Picture it: The local golf course with sprawling fields, soothing ponds and swaying trees in the distance. Groups of players enjoy the calm yet focused competition, engaging in conversation – and networking – as they travel from hole to hole.
But more often than not, most of the players are men.
It’s a scenario that the Network of Exelon Women (NEW) wants to change. Members of the employee resource group recognized that women in business have been missing the networking and business opportunities that develop in certain social settings – including the golf course.
NEW members set out not only to learn the game, but also to empower young women preparing to enter the workforce. The group partnered with the PGA Golf Management Program at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore (UMES), where female students created and presented a virtual coaching curriculum for the NEW. Members of the NEW donated more than $5,000 to support the students traveling to Chicago to practice their golf coaching skills, as well as the launch of a NCAA Division I women’s golf team at UMES this fall. Through their efforts, NEW is helping to level the playing field, in business and in golf, one swing at a time.
“Those who know how to play the game get four to five hours of uninterrupted time to network with coworkers and executives, putting those who don’t know how to play at a disadvantage,” said Betsy Soehren-Jones, President of NEW and Chief of Staff to Bridget Reidy, Executive Vice President of Exelon Corporate Operations. “So many business deals are made on the golf course. If you’re not there, you’re not at the table.”
The golf management students at UMES, a historically black university in Pepco’s service region, spent weeks crafting video tutorials and guides to share with the NEW. The lessons included pointers on everything from golf etiquette and culture to properly holding a golf club and maintaining good posture for swings. For some of the students, the coaching session with the NEW marked their first-ever trip to Chicago and their first experience teaching a large group of new golfers.
“They were easy to coach, learned the game really fast and made me feel welcome,” said Allison Harris, an agricultural senior at UMES. “I was nervous at first because I’d never taught anyone how to golf, but I came away feeling more confident. I definitely feel that I could teach again.”
Exelon’s family of companies supports various LPGA and PGA Tour events, including the annual KPMG Women’s PGA Championship Tournament. The NEW’s grant to UMES was presented at the golf program’s year-end awards dinner on May 17.
“It’s about empowering women to be their best selves, and the NEW’s support will help the next generation do exactly that,” said Jamila Johnson, Academic Coordinator of the PGA Golf Management Program at Eastern Shore.
Johnson, who made history as the second African-American woman to ever coach a Division I men’s golf team, will also become the first coach of the UMES women’s golf team.
“The entire experience has been a defining moment in the development of our students,” she said. “Because of the NEW, they’ve been able to network and build great relationships that will help them for years to come.”
Students in the PGA Golf Management program prepare for various careers in the golf industry, including tournament operations and resort management. Among other academic requirements, the highly competitive program requires a verified United States Golf Association handicap of 12 or lower for admission. Students are trained in hospitality and tourism management, complete 16 months of internships at courses nationwide and must pass an intensive player ability test in order to graduate.
Similar to the PGA, where women make up only 3 percent of the association’s 28,000 members, UMES’s golf program is predominantly male. Even with that challenge, young women have risen to the occasion, including Nia Troutman, a junior in the PGA Golf Management Program. Her deep love of the sport drives her ambition to one day own and operate a golf academy dedicated to developing women and girls who want to play.
“I believe women need more opportunities in golf, so that we can reap the same benefits,” Troutman said, adding that she’s excited about the new women’s golf team and would have loved the opportunity as a freshman. “I hope this encourages more young women to enter the Golf Management Program, because we can be general managers, course owners and pro players. We can do anything men have tradionally done.”