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March 15, 2017
NANCY HENDERSON: Hello everyone, my name is Nancy Henderson, and I'm the president of the LPGA foundation. I will be the moderator for this press conference today.
Just to give you a little bit of background on LPGA-USGA girls' golf, it was founded here in Phoenix in 1989 by one of our LPGA teaching and club professional members, Sandy Labauve. She was pregnant at the time and she wanted a place for her daughter, Lindy, to play golf in an environment with all girls. So Sandy really kicked it off.
Then in 1994 it became an initiative of the LPGA Foundation. Soon after that, in 1996, the USGA joined us and we became LPGA-USGA Girls Golf. I have to give a quick shoutout to Beth Major from the USGA today who is here today. Thank you very much for your partnership and your support.
So girls golf has been a part of the LPGA for a long time. Since this event, the Founders Cup, which celebrates the past, the present, and the future of the LPGA, we've really seen an incredible rise in the number of girls who are playing the game.
Money from this event has helped us go from 5,000 girls to more than 60,000 girls participating in our program, and we're not stopping there.
I'm going to bring up the commissioner of the LPGA, Mike Whan, to give you the what's next and what's going on in the golf industry.
MIKE WHAN: Thank you, Nancy. Thank you for letting me crash the all-girls party. I asked to speak to you today because I think once a year at here you kind of hear my sermon about girls' golf. I want to tell you what we told the players last night in the players meeting. Usually we don't talk about what happens in the players meeting, but we started by thanking the players.
Back in 2011, we had this crazy idea we were going to start a golf tournament that did three things: remember and embrace the women that really started this tour years before us; second thing was continue each year to recognize what we call pioneers, which is women who picked up the baton and ran after the Founders; the third thing it was going to do or try to do was remember the philosophy that the founders had.
We've all heard it a lot of time. We've been around them. They knew they weren't going to get rich. They knew they weren't going to get famous. But they had a chance if they hung together and had some persistence to leave this game better for their daughters and for their daughter's daughters.
So we wanted to create a tournament that did those three things. We kind of felt like if we could make this Founders Cup work we would not only play with some of the best athletes in the world and showcase some of the future athletes of tomorrow, but we would also share and embrace with the people that gave us this opportunity.
The other thing we set out to do quietly and really not as publically back then is to do something about the future of the game in the U.S.
If you've traveled the world like we all do, you see a lot the countries invested government money into the game for both young boys and young girls.
That's not really a thing in America. So we realized pretty quickly he better be the ones that do that in the U.S.
Luckily with the partner like the United States Golf Association, we sat down and said, I don't know about the rest of you; you're probably sick of asking me the question and I am sick of answering it, which is, Commissioner of the LPGA, what are you doing to change the face of the game?
What I realized the pretty quickly is I can't do anything and we can't do anything to change the face of the game today. We're not going to have a bunch of 48-year-old women go, You know what, golf. That's what I'll do tomorrow.
But we do believe if we change the face of youth game we'll change the face of this game in 20 or 30 years. So we started looking and said over the last hundred years, if you look at National Golf Foundation numbers, about 80% of the golf population is men and 20% is women.
If look at the population under the age of 18, imagine that, it's 80% men and 20% women. It's looked like that forever. We said, If we're going to change the face of this game, we're going to change what it looks like under the age of 18. If we can change the youth, we can change tomorrow.
What's come of that six or seven years later is a commercial we'll start running today on the Golf Channel. I'll let you watch that, and then I'll share with you some real data that's not coming from us, but coming from the National Golf Foundation.
I'll show you the slide we showed to the players last night. Again, this is data that comes from the NGF, including the phrase "changing the face of junior golf." Not my term, theirs. I would've written that term and would love to take credit for it.
But National Golf Foundation said, If you look back in 1995, 17% of all junior golfers were girls. Like I said, exactly what adults looked like. You jump forward and you look at today, today 32% of youth golfers under the age of 18 are women. We've never seen that kind of jump. We've seen it hover around 20% the last ten or fifteen years.
In the last four or five years it's really taken off. At the same time, the LPGA-USGA golf, to Nancy's point, has gone from 5,000 girls a year to over 60,000 girls a year. I really like the fact that the NGF said, not me, that girls seem to be accepting the message that this game can be fun, and it would probably have something to do with the visibility of this program and the visibility of young superstar golfers. Not you, but young superstar golfers and soon-to-be young superstar golfers.
