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November 18, 2015
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us. We have a very special press conference here this afternoon. Tonight, the LPGA and the PGA of America are hosting a very special preview of the Founders Film. It's a very special film for the LPGA, one that's been in the process for a few years now. We are so excited to see this feature‑length documentary about the remarkable journey of the 13 women who helped to found the LPGA.
Two of those women who helped found the LPGA are here with us, Marilyn Smith and Shirley Spork. Thank you so much, ladies, for being here. We appreciate it.
And we also have two of the women who helped make this film a reality, thank you so much Charlie Fisk and Carrie Schrader. Thank you so much for being here.
To get things started, Charlie, I'm going to start with you. You were the visionary behind getting this film started. How did this come about? How did you even find out about this remarkable story that we have here at the LPGA?
CHARLIE FISK: I started this film about three years ago, and I had just finished another project about Margaret Mitchell, another kind of historic female biography.
I was looking around for projects. My father‑in‑law, actually Mike McBride, and I play golf together a little bit off and on. He's been teaching me. He pulled me aside one day and he said I know you're thinking of stories. Well, you know, there's these founders of the Ladies Professional Golf Association, and one of the founders had just passed away. He sent me the news article. I read it and I thought why do I not know about this, why am I not learning about this.
I was an athlete in high school and little bit of college. I had no idea. So I called Louise Suggs. I called LPGA, I talked to a few people. I decided to start calling the founders. I called Louise and Marilyn.
After talking to both of them, I was so inspired. There was no way I couldn't‑‑ it was something I was called to do at that point. That's how it got started.
The women are incredible and anyone who talks to them for five minutes understands how special. There's not many people in the world like them. So I had to spend some time with y'all.
THE MODERATOR: When you first got that phone call from Charlie, what were your thoughts about someone wanting to put this story into a film?
MARILYNN SMITH: I couldn't believe it. I never heard that before. I thought what a wonderful thing to document the beginnings of the LPGA which is now the, what, the longest and best women's sports organization in the world. So to have the documents and how we started this and how we almost went defunct when Babe Zaharias passed away, it was a struggle, and then to have them put this down for history, when the girls are that are playing now, they will know how difficult it was for us on Tour.
So we had help from a lot of people. Just 13 people don't do it themselves. We had a lot of help. We can tell you tonight a lot of those people that helped us to make it go.
THE MODERATOR: Shirley, when you got a chance to relive some of those moments in this filming, how fun was it to go back and think about that story that you guys got to be a part of?
SHIRLEY SPORK: I'm kind of fortunate that my head works but my feet and legs don't work anymore. I've got a pretty good memory. I was excited about having it put down in print because at home, having been a founder of both the LPGA Tour and teaching, I have lots of records on paper, you know. To see that it's put on film is just marvelous. I think you are going to enjoy it.
To think of Charlene and her group of 11 Films who do documentaries and she got a big award recently from a documentary. Hopefully next year I will be able to travel to some film festivals and introduce the film to other countries and other people.
You all will see this evening a project that took really a basic two years of their time, which they donated. This was a sizable project, not one for them to make money on. I compliment them for believing in us and wanting to tell our story.
THE MODERATOR: Charlie, can you take us through that process of what goes into making a film like this? We have this special preview, the film is finally complete. What are the next steps for you guys as you continue trying to get this film out to the public?
CHARLIE FISK: I'm going to pass that on to Carrie because she's been dealing with our distribution company.
CARRIE SCHRADER: I'll just start back when Charlie asked me to join on this film she had been working on it for about a year. I wasn't a golfer. My family golfs, but I had never really golfed.
She said it's about the women and golfers. I was like I don't know if I'm so interested in that story. What's unique about it? Then she showed me the clips of these women, and I started to learn the story of these women. I started to get hooked to these amazing characters and I said, oh, yeah, I want to tell this story. For me, as a writer and director, I mostly do make believe films. To come on and see this naturally born, amazing protagonist who against all odds succeeded, it's so powerful that I said, oh, yeah, I want to make this movie, I want to tell this story.
