Golf Waning? Not With Girls, It Isn’t

Sandy LaBauve’s Vision for Girls in Golf is Booming

It may not be news to anyone but me, but reading Mark Lampert’s article on Sandy LaBauve and the ongoing LPGA-USGA Golf Program for Girls stuck a dagger in the heart of the “Golf is Dying” movement. I’m sorry if courses have become too congested as owners need to push more foursomes through per hour. I’m sorry if they make us play too fast or let us play too slow, depending on the person you ask. I’m sorry it’s gotten so expensive, and that the driving range is sometimes a better bargain than the fairways. However, the woeful prophets who suggest that no one is riding over the hill to “save” the game are wrong. I don’t know about the ‘saving’ part, but yes, they are – and they’re girls, thousands and thousands of them.

LaBauve was introduced to golf by her parents in a way that maximized the fun of the game. Interesting, quirky drills were inserted, and austerity was not a central component. She didn’t need to play the whole round, or even keep score – just have fun. She loved it so much that in  1989, she founded a complete program for the advancement and development of golf for girls under the banner of the LPGA and USGA. The effort began with a modest ten programs. Lampert points out that the LaBauve idea has gone pretty well, growing by 1,400% in the years between 2010 and 2017. In the past year alone, 80 new programs have been established.  In the year of 2010, 4,500 girls were involved, and by the end of last year, the number reached 72,000. Of interest is that with almost three decades of success behind the programs, a number of leading tour players in the LPGA count themselves as alums. Not surprisingly, LaBauve didn’t just assemble this program, give it a shove and walk away. She has occupied virtually every important function and membership status pertaining to girls’ golf, is a prominent author for Golf Digest Woman and numerous other publications,and is one of the leading teaching pros in the United States. Incidentally, she brought the fun with her, making the process more than eye for an eye competition, more than tournaments. Every chance she could think of to make the game fun for girls between the ages of six and seventeen, she employed, including separate tees so that a player not yet physically mature could go home and say she parred a hole instead of scoring an 11.  Remembering those days myself, I suspect that the same would be invaluable for boys.

In 2018, LaBauve was named as one of the official “pioneers” of golf for girls, being selected for the honor with Amy Alcott and Susie Maxwell Berning. The qualities specified for such an honor were as follows: (a) to venture into unknown or unclaimed territory (b) to open a new area of thought, research and development (c) display the characteristics of pioneer spirit, a la the early settlers, and (d) to forward the development and enhancement of the LPGA.

Of the present ambassadors for LPGA-USGA Girl’s Golf Programs, Brittany Lincicome is one of the most ferociously committed. Only a child at the idea’s first experiments, she is stunned to see “thousands of new girls…every year.” Lincicome finds it difficult to believe that she is now in her thirties, acting as an ambassador for such a program. At any rate, the “golf is dead” folks are not throwing off much credibility where the girls are concerned. The LPGA has developed into one of the most prosperous and healthy golf organizations under the protection of the USGA, and another generation is coming. It’s a big one, it plays a good game of golf, and thanks to Sandy LaBauve, it’s having a lot of fun.

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