Outdoors, People

Women on the Greens

Women golfers ‘make their mark’ on the course

2020, the “Year of the Woman,” celebrates the centennial anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. With this in mind, we thought it would be fitting to celebrate the women golfers of the Berkshires and Southern Vermont. We sought out a few to find out what brought them to the putting greens and what keeps them coming back.

Editor’s note; The interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

By Michael Walsh

Kay McMahon

LPGA Teaching & Club Professional Hall of Famer/owner, EduKaytion Golf, Lenox, Mass.

Kay McMahon. Berkshire Eagle File Photo

Q. What is your current relationship with or role within golf?

A. I have a background in physical education, and I played every other sport but golf. After college, we were playing softball and just kept getting beat up. So, my girlfriend and I decided to play more golf, and I went out and won the state amateur in Minnesota two years in a row. I decided I’d turn pro, so I bought a Volkswagen van and traveled to California. I first had to play on a men’s mini-tour, me and 150 guys. Then I was on a small women’s tour. I went to nine qualifying schools for the LPGA, and missed by a shot three times. But during that time, I wound up in Palm Springs, Calif., where I worked for Arnold Palmer at Ironwood Country Club for 10 years. That’s how I really got into the teaching end of it.

Q. How did you first get into playing, and what made you stick with it?

A. Growing up in Minnesota, we had a lot of kids in the neighborhood, so my dad built a little three-hole golf course around the house with little flower pots and flags. I always say I started at the age of 5, and we were little entrepreneurs. Kids could come play for a dime, and we’d sell lemonade. My parents played and we’d come along, and eventually they belonged to a country club. I took a few lessons and just went on.

Q. Any advice for girls or women interested in picking up the sport?

A. I didn’t play when I was young; it was for old people. But golf is the game of a lifetime. You can still play it individually, as you get older. I think for women it can be intimidating, so if you can find a female instructor it helps a lot. We’ve developed the Golf 8.5 method, which simplifies it and makes it easy to understand. For young women, it’s the best business tool you can have, to be able to go out and play with the guys. A lot of young ladies I’ve taught had to play on boys’ teams, and they were at the bottom. The way we get respect is for them to play better than all of them, and most have gone to become No. 1 on the boys’ teams. We need more opportunities for girls to play on girls’ teams, and that’s starting to happen.

Q. What’s your best shot, round or story from the links?

A. I got to play in three U.S. Opens. I didn’t make the cut, but it’s quite the experience. I got to play with one of the founding members of the LPGA, Marilynn Smith. I hit a 1-iron on a par-5, and she looked at me and said, “Why aren’t you on the tour?” And I said, “I’m wondering the same thing!” Shirley Spork is another founding member, and she was my mentor in the teaching division. She was my presenter when I got into the Hall of Fame.

Eloise Trainor

Founder, LPGA FUTURES Tour /Assistant Instructor, EduKaytion Golf, Lenox, Mass.

Eloise Trainor. Photo provided by EduKaytionGolf.com

Q. What is your current relationship with or role within golf?

A. I wanted to play on the LPGA, but the opportunities weren’t there. I ran the FUTURES Golf Tour, which was the feeder system for the LPGA for 20 years. It’s now the Symetra Tour, but after I left that, I came home to the Berkshires and since I knew golf, it was a good time to get into the instruction piece. I spent a summer at the Mount Snow Golf School, which was a great experience.

Q. How did you first get into playing, and what made you stick with it?

A. I grew up on an estate in Canaan, N.Y., and the man who owned it was a golfer. We converted pastures he used to have horses on into a four-hole golf course. So, I was mowing greens when I was 12. Otherwise, I never would have played. From there, he introduced us to it, and the first 18-hole course I played at Stockbridge Golf Club.

Q. What’s your best shot, round or story from the links?

A. My game wasn’t that accomplished competitively. As a tour operator though, one instance I remember seeing hundreds of players off the first tee. I saw Karrie Webb, Meg Mallon, Tammie Green, but this one brand new player came out, named Carolyn Peck. I announce her, and I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of swings and shots, but she hit the ball like I had never seen a player hit it. I’ll never forget that. She played with us for a while, and just had something in her swing I had never seen before from a women’s player. She just had it.

Maru Leon Griffin

Owner, Mount Anthony Country Club, Bennington, Vt.

Maru Leon Griffin. Photo by Michael Walsh

Q. What is your current relationship with or role within golf?

A. So, my husband and I are the owners here, bought the club in 2006. We wear a lot of hats as a small, family-owned business. Our kids are old enough to help us working as grounds crew and waitressing. It’s a family affair. I work with events, setting up new initiatives: kids’ camp, a croquet league and our Nine and Wine league.

Q. How did you first get into playing, and what made you stick with it?

A. As a teenager, I grew up in Venezuela, and my parents belonged to a golf course down there. Everybody in my family played, and my dad played a lot. I wasn’t really into it a ton, but I wish I paid more attention and I’d be a better golfer now. I had the basics, but 14 years later, I’m just joining the 18-hole league. The kids are older, I can put more time into it. My husband grew up learning to play at Mount Anthony, so we wanted to bring it back to its roots.

Q. Any advice for girls or women interested in picking up the sport?

A. I set up a 9-hole league here, mostly because I felt like I needed a league where I didn’t feel pressured. I just wanted to learn the game, make it social and less structured. We have a great clinic that we start with every Wednesday and then go on to play nine holes. When I first got here, I felt intimidated by the 18-hole ladies. I wasn’t at that level. Of course, they welcome you in, but I felt like I slowed them down. A lot of women feel they have to be good right away, and I think making it more social has worked for a large group of women and it’s quickly grown. That’s exciting. I think it’s a great vehicle to meet people and make relationships. It’s a slow game, and by the 18th hole, you have a new relationship. But to start, it doesn’t matter if it’s three holes, six holes, play a bit here and there.

Q. What is the best course you’ve played locally and beyond?

A. I do have great memories of the course I grew up on, it’s called La Lagunita Country Club in Caracas. Here in the states, there are some beautiful courses in Florida, and, in Vermont, Equinox is beautiful and Woodstock Country Club.

Melanie Boese

Owner, Brattleboro Country Club, Brattleboro, Vt.

Melanie Boese. Photo by Michael Walsh

Q. What is your current relationship with or role within golf?

A. This is my sixth season as owner and general manager of the Brattleboro Country Club. My late husband, Jack Judge, and I took over the club in the fall of 2014 because it was headed toward insolvency. I believe the course is an important part of Brattleboro’s history and it’s a great asset to the area. I learn more about the golf industry every day, and I’ve got an incredible view from my office window. I’ve been involved with the National Golf Course Owners Association since 2015 and was due to represent the state at National Golf Day in Washington D.C. for the third year before COVID-19. I feel truly blessed.

Q. Any advice for girls or women interested in picking up the sport?

A. I would say try it! Golf is a tremendous stress reliever, and it’s some great one-on-one time for Lillie and I. She wants to be a veterinarian, so I tell her she should be working toward a golf scholarship! Women’s golf scholarships are some of the most underutilized scholarships there are. We are offering PGA camps this year, and we have a number of kids that play with their parents and grandparents. That’s one of the great things about golf, instead of sitting on the sidelines watching your kids play, you can all play together. What other sport can an 8 and 80-year-old play together?

Q. What is the best course you’ve played locally and beyond?

A. I don’t get out much during the season, so most of my golfing away from the course is during the winter at events like the PGA show and NGCOA annual meeting. I’ve had the opportunity to play in Florida, Texas and California, down on Cape Cod and even in Mexico. I like Stowe, Sugarbush and Tater Hill. I got to play Ko Olina in Hawaii. That was probably my favorite simply for where it was.

Pam Kraft

Assistant Professional, Taconic Golf Club, Williamstown, Mass.

Pam Kraft. Photo by Michael Walsh

Q. What is your current relationship with or role within golf?

A. I’m the assistant pro here; it’s my fifth season. I came from Stratton Golf School, where I worked for 14 years. I’m an ex-Wall Streeter, so it’s kind of a second career. I worked at Manchester Country Club and Equinox beforehand. It’s mostly meet-and-greet, checking people in for tee times, going over rules and regulations; really anything the members need, and any tournaments we run.

Q. How did you first get into playing, and what made you stick with it?

A. I started golfing in 2001. I was a field hockey and semi-pro softball player, so I picked up the sport pretty quickly. I played a little bit when I worked on Wall Street, but I was working so much, and it was more of a non-women’s sport at that time. A lot of men were doing business out there, so the opportunity wasn’t there. But I played in a lot of tournaments on outings with other companies and loved it. I went into golf full time when I retired.

Q. Any advice for girls or women interested in picking up the sport?

A. It’s never too late. I teach physical education at Williams College, and I tell them, just because you don’t have the time now, [doesn’t mean] you can always use it in the future. You can go back to it, and it’s become a big sport for women from a business point of view.

Q. What is the best course you’ve played locally and beyond?

A. Taconic is amazing. It’s a special place. My dad was a Williams graduate, and I’d come down when he came back to the football games. There are several great places around. Dorset Field Club in Vermont is great, Equinox as well. Kingsbarns in Scotland was amazing, Fishers Island Club off New York is incredible, Royal Poinciana in Florida is great, Greywolf in Canada, Ridgewood Country Club, where the Deutsche Bank Championship was held.

Julie Dapron

Burr & Burton Academy graduate/Stonehill College golfer

Julie Dapron. Photos courtesy of Robert Simmons, Stonehill College

Q. What is your current relationship with or role within golf?

A. I’m playing golf at Stonehill College, just finished my first year. It was super great. I worked my entire life to play college golf. I absolutely love it; I love my team, we’ve traveled to Texas and Michigan for tournaments. Although our spring season was cut short, our coaches are already planning for an exciting fall season.

Q. How did you first get into playing, and what made you stick with it?

A. I probably started playing when I was 4. My mom golfed when she was younger, and she introduced my dad to it. Now, my dad plays all the time. He brought me when I was little, carrying a bag bigger than me.

Q. Any advice for girls or women interested in picking up the sport?

A. Just pick up a club. It’s the most rewarding and frustrating sport you’ll ever play. You need persistence, but it’s super rewarding. You get to meet so many new people, and if you want to be competitive, you can go to all kinds of places to play. It grows you and tests you as a person. There are hard days, but I’d say pick it up and don’t give up. It’s a brutal sport, but so rewarding at the same time.

Q. What’s your best shot, round or story from the links?

A. Sophomore year of high school, the state championship at Newport Country Club, is way up there. I had an awful practice round. But the next day, at states, I had my best round ever. Making pars, birdies, out of nowhere I shot a 77 and won the state championship. I wasn’t expecting to win it at all. Somehow, I pulled myself together and flipped the switch. You can play amazing one day and awful the next; you can’t take anything for granted in this sport.

Debbie Storie

General Manager, Baker’s Golf Center, Lanesborough, Mass.

Debbie Storie. Photo by Michael Walsh

Q. How did you first get into playing, and what made you stick with it?

A. I started golfing when I started working here back in 1983. I grew up down the street and just started hitting balls. There was a customer that would come here all the time who was a golf instructor, so he showed me some things and I picked it up. It’s nice not to be stuck inside all day.

Q. Any advice for girls or women interested in picking up the sport?

A. Just stick to it. There are a lot of people who will tell you that girls can’t do things. Don’t listen, you can do anything the guys can do. Start out by taking a lesson to get the basics, and just keep at it. Find some other girls you can talk into going out with you to play. Make it fun. We need more girls out golfing.

Q. What’s your best shot, round or story from the links?

A. I like to use my driver. I can hit a long ball, show up the guys and you could see the look on their face. By the third hole, they’re asking you, ‘How’d you do that?’ The rest of my game isn’t that great, but I could always drive.

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