS: One cannot underestimate the influence of parents on introducing their children to the game – many EWGA members were introduced to the game by their dads. I’d like to see more women take it up if they haven’t had the opportunity already – and there are millions of you out there – because it is truly the sport of a lifetime – play with family and friends, showcase your talents in business, have fun, be outside – fun fitness friendship and fresh air!
It’s a great conversation starter in business too. Many women realize it can be beneficial to their professional career and are intimidated to give it a go. The EWGA offers programs to make the introduction to the game fun and easy and removes the many barriers people feel are there with golf. We make you feel welcome! For example, the EWGA has a wonderful program where we match a new golfer with a more experienced golfer to make you feel more comfortable on the golf course called Fairway Friend®. They share the nuances of learning the game and removing the stress of what it is like to play a round of golf at a golf course for the first time. EWGA also offers many learning opportunities, networking activities and fun events to get you in the game and having FUN! Our lives are filled with so much stress that it’s always great when you can escape everyday life for a few hours and ENJOY! We are all about Connecting women to learn, play and enjoy the game of golf for business and for FUN!!!
SSP: Why was the EWGA Foundation created?
PS: EWGA members have reaped so many rewards from the relationships they have built with members from coast to coast. So, in 2003, we felt it was the right time to expand our horizons. The EWGA Foundation was created with the vision of enriching women’s lives through the game of golf. Since the EWGA experience has changed so many of our members lives through friendships, people being there in a time of need and support – we wanted to give back – and the best way to do this was to create a foundation that can provide support on several levels. We created a scholarship program called Women on Par® where we award scholarships for women over 30 who need a little help to get up to par and re-enter the workforce (and let me tell you their stories are so compelling and the need is so great), the EWGA Foundation’s Drive for Dreams® Initiative involves collecting gently used golf clubs and monetizing those donations to support specific groups in need. We also support LPGA-USGA Girls Golf by hosting an annual fundraising golf tournament and our Chapters conduct supporting events for junior girls as well. I am happy to say that we are now starting to see how we are making a difference in women’s lives.
SSP: How does the Foundation serve women in golf?
PS: A great example is Rose Naliaka. I had received an email from Rose who happens to be the only female teaching professional in Nairobi, Kenya. She was running a golf school for underprivileged girls and was in need of clubs, clothes, and shoes to help these young girls see that golf could open doors for them from the current life they were living. She was an amazing women with a passion and dedication to make a difference in these young girls lives. As the leading women’s golf organization in the U.S., how could I say no to her cry for help? We needed to come together and find a way to help Rose and her girls. And we did just that. That was the beginning of the EWGA Foundation’s Drive for Dreams Campaign.
SSP: How would you like to see women’s golf change or grow?
PS: There needs to be more faces of women in golf – not just playing the game but at all levels of the sport and business side of it as well. It’s important for women to mentor young golfers – to show them how it can help them, enrich their lives and make them a better all-around person. Golf has not been as welcoming to women as it should be – and there are things happening now in the game (because of declining participation) that women are now being identified as an important group. Imagine that! We control family purse strings and are a powerful economic force. We need to speak with our purse and spend our hard earned dollars with companies that value our business. The golf business is no exception. EWGA members generate over $75M annually in golf spending, which is significant. If you capture a women’s heart with great service, then you will have her support for a very long time, and she will spread the word! So come on ladies, step up and get in the game and let your voice be heard. The EWGA offers a great channel for you to do just that!
The EWGA Foundation just awarded this year’s Women on Par scholarships to two amazing women who are continuing their education and changing their lives. For more information about the scholarships and other EWGA Foundation programs, visit EWGA.com.
You can also support the EWGA Foundation by attending AGORA, Shi Shi Putter’s golf fashion trunk show in Los Angeles next March. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the EWGA Foundation. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.