If you watch our tour today, as we've talked about, 28 years old -- I'll talk to a 28-year-old player and she says she feels old. She will get no sympathy from her 52-year-old commissioner. We've got a lot of the young, exciting women from all over the world showing us how fun this game can be.
If you ask again, what are you going to do to change the way golf looks and how are we going to get more women into the game, the answer is: we're going to change the way the junior golf game looks. Even if half these players fall off, we'll be just fine.
Flip it to the next slide there.
On the same topic, but not exactly related, is if you go back to that same period of 20 years ago, 1 in 17 youth golfers were nonCaucasian. What did the future of the game look like back in 1995? White and male. Shocker.
What does it look like today in the adult population? White and male. So then you say, What's it look like today in the junior golf population, under 17?
Well, looks like one third are women; one in three are nonCaucasian. Our youth game is starting to look like our country, and our future adult game is gonna start looking like our youth game.
Something worth pointing out, the NGF said if you look at millennial data, if you don't get kids playing a sport before the age of 12, they might participate in the sport a little bit, but it won't become their core sport. That's travel balls and everything else. After 12 it gets pretty crazy in terms of your absence.
Half of today's youth golfers are under the age of 12. Never been able to say that before in NGF data. So what we really like about the future of the game and changing face of the game, is they're young, really young, and they're women, nonCaucasian, and they don't look anything like the adult population of the game.
So for the first time I think we can stand up here and say the future of this game is changing, like it or not. We kind of like it. Bottom line is a lot of people can take credit for that. We just want to be in that line, because we feel like back in 2011 we asked the best female athletes to play for out of purse; we asked the USGA to take the check they had been writing us and triple it; we asked a bunch of site directors all around the country, including a lot of our very own LPGA teaching club professionals, to open up new sites and get young girls starting this game in an all-girl environment.
You can ask anybody at the First Tee or anybody at NGF, you get girls playing this game in? An all-girl environment, the retention rate is at level you just can't see in any other kind of situation.
Again, there are a lot of things. I just saw Paige Mackenzie from the Golf Channel, and she was tracking down hole locations. I grabbed her over and I said, You know I am a marketer and I care about stuff like this, but as you talk about who is winning the tournament and what the scoreboard is and the weather is going to be like on Sunday and whether or not that pin placement is tough from the wind, can you just remember that this tournament wasn't started about that. It was started about this and the future of the game.
The future of the game is changing. It's changing because of events like this, programs like this, partners like the USGA. Of all the other things you're going to write this week, do us one favor: Write this one. For some reason this has been the greatest secret in the LPGA's game, and I'm not sure why.
The one thing that we're most proud of in the last five or six years isn't how much our tournament purses have grown, how much TV is better, how many tournaments we're playing. Those are the things that keep me alive as commissioner. Those are job satisfaction things.
But what we're doing that matters, that will make a difference, is this. We ought to tell that story at least a couple times a year. Thanks for letting me interrupt. Appreciate it.
THE MODERATOR: We're going to start our panel portion. Going to start here with Nancy Lopez. You actually won 48 times on the LPGA Tour: World Golf Hall of Fame member, LPGA Hall of Fame member. You inspired a generation of golfers, myself included. I still remember watching you win five times in a row; nine times your rookie season.
Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year, Vare Trophy, all three in one year. No one has done that since. So how does it feel to obviously inspire a generation? I know you still give back because you're on our foundation board and you are so passionate about getting girls in the game. What still drives you to make a difference?
NANCY LOPEZ: First of all, with the founders that started this journey of LPGA golf, I have to thank them for what they did for me. As they left the tour and handed us the baton to carry on, as our commissioner said, we want to leave it better than when we came onto the LPGA Tour.
I know through golf it opened a lot of doors for me. My dad was my mentor, friend, teacher, everything to me. He taught me to love this game. I think now I do what I do because I still love the game and want to promote women's golf for sure.
As I was growing up, I started playing golf when I was eight with my dad. The opportunities for women's, there were no really good opportunities for young junior golfers.
As I played the game with the amateurs growing up in New Mexico, and then wanting to go to college, there were no scholarships at this time for any women at all.
I wanted to go to Arizona State, and they pretty much said, No, we don't have any scholarship money. Colgate Palmolive was very involved with women's golf at that time with David Foster as the president. We loved women's golf, and he had a foundation for scholarships for amateurs.
I ended up winning that golf scholarship, the Colgate Palmolive, which was for need, golf, and grades. I was pretty smart back then. It gave me an opportunity to go to school and maybe just have to pay for half of my education.