I'm just thankful to you all living the lives that you did and it's helped me be able to live the life that I live as a female film maker.
Anyway, that being said, we were fortunate, right when I came on, Kaleidoscope Films became interested in the story. They loved it right off the bat. They are basically a sales agent, they go out and help us find distribution. They just entered us into Sundance, cross your fingers, and some other festivals. So we'll see what happens next.
But they love the film and are so supportive of these women and these characters. We're really lucky. Hopefully we'll be able to announce a worldwide premiere soon. We don't know when, but soon.
MARILYNN SMITH: Can I just say the word I think that would personify it for us was persistence. We didn't see a way to lose. That was the thing.
We almost lost it when Babe passed away, what, in 1954. Some of us had to go out and do some public relations work, like Shirley and I went to a boxing match and we were supposed to get in the ring and get the microphone and talk to the fans. Well, this one fellow was just pulverizing the other fellow and I got woozy because of the blood and everything. Shirley didn't get woozy. She got right through the ropes and got the microphone and said come out and watch the LPGA play in the U.S. Open.
Then I would hit golf balls at major league ballparks like St. Louis, Cincinnatti and Washington, D.C. Hit balls in center field and then get the microphone. We had to do a lot of that stuff. Sometimes our drives, we caravaned a lot of times and sometimes our drives were 1,600miles, like from Spokane to Waterloo. It wasn't an easy thing for us.
SHIRLEY SPORK: We didn't have the money to hire a publicity person. When we would get to a town, we would print little signs and ask stores if they would stick them in their window. We went to ballparks at little league baseball clubs like Spokane. We would go out to the ballpark and hit golf balls from home plate out in the field.
Luckily, in the beginning we didn't have Pro‑Ams, we had a swing club and we each hit a different club and that way we passed the hat and had enough money to pay (indiscernible) Hammond, who had a bullhorn and could announce us on the tee. That's how he announced our tournament.
We had pairings‑‑ we had someone to make the pairings. We had three by five cards. We put the scores on them and then we made our own pairings. On Sunday night, as we went to the next tournament, we went to a pay phone and put the money in and called AP, UP and Golf World. That was it. That's the only publicity we had.
So we really had to blow our own horns our whole life. I'm glad that my horn hasn't worn out yet.
THE MODERATOR: Shirley, as you are talking about all the things that you had to do, coming to an event like in the CME Group Tour Championship, where you are seeing some of the players competing for a $1 million prize, how do you feel from knowing that you guys made this possible, that you created this platform for these women who are out there competing today?
SHIRLEY SPORK: I think it's rewarding for us that we stuck together long enough to see it grow. We weren't making a lot of money. We were able to travel and meet people. We loved what we were doing. We survived. Here we are.
And the people today, they have the young ladies out here just having a great opportunity. I think it's wonderful.
MARILYN SMITH: The first year we had, I think, 12 tournaments, total money $50,000, and Babe Zaharias was the leading money winner. I think she won $14,000. So we didn't make money, but getting the trophy was the main thing. When I won the Title Holders, getting that trophy was far more than maybe $700 first place or whatever it was.
But we were persistent and the people that helped us, like Shirley was telling somebody else, we had Alvin (indiscernible) who made the clothing. We had four different tournaments cross country. Then Helen Langfield put up her own money in some tournaments in California.
SHIRLEY SPORK: Alvin, his charity was the Damon Runyon Cancer Fund, and Helen's was the United Voluntary Services. So these people had money and they had charity and they could write it off and believed what we were doing was going to be successful. We had a godmother and godfather, and they are the ones that helped us. I don't think in this world anybody can get along and do it all your own. You have to have support and people that believe in you and you can count on. That's how we made it.
