Finding My Golf Community and Learning to Love the Game Again
For as long as I can remember golf has been a defining part of my life, but I recently discovered the element of golf that brings me the most fulfillment and joy. Some days I love the game — the smell of freshly mown grass, the calm golden glow of a sunrise over the course, the feeling of launching that perfect draw off the tee. Other days I’m haunted by the struggles of a disappointing college career —those lingering yips and visions of not being quite good enough to make it at the Division I level. It still hurts to think about sometimes, and for a long time I wanted to give up the game entirely.
Yet, there’s something about golf that continues to draw me back in, and the Ladies Golf Union at Goat Hill Park has reminded me of why I love golf: the amazing community of women.
I was introduced to the game as a toddler when my dad built a putting green in our backyard. Most kids want a swimming pool or a trampoline, but we got a putting green. I’m not talking about some cheap little Astroturf number that he slapped on top of the back patio, I mean my dad grabbed his best shovel and dug a hole in the ground four feet deep that could comfortably fit a Ford F-150. Then he bought seed from one of the local golf courses and built a practice green that became the neighborhood attraction. We lived in a small suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. Not exactly ideal golf conditions, but that didn’t deter my dad from building his dream putting green.
I grew up playing golf with the boys — my dad, my brother, his friends and so on. It was a great way to build a competitive edge, and I loved to go out there and show them up, but every girl needs her tribe. I was excited when I started playing junior golf and found other girls who had a mutual love for the game.
When I was 12 I played in my first international junior golf tournament, which happened to be here at the Junior World Golf Championship in the San Diego area. I was thrilled to meet girls from all over the world and would keep in touch through letters (yes, hand-written letters) until we met again the following year. Often during a tournament I was more excited to reunite with my friends and would have to remind myself I was also there to compete.
As my junior golf career intensified, the social aspect began to shift. Competitive golf became less of a fun activity and more of a chore, and by the time I reached my freshman year on the Kent State University women’s golf team, I was burned out.
I put so much pressure on myself that the thought of standing over a three-foot putt gave me anxiety. But I pressed on, knowing that quitting wasn’t an option. I was so afraid of failing that I dreaded standing over putts outside of three feet. My self-inflicted fear made me forget how to have fun. The only light that kept me going was the bond I formed with my amazing coach and teammates. The girls on my team became more like the sisters I never had.
Once I finished college most of the friends I made through golf moved on to other states and countries to pursue their careers. When I moved to San Diego five years ago, I had a tough time making new friends. I couldn’t afford to join a club, and most ladies’ leagues and tournaments were during the work day. What happened to all the junior girls I used to play golf with? Surely there were still female golfers near my age in San Diego, but how do I find them?
After almost five years, the golf gods have answered. My joy for golf was reignited through a new women’s league at Goat Hill Park in Oceanside called the Ladies Golf Union.
Women from all walks of life come out every Wednesday night to play nine holes and socialize. The group includes recent college graduates starting their careers, current and former professional golfers, women who have daughters of their own and some who run their own businesses.
When we make our way to the first tee, all the midweek stresses fade away. We share laughs, crack open a beer, enjoy the cool ocean breeze and focus on making good contact with the little white ball.
If someone tops it off the tee, it’s no big deal, we just drop another ball and try again. Score is an afterthought. The point of playing golf is to unwind and relax — something I forgot how to do.
Best of all, many of these women are new to the game. Their passion and eagerness to learn golf is refreshing and invigorating. In the past, I took for granted all the amazing opportunities and memories golf has afforded me. I only focused on the negative and forgot how beautiful this game truly is.
Each week I get to know more wonderful women and it’s exciting to watch our community grow. I am grateful to be a part of something special again, and I’m reminded of the parts about golf that always made me happy.
It’s funny how things come full circle — I traveled to San Diego as a junior golfer and had some of my best memories making friends with amazing girls all over the world. Now seventeen years later, I live in Southern California and I get to do it all over again. I think I’ll keep playing golf after all.