A Smile and a Nudge: Driving Girls Golf Forward
A young woman with a pink hat and SCGA Junior polo shirt stepped to the front of the large group gathered around her at Don Knabe GC. A high school senior, Juliette Ruaux took the mic, flashed the first of her many smiles on this Saturday morning, and declared to the nearly 100 girls around her that they were all there to do one thing: have fun on the golf course.
SCGA Junior recently entered into a partnership with LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, and opened the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf of Southeast LA
Chapter. For Juliette, working with this program is personal, and she hopes that she can inspire more girls to follow in her footsteps.
According to LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, more than 40 percent of girls drop out of sports by age 14. Top reasons include not having fun, too much pressure and negative experiences. However, the top reasons for joining reflect a model that Girls Golf of Southeast L.A. is set on re-creating: fun and friendship.
“As a young athlete, I was always the only girl who was playing,” said Teresa Thornton, site director and golf instructor. “Being here today and seeing so many girls together playing golf is amazing.”
The first in a series of monthly events was the Girls Golf Kickoff in December. The event focused on welcoming all girls to the chapter, regardless of their talent level, income or background.
“Today is about three things,” said Senior Golf Director at LA County Department of Parks and Recreation Jorge Badel. “Having fun, jumping up and down and giving lots of high-fives.”
And it was. The free event included golf stations, clinics, the opportunity to play nine holes, access to the driving range and a raffle. There were so many attendees that the registration line was out the door.
Juliette heads the SCGA Junior’s girls leadership board, which has an advisory role and will shape the direction of the program.
“With this chapter I want to bring the competitive golfer out of that intense mind-set and give her a safe place to have fun with her friends,” she said. “This is going to be somewhere girls can come and have fun and make friends no matter how old you are or if you’ve never played before.”
Introducing girls to golf at these events is about more than creating golfers, though. It’s about helping girls with their body image, self-confidence, overall health, life skills and making new friends.
“I saw a lot of girls show up by themselves, but they found a group or a partner while they were on the range or on the putting green,” Juliette said. “If they keep coming back to our events, they’re going to find each other and meet up and become friends outside of just these programs. It’s all about connecting with everyone. It’s important to know that you don’t have to be at the top of the game to play, or especially to come here and participate in our activities. This is a safe outlet to make new friends and have fun without the pressure of practicing all the time.”
The program will focus on a relaxed golf activity coupled with something else that falls into one of the following categories: social, networking and education.
“Men are handed the world,” said Juliette, who is currently weighing scholarship opportunities from schools around the Southland. “If we give girls that extra push, and get them working on themselves and their vision, I think they will have a strong impact on this community.”
Juliette is leading the charge, pink hat on her head, golf bag on her shoulders, smile on her face and hand extended to all the girls who are following in her footsteps. ▪
For more information and to get involved with our girls programming, please contact Jennifer Seislove at firstname.lastname@example.org