MARILYN SMITH: Can I just mention one person who really got us going and that was Babe Zaharias. This was a former Olympic champion and people who knew her name. When we played in tournaments, they would come out to watch her. They saw that we could play too. She was the longest hitter. She hit it average 235 to 240, and then along came Mickey Wright and she hit it a little farther.
When Babe passed away, like I said before, that was a tough time for us. We lost some tournaments. We gained some, but we lost some. When we raised our prize money from $6,000 to $7,500, we lost the Texas Women's Open. I would have to look at my book that I wrote. This was one tournament because we raised our prize money they couldn't have a tournament. We were facing a lot of obstacles there, not just by playing but by sponsorships.
THE MODERATOR: When you heard this story and when you started making this film, we had only four living founders. Louise passed away earlier this year. How important was it for you to get this story told while we still have them around to tell this story and how special is it now to see this come to fruition, see the finished product?
CHARLIE FISK: Wow, that is a great, great question. It's a really emotional question and something that when I first started the film, I was dragging my feet. I was maybe a year into it. I was kind of fundraising. I was mostly paying for everything and taking little trips. I came out to see them. I came down to see the LPGA a couple of times. And Marlene.
About a year into it, a year and a half into it, my mom got really sick actually. She ended up passing away. Those last couple of months with her, she said you need to get on the ball. These women are old. The story is amazing. Just do it. Just tell the story. That really put a fire under me.
From then I just kind of jumped into it and with a renewed determination. I thought I've got to tell the story and I understood how precious it was to spend time with each of them. And actually that changed the story a lot. I came at with an historical perspective and after spending time with them I understood how important it was to talk about them as people and kind of address the human struggle in all of what they went through and in their lives.
So when Louise passed away, it was hugely devastating to us because we made the film for that and you'll see when everyone gets to finally see the film, which we're still fundraising, when we finally get the film out there, Louise was one of the central characters in the story. She is one of the central features of the founding of the LPGA. So her passing away before she could see it was sad. I'm wearing my Louise pin tonight.
CARRIE SCHRADER: There's part of me, of course, that wishes that she saw it and then there's part of me that wonders what she would say after she saw it. If you know Louise, we sat in the editing room and laughed. She's just such a great character. She was so proud and determined and so dogged about the rules.
And she had a long rivalry with Babe, and so it just made her really great fascinating story telling to tell, to show these heroins but also show all the complexities and the nuances.
CHARLIE FISK: So the end all story is that tonight these two get to see it. That for me is like Christmas morning. I can't wait to see what you think about it. I told the story about you.
SHIRLEY SPORK: Someone said we would probably cry. I've already cried. Louise is up in heaven and she can see it tonight. I believe in it.
MARILYNN SMITH: You better check the projector before you start.
SHIRLEY SPORK: The one thing about Louise, she had worked for Gulf Oil Company and she had a big business sense. When she was president, I think I was secretary and we went to the men's tournament, the Masters, to see if the PGA would help us. We needed some support from them. They loaned us the commissioner or tournament director for a year. And when we'd get through with our meetings, Faulk and I would run to the hotel and when Ben Hogan came in from playing, we'd wave at Ben Hogan. Louise didn't do that, she was strictly business. But Marylee and I kind of ran off and watched him play.
Q. Charlie, when you first started this, the making of this almost mirrors the founding of the LPGA because there were spots when you didn't think it was going to make it. Can you talk through hose hard times and how you were persistent in making sure this thing got done?
CHARLIE FISK: That's really interesting because we call those Founders Moments within the crew. Why is this not working? Why can't we get it to happen? Why don't people believe in us? All of a sudden something would happen. We're like Founders Moment. That's what happened.
One of the big moments for us was Carrie Webb winning at the Founders Cup tournament two years ago. We had just interviewed her. We had raised that money through like a film raising site to get to do that shoot.