Because golf was my life but education was still something I wanted to be able to do well. If I didn't make it in golf, I wanted to be able to make money another way.
Then Tulsa University was trying to build their girls' golf team, and they ended up paying for the other half of my scholarship. So I had a full ride. We just didn't have those kind of opportunities back then. That was before Title IX, and women just didn't have the opportunity to do that.
So I look at all these young women that want to play the game, and we want to play the game, because it's such a great sport. When I played golf it was more because it was something you could do with your parents. It was a family thing. It kept me off the streets and kept out of trouble, which is also very positive.
And I loved it. My dad helped me love the game. My mom wasn't much of a golfer but walked on the golf course with me all the time. Through that, loving the LPGA the way that I do, because LPGA women's golf is really my other family outside of my daughters and the rest of my life.
So to work for the LPGA and help promote women's golf is so important, because I see all these little girls when we do our golf program, and I've been involved the last few years, so see the excitement of these little girls when they go out and play this great game, because there is so much great feelings about golf.
I always talk about golf because I love being on the golf course. I love the smell of green grass. I used to always tell my dad, when you could smell the green grass, I would say, Dad, it's a tournament. There is a tournament going on. Green grass being cut meant a tournament to me.
So to be able to have all those positive feelings about golf, it's so great for not just young people, but women today to be able to go out on the golf course, enjoy something. Women are always going to 24/7, so if they can take the time to go on the golf course and enjoy that, it's something just really great for me to be a part of that.
But like I said, watching the little junior girls, the will looks on their faces when they hit that great shot, the camaraderie between all the young girls when they get to just be out there playing golf together, getting better, inspiring each other, that's what makes it so much fun for me, to be a part of that.
And with saying that, I have three daughters who don't play golf, and I just hate that. But I couldn't get them to play golf. I don't want to make them play golf because my dad didn't do that to me. They loved it but didn't have the desire to play. I encouraged them in other ways.
This has been a great part of my life to be able to help junior golf and grow women's golf and with my company Nancy Lopez Golf Adventures to bring women to golf and make them more confident in that they belong on the course jus as much as the guys too.
That's what we try to do, we try to develop the positive, good feelings for the women to go out on the golf course and can play this great game.
NANCY HENDERSON: That's awesome. I think I remember reading or you telling a story about you had trouble just getting on your high school golf team; is that true?
NANCY LOPEZ: I did. When I was playing golf there were no women's golf teams. I went to a high school Roswell, New Mexico. I was on junior varsity. I was not allowed to play on the boys golf team. The reason for that was there was a rule or law that women were not allowed to play in body contact sports with guys.
Golf is not a body contact sport that we knew of, so a civil liberties union lawyer in New Mexico, female, called me and said, Do you want to play on the boys golf team? I said, I would love to play on the boys golf team.
Of course, I didn't want to rock the boat, but she said, If you can play and you can qualify to play for the men's team and there is not a women's golf team, you should be able to do that.
So she ended up going to the board of education at the time in Roswell, New Mexico, and they didn't feel that golf was a body contact sport, so I qualified to play on the boys golf team.
I was fourth on the team and we won the state championship, which is kind of funny. The other guy's teams didn't like that too much, that they had a girl on the Goddard High School team.
My dad always wanted me to play golf with the guys because he said I would play better and get better if I played with people that beat me all the time.
So that's how my golf game got better: playing with people better than I was. Playing on the boys' golf team was really fun. It was fun to be a part of it. They accepted me on my team, of course. And to be able to have that opportunity to play on the men's golf team was something that would've never happened until this lawyer called us and said, Would you like to do that?
NANCY HENDERSON: We're going to go to Sandra Gal next. Thank you for joining us today. You started playing golf at the age of five and your dad was your first coach. You didn't get serious about golf until about 14. You did a variety of other things, artist, ballet, all kinds of different things.
When did you kind of decide that golf was it for you?
SANDRA GAL: That is a good question. Well, I went to the states for college, to University the Florida, and having the opportunity I think I got a lot better than just playing on the national team in Germany having kind of started late with practice and getting serious into it when I was 14, 15.
And once I started winning tournaments in college golf, I think I realized that I was good enough, which until then I probably didn't realize in a way. So I think being maybe in the top -- where was I, top 5 in the NCAA rankings. I thought, Okay, this could be it and I should really try Q-School. I did in my senior year and made it.
It's funny, because in Germany we never had LPGA on TV. It was always just the men's. So I really had no idea about how strong the game was in the women's. I didn't really have an idol to look up to. Like Nancy said, I actually played a lot of golf with boys as well, which really helped me, too.
So coming out I didn't know what to expect. I realized this is what I'm going to do.
NANCY HENDERSON: That's wonderful. You're inspiring the next generation of girls. You have a program that you do in conjunction with LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, it's called Walk with Sandra. Tell us a little bit about that. It's a great opportunity for girls to actually get an inside-the-ropes experience with you.
SANDRA GAL: Yeah, I'm very excited about this program. I think it comes from me not really, as a girl, not knowing much about the LPGA. So I created this program where a couple girls, local girls from USGA girls programs can walk inside the ropes with me on Thursdays and Fridays during most of the U.S.-based events.
They'll write a little letter about their interests, which is usually obviously -- they explained the five (indiscernible) that they represent. They are usually little artists as well and they have lots of other interests and they write cute little letters that I get in my email, and we pick these two girls that are basically the most eager to be out there and are very motivated, little leaders already at 11, 12, 13, which is amazing to me.
It's been so rewarding the last two years having them out on the course. I encourage them to ask me questions during the round, and they just soak it all in. They're fully there for all 18 holes, and, yeah, the questions I get are amazing. I wasn't sure if this was really something that would make a big impact until I got the feedback from the girls and from the parents.
That really touched me.
NANCY HENDERSON: That's awesome. Next we have Kayla Wilde. Kayla has probably grown up with us here at the Founders Cup. She's 14 now, so she was first with us when the tournament started in 2011. She had the opportunity to be on the Golf Channel in the booth, so this is old hat for you, right?
So talk to us a little bit about your girls golf program. You're part of that here in Phoenix. What girls golf, how it's helped you.
KAYLA WILDE: Girls golf has been really important to me throughout my entire life that I've been in girls golf. It has inspired me to do many things. It's given me confidence and it's taught me how golf, it's more than just golf. You make relationships, friends for life. It's really important that every young girl that's interested tries girls golf. You get so many opportunities and chances, and it's very uplifting for a girl's confidence.
Really helps them feel like they can do anything. It's really inspiring.
NANCY HENDERSON: That's awesome. Obviously you aspire maybe to play golf in college and turn pro.
KAYLA WILDE: Yes.
NANCY HENDERSON: You have a player that kind of inspired you. Do you want to tell everybody that a little bit?
KAYLA WILDE: Yes. Angela Stanford inspired me at 10. She was the first player to give me an autographed golf ball. Ever since then, I've always watched her here at the Founders Cup, and now whenever I play in a competitive tournament and I make a birdie, a donation goes her charity, the Angela Stanford Foundation for kids affected, or families affected by cancer. It gives scholarships to those kids.
NANCY HENDERSON: That's amazing. You're already giving back. We admire that.
Nancy, I'm coming back to you. You said your daughters don't play golf, but your granddaughter, Molly, is a girl's golf member at four. Tell us about that experience.
NANCY LOPEZ: Well, Sue Powers who works with me at Nancy Lopez Golf Adventures, she's great with the kids. Molly lives in Venice and so does Sue. Sue is such great teacher and very patient. I finally get to go to out and watch Molly. I always wanted my girls to pick up the game just to even play amateur golf. Not all about professional golf. I wanted them play this game because it's just a great game to be out there playing it.
So Molly has been going. I think well all this year. She just started. It's fun to watch her. I got to see her a couple weekends ago. She finally got to swing a golf club. They all want to swing a golf club, even though they probably never saw anybody doing it. It's automatic. They know what to do. They want to swing.
It was fun watching her because she was on the driving range and she saw the ball get elevated, and that really excited her, which is really fun. Watching her with the videos they have sent to me is really cute. Sue teaches them to throw the ball to kind of get used to the distance. She was doing that the last time, and then she started swinging at it and kept hitting the ground back here.
She said she was really better at throwing than swinging at it. I thought that was really cute. I think for Molly, I hope she picks up the game and loves it. I think she loves it already. You know, four years old is kind of young, but you never know. You got to introduce the young kids to golf. They may love it and just want to play it every day.
But I would love to see her play in the U.S. Juniors where I can follow her as her grammy, and then my fiance will follow her. But he said that since he's been able to caddie for me he would like to be caddie for Molly in the U.S. Junior one day. So that would be pretty cool.
That's my goal for Molly. I hope that's her same goal. It's just such a great game, and I want to be able to play golf with her and enjoy what I talk about that's so fabulous about golf by being out on the golf course. Really being so fortunate to be able to play the game. I would like to see Molly do that. She's red headed and blue eyed. Looks nothing like her grammy. It will be fun to follow her around she see her play in some junior events eventually.
NANCY HENDERSON: There are over 45 girls golf alumni playing on the LPGA Tour or the Symetra Tour currently. Not only does girls golf introduce girls to the game, but they actually do elevate to the highest level. There is hope for Molly.
Look, Sandra started at five. How were you, Kayla?
KAYLA WILDE: I was ten.
NANCY HENDERSON: Ten when you really started?
KAYLA WILDE: Yeah.
NANCY HENDERSON: Sandra, one question for you. Is Nancy experienced some chances with college and before Title IX, and obviously you had the opportunity to play at Florida. Is there something in the future that you hope happens in the future for girls and golf?
SANDRA GAL: Yes. Yeah, absolutely. I think Mike Whan has been so great for us moving elevating the LPGA so much the last few years. Something we inspire to is just to get to that PGA TOUR level in some way, equal pay. I think it is a topic that's on our mind. I think we make a great living and our tour has risen so much, but it's a long way to go.
It's a vision that we have, and I think a nice first step is that cooperation with the PGA TOUR that just started recently. I think they're working on a joint vent as well. Which would be wonderful. Yeah, I think, yeah, definitely creating that demand for us.
NANCY HENDERSON: I'm sure Kayla is in for that. She would love to be playing for the big purses down the line.
SANDRA GAL: I'm sure she will be.
NANCY HENDERSON: Thank you ladies, for your time today. Anyone have any questions for any of our panelists?
Q. Nancy, with the explosion of the game internationally, Americans have become less dominant. Something like this investing is women's golf here, are you hopeful? Does did matter that that has changed, and are you hopeful this will help the Americans re-surge in the future?
NANCY LOPEZ: Absolutely. It's funny when I'm watching women's golf, and this story goes around, because when I talk about women's golf, yes there are players from all over the world playing. When they're playing in the United States, we have tournaments here, Americans want to see Americans win.
When I went to play with Se Ri Pak in Korea, they want their countrypeople to win.
We have so many great players. I think too, we can't take anything away from the great players all over the world that play this great game and work very hard at it.
I think if we can keep our American players, young players, playing and keep investing in them and giving them the opportunities to play, we need that.
One evening when I was with Lexi Thompson, I kind of looked at her and said, You guys got to start playing better. We want to see you guys win. She looked at me and said, You know, they never mess up. They're really great players, aren't they? That means we need to get better. If you need to work harder, you need to do that.
And they're ladies, too. When you watch them play the game they bring a lot of class and style to the LPGA Tour with what they do and how hard they work. You have to give credit to you will the ladies that play on the LPGA Tour. Yes, I would like to see more American players winning.
I know last year I think there was only one that won an LPGA event, maybe two. I would like to see them playing better. If we can help grow U.S. player golf by helping junior golf, I think we definitely need to do that.
NANCY HENDERSON: The question is what was your biggest struggle and how did you overcome it. Sandra?
SANDRA GAL: That's putting me on the spot right here. That's a tough question. I think I would say it's not -- it's a struggle -- it's more I would call it a growth. I think golf has given me such an opportunity to grow as a person. Like we talked, all of us, three of us talked about confidence. This game just promotes growing and confidence so much. It's such a gift to be able to play it. I wouldn't call it necessarily a struggle, but it's something you work on constantly to be your best, to work hard, to believe in yourself, to have that positive self-talk. You know, stand in your own truth and power.
I think that's something that I work on constantly. Even after ten years, it's still something that can get better. Yeah.
NANCY HENDERSON: Any other questions?
Q. Sandra, when you were first introduced to the game were there very many girls playing? I don't know if it was at your club or where, but were there very many little girls?
SANDRA GAL: There were a decent amount of girls playing. It's hard for me to compare with anything else, but I know we had pretty good competition regional and national and then international in Europe as well. Absolutely. Yeah.
Q. Kayla, do you know how many girls are part of your girls golf program?
KAYLA WILDE: I know there are a lot. It's in the thousands, I think. In the hundreds. 230. A lot.
NANCY HENDERSON: Just to give you a number. And that's really exciting. That's why we're excited about changing the face of the game and the future of the girls golf.
Any other questions out there? All right, thank you ladies for your time.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports