CGA Women’s Golf Experience at Overland marks beginning of ninth season for popular events
by Gary Baines
Kathy Malpass was in her element on Saturday, which paid dividends for participants and organizers alike in the first CGA Women’s Golf Experience of the year.
You see, the Women’s Golf Experience centers around offering group golf instruction to women as part of socially-oriented half-day events held around the state. And teaching and golf just happen to both be fortes of Malpass, a retired professor who taught sport industry operations at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and a former college golf head coach and assistant coach. And it also doesn’t hurt that she serves on the CGA’s Executive Committee and played a key role in the creation of the Women’s Golf Experience events, which debuted in 2010, when Malpass was Membership Chair at the CWGA.
So Malpass was a natural in her role on Saturday, which was to lead the putting portion of the Experience at Overland Park Golf Course.
“The great thing about these are, the women feel more comfortable in this kind of a setting with other women,” observed Malpass, a two-time CWGA Senior Player of the Year and a 10-time qualifier for USGA championships. “Obviously we want them to have a positive, fun experience with others in their comfort zone. A lot of these gals probably play with a partner or husband who’s already a player, and they’re telling them all these things to do. There’s too much for the head to realize. You can’t have that many swing thoughts when you’re out there playing. So it’s kind of nice to be with other like golfers (at the Experience) and to walk away with a fun, educational experience.
“I think these have been very successful.”
The events have been so successful, in fact, that by the end of this year, 34 Women’s Golf Experiences will have been held since 2010. And this year, a record seven such events are planned, including nine-hole Plays Day at the par-3 courses at Indian Tree and Harvard Gulch.
Besides 3 1/2 hours of group golf instruction from LPGA and PGA professionals — 45 minutes each of full swing, chipping, putting and rules, with a brief break in between — there’s lunch, prizes, goodie bags and plenty of socializing.
On Saturday, despite some threatening weather to start the day, 64 women attended the inaugural Women’s Golf Experience of 2018. It was also the first one conducted since the CWGA and the CGA integrated into one organization at the beginning of this year.
CGA executive director Ed Mate was among those on hand Saturday. He co-hosted the “In the Fairway” radio show with Jerry Walters early in the day at Overland, then observed and took part in some of the Women’s Golf Experience activities. It was Mate’s first time attending one of the Experience events.
Besides being impressed by the turnout on a day that started out less than ideal weather-wise, Mate said the CGA can learn things from such events.
“It just shows how good the Colorado Women’s Golf Association is at these types of engagement that we (the CGA) as an organization have not done,” he said. “These golfers (attending the Experience) are not going to play in the state championship, but they love golf. And it just shows me, ‘What if we did something like this for all of golfers, not just for women, what could we do?’ I can guarantee you there are men that would love to come to something like this.
“That’s the beauty of integration (is seeing) what are the best practices of both organizations. What are the things that need to be customized for that audience? What is the CGA doing that would work well for women and vice-versa?”
Indeed, Experience-like events that include men might be something that develops in the future. Laura Robinson, the former CWGA executive director who now serves as managing director of membership and integration for the CGA, said that that might be a good idea.
“I think there is an opportunity to open this up to everyone — make it co-ed” in addition to continuing to hold women-only events, Robinson said. “I think what I would do is have a mixed event rather than just men only. We’d get more people there that way, I think.”
As it is, the Women’s Golf Experience events typically draw 25-75 participants. Though many of the women are relatively new to the game, there are certainly plenty who have experience. And attendees range from the young to the retired.
There’s also quite a mix of women who are participating in the Experience for the first time, and those who back for more. For instance on Saturday, roughly 30 percent of the attendees had come to an Experience before.
Several members of the CGA’s volunteer board of directors — who played similar roles on the CWGA board — attended Saturday’s Experience. That included Malpass, Sandy Schnitzer, Phyllis Jensen and Amy Turner. Schnitzer was running the Rules portion of the Experience, and she, Malpass and Jensen have helped out at these events many times over the years. But it was Turner’s first time to attend one.
“I wish I had gone to one sooner, to one of the first ones years ago,” said Turner, a CGA Executive Committee member. “The tips from the pros — multiple pros — that’s great. If I were to come here by myself, I would probably walk away a bunch of phone numbers of women I could potentially pull together into a foursome — people I wouldn’t have met otherwise.
“There’s a lot to gain today — and a lot to gain coming out of today. I was very impressed by how robust the program is — all sides of the game plus the rules — and then the social aspect at the end. You can trade numbers and get to know each other better.”
Robinson was in Turner’s shoes a couple of years ago, when she came to her first Experience. And she likewise appreciates how events like this can help grow the game incrementally.
“This is an opportunity for the women to learn some golf and learn how the rules can help them,” Robinson said. “When you put all that together, it really makes for a great experience and it makes it a great way for us to break down the barriers and make golf a more enjoyable sport.”
The folks at City of Denver Golf typically partner with the CGA (and formerly the CWGA) to host at least one of the Women’s Experiences each year, and such was the case Saturday at Overland. The instructors included Denver’s director of golf Scott Rethlake, along with others from Denver and elsewhere: Devon Puleo, Malpass, Kelly Hodge, Nick Johnson, Geoff Strasser, Kirk Mease, Maggie Hartman, Joe Pinson, Susie Helmerich and Steve Kurtz. The idea is to have a good ratio of instructors to participants so that everyone leaves feeling they received some attention and useful tips.
“The student has to get involved and in this kind of setting they have that opportunity because we have enough teachers to get the ratio down and players can practice and get immediate feedback,” Malpass said.
The remaining Women’s Golf Experience events for 2018 are:
— May 19 at Saddleback GC
— June 2 at CommonGround GC
— June 9 at Cheyenne Shadows at Fort Carson
— June 23 at The Bridges at Montrose
— July 14 Play Day at Indian Tree GC
— July 29 Play Day at Harvard Gulch GC
For more information on Women’s Golf Experience events, CLICK HERE or call 303-366-4653.