At the end of the Founders Cup, we were filming her, I was physically filming her because we didn't have enough‑‑ we couldn't pay for enough crew to keep them there. I was on the ground filming and she won. In her speech she donated $25,000 to the film. And I was fussing with something and my sound guy like hits me. I was like‑‑ I look up and he has this tear in his eye. I was like what? I listened and she was just explaining how important it was that the story gets told. That was another one of those moments. We've had them off and on.
CARRIE SCHRADER: Another moment was when Stacy Lewis was with her agent and created the Birdie Challenge, which you might have heard about, for us. That was another moment where we really needed more support to help this film come to fruition. That was also a great moment.
Also the PGA of America and the LPGA have really got behind us and fought for the making of this film.
You hear a lot of organizations, they talk about things like this, but they got behind us and they have done it with us. And that we're forever grateful for.
CHARLIE FISK: It's tricky to understand, but making a film of this size is and being that it's historic is extremely expensive.
CARRIE SCHRADER: You can imagine just finding archival, there wasn't a lot of photos or film taken of these women back them. It was hard to get press. So we have scoured the earth for home movies, stuff in basements and attics that people were going to throw away. We'd get a box, what's in it? That process, it's just very expensive and time consuming. All in all, it's very much been worth it.
Q. What is the dream scenario for how this gets presented or seen or distributed or whatever? What would be the ideal?
CARRIE SCHRADER: The dream is a major film festival, so one of the big, big film festivals, like Sundance or London or Tribeca, and that we would have a world premiere at one of those festivals. Then from there it would hopefully get picked up for distribution and have a theatrical release and then go to online and cable, et cetera, et cetera.
Our goal is to have this film seen by as many people as possible: the golf world, athletes and people who love to watch sports, but also people who love great stories. That's really what I said earlier really attracted it me to. It's one of those stories that just exceeds everything. I think it's a group of underdogs who really went out there and kicked butt eventually.
Q. Can you give us an idea of how much time you spent with these two? How much hours or trips?
CHARLIE FISK: Lots.
SHIRLEY SPORK: Five times a week for me.
CARRIE SCHRADER: Marilyn would say, are you here again? Why is this camera still here?
How many times do you think, Shirley, we came out?
SHIRLEY SPORK: Three different trips. You came to Marilyn's twice. We went to Sedona so we could go on a pink Jeep ride.
CHARLIE FISK: We came out and we spent probably a week each time with them, selectively filming whatever. I needed to spent more time with Shirley. She said, listen, I've got my whole week planned. I was like, where are you going? How can we spend some time with you? We really wanted to spend time with them. She was going to Sedona on a pink Jeep Tour. I said, what are you talking about. I mean, just I haven't done that. Shirley is out in this Jeep in the middle of ‑‑ so we looked it up and we got our own pink Jeep. We went and filmed with her out on this Jeep Tour. She was hitting rocks with sticks, like she was playing golf in the desert.
CARRIE SCHRADER: We really wanted to capture them living their lives as real people not just talking head interviews.
Q. How much more money do you need?
CHARLIE FISK: We are looking at about $75,000 more to get over the hump with licensing. Once you get to the place where you can distribute, our music costs alone are about $26,000.
CARRIE SCHRADER: Then there's the cost of getting a print for the theatrical. It has to go through a process to make it basically look and sound great on a huge, huge screen. That's another big chunk. Then there's the lawyer fee.
Marilyn keeps trying to send us checks.
Q. When you are scouring for videos or whatever from some of the other founders, Patty Berg was one of them. How fortunate were you to be able to find any of that? For Marilyn and Shirley, what do you think Patty would think of this film being made?
CARRIE SCHRADER: We're lucky Patrick, her nephew, is going to be here tonight. He was helpful. Patrick will be here tonight. I wish Phoebe Brown, our producer, was here. Charlie and I co‑direct. I was one of the writers and Charlie is an editor. Then we have Phoebe Brown, who is a great producer. She really came on and made the archival happen. It was very, very challenging getting those home movies. Patty is big part of this film.
CHARLIE FISK: We found a little bit in Patty's archives, but not much honestly. We ended up finding it in certain auxillary players. Peggy Kirk Bell, Debbie Danoff, she did a lot of filming on Tour. Her family kept very meticulous‑‑ some families, it disappears and some families it's precious. So it was interesting where we end up finding it.
I mean, between Phoebe Brown and (indiscernible), they were the two people that it was like almost a full‑time job to track this stuff down. They were constantly contacting people and contact them like 90 times. Who wants to dig out those boxes in their garage? To them it's just their old memories. To us it was extremely important.
Sometimes we'd get these films and we have photos if you want them later, I can show you, of us setting up. We transferred it to 4K on our Red Epic that we have. We would set it up and film it in this little set up that we had. Each time we got a film, we had to meticulously put it up there. We'd start it and we would be like what are we going to get. Some of them were amazing. The Babe, we've got a lot of you.
CARRIE SCHRADER: We have one of Patty's clinics. When we found that, we were just jumping for joy. She did her funny little visor move. It was great.
Q. What do you think Patty would think of this film being made?
SHIRLEY SPORK: What would she think of it? It's great publicity for the game of golf and she would love it. I was going to tell a story tonight. Way back when we didn't have any advertisements. Patty Berg endorsed Peter Pan peanut butter. There were ads in newspapers. Patty was our model for us to learn how to give golf clinics for our companies. Wilson for Patty and for Marilyn for Spaulding and Louise for McGregor and myself Golf Craft, which is now Titleist.
We went around the country giving clinics to promote the game of golf and get women at clubs interested in playing. As we started there was no pros that taught women. They were just like four major PGA pros in a country. And as amateurs, if your parents had money, they sent you to the four people. Tommy Armour was one of them. One in Chicago. There were a couple others. I have that all written down somewhere.
We didn't have teaching women in the game. We didn't have an LPGA teaching team. That was a struggle to start that also.
Marilyn was president and went two years before the players thought it was important. I said well down the road you are not going to be able to play if you want to stay in the game.
MARILYN SMITH: It was passed by one vote. That's how we started the teaching. Now it's like 1,700 members. Every club should have a lady pro on their staff, absolutely, either PGA or LPGA pro.
The game today is really growing in the women's and junior's segment. It is not growing in the senior part. You are losing people in the game because of time and money and it's kind of sad. The USGA and LPGA girls golf program is really helping along with the PGA source.
I just think that these two ladies sitting here commend a great deal of thanks for doing what they have done. They are not making a million dollars off of this. They have lost a lot of money and lot of other jobs trying to complete this.
MARILYN SMITH: Patty Berg's award is going to be given to Shirley Spork tomorrow night. The LPGA asked me to come in from Phoenix to present that to her. I don't know if you know this, I will say something else about Shirley. I met Shirley Spork at the Women's National Intercollegiate Golf Tournament in 1948. I won the tournament in '49. You never said that.
Anyway, little did we know that we would become co‑founders of the LPGA and lifelong friends. No one could have a better friend than Shirley Spork. She's always ready to help you. Even if you don't ask, she's there to help you. I wish I could tell you this story, but I better not. I have to askher first if I can tell it. No, I better not. It's a pleasure that the LPGA asked me to come down to present this to her.
I was the first recipient of the Patty Berg back in 1979 when the LPGA board of directors set that up to recognize her sportsmanship, her diplomacy and her contributions to the game. Now I know that I'm going to watch the film and it's a blessing that I'm here.
SHIRLEY SPORK: It's a blessing for me, thank you. In reference to Patty Berg, one of her quotes is it's not how fast you get there, it's how long you stay. Very true in competition.
THE MODERATOR: That's certainly a great quote. Thank you to all four of you. We wouldn't be here without you, Marilyn and Shirley. We appreciate that greatly here at the LPGA. Thank you for your dedication.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports