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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Shirley and Teenie: Golf Clears Your Mind

Shirley (left) and Teenie (right)
Ready for another round with the Star Fort Ladies Golf Association

I've been paying a lot of attention to the LPGA tournament season.  The Shop Rite opens Friday morning for a 3-day, 54-hole tournament that's going to feature some terrific golf played by some talented young women golfers.  The top contenders have been playing golf since childhood, their skills and competitive instincts honed to a laser-sharp focus by their families and a culture that encourages and celebrates competitive sports for girls as well as boys.  Today's professional women golfers in the United States are the first adult generation to benefit from the Title IX legislation that opened the door of equal access to young girls.

But how did those of us who came to the game of golf before Title IX opened the door find our way to the links?  Some of us, of course, were born into golfing families with country club memberships.  But what about the others?  No high school or collegiate golf teams were open to us.  I can't remember how I found my way to golf.  I just know that at some point in my late 20s I was walking down the fairways hitting balls.  My golfing friends, Shirley and Teenie, told me a story that I suspect is typical for many pre-Title IX women golfers.

Shirley and Teenie married first cousins and in the rural South that means they were practically sisters-in-law, even though they initially didn't know each other very well.  By the early 1970s, about the time that revolutionary Title IX legislation was making its way through the Congress, Shirley and Teenie were both mothers of young children and their husbands had taken up golf.  Occupied with the demands of children, homemaking, and work, in that time of gender-separated spheres they initially didn't give the men's new pass-time much thought.

Then Teenie's husband came home and announced that he intended to play in a couple's tournament.  He told Teenie he'd like to play with her, but if she didn't want to learn to play golf he'd find another woman to play in the tournament.  Teenie decided to take up golf.  She and her husband went shopping at Sears and when they were finished Teenie was fully outfitted with clubs, shoes, and balls, and ready to learn how to play golf.

"I shot 92 the first time I played golf," Teenie told me, adding with a devilish grin, "for 9 holes.  I counted every one of them."

At about the same time, Shirley began to fret about the cost of her husband's golf habit.  It was a bit of a strain on her family budget, but her husband reasoned with her that golf would be more affordable if they joined a golf club.  His buddies had recommended Star Fort.  It had a swimming pool and tennis courts, so while it wasn't a country club, it was a place where the men could play golf and the women could watch the children while they swam.  That arrangement didn't last long.  Shirley demanded a set of golf clubs and her husband brought home a set of used women's clubs.

"The men started working with us after than," Shirley explained.  "And on Sundays, after the men had finished their round, late in the afternoon, Teenie and I would play golf. "

They often finished their 9-hole round in the dark and the husbands would be there, waiting for them to come op the 9th hole fairway.  "Sometimes it was so dark we couldn't see our balls," Teenie reminisced.  "We'd have to stop talking and listen for the ball to his the ground so we knew where we'd hit it."

Shirley and Teenie's golfing progressed.  They started playing during the week.  Then some of the other women who golfed at Star Fort invited them to join in a monthly round with the women golfers at the local country club.  "We took casseroles to those games then," Shirley explained, "and that's how we started playing with the 'true' golfers."

The children started playing golf.  The couples started traveling to various couples events.  Golf became a way of life their families.  For both Shirley and Teenie, golf is still a way of life today.

I asked Shirley what is is about the game of golf that remains so appealing to her  She explained, "Golf is a game that clears your mind.  I am always trying to beat Shirley.  I forget everything when I get out on the golf course and start hitting that ball."