Originally created 07/05/99

Women enjoy links to business



For years, Alice Flannigan wanted to play golf.

But it was a "male sport."

About two years ago, Dr. Flannigan decided to give golf a try. She joined the Executive Women's Golf Association, a national organization with a chapter in Augusta.

The game has helped open doors for her.

Now, she can discuss her game with other golfers.

"You can talk about the ninth hole at Jones Creek," Dr. Flannigan said.

And male golfers respect that, she said.

A sport once thought to be just for the guys, golf has been catching on with other groups in recent years. Women, especially those who have risen through the corporate ranks, have found the sport an asset. They are taking up the game and they're learning how to parlay their time on the course into business deals.

"It's helping women catch up who had not had the opportunity to play golf," said Dr. Flannigan, president-elect of the local chapter of the Executive Women's Golf Association. "Women are supportive of each other -- we relish in someone's progress."

She finds going to the golf course relaxing.

"It has been a tremendous experience for me and I love it," she said. "Not only did I make business contacts but I made great friendships. We really do have a way to get together and play the sport."

One of the local chapter's goals in the next couple of years is to recruit more young women to the game and expand golf opportunities for women.

The organization, like most other associations, also offers the women social benefits. Members get together monthly to play and socialize. They also meet for regional and national gatherings.

"We use golf as an outlet for business as well as for recreation," local association chapter president and founder Becca Phelan said. "It's relaxing."

Since 1991 the Executive Women's Golf Association -- a national not-for-profit organization created in West Palm Beach, Fla., with chapters in 90 cities -- has recruited more than 13,000 members, Ms. Phelan said.

The Augusta chapter has about 100 members. They include a professor, banker, doctor, accountant, journalist, chief executive officer, veterinarian and FBI agent.

The organization's national advisory board has several well-known women in golf, including: Alice Dye, with the American Society of Golf Course Architects; Judy Bell, the president of the United States Golf Association, and Patty Berg, a founder of the Ladies Professional Golf Association.

Ms. Phelan, a financial consultant for Robinson-Humphrey, had been playing golf for years with her husband, but she didn't have a regular game until she founded the local chapter more than two years ago, she said.

It was difficult to get a group together and play because there were few golf organizations for career women, she said. Now, she has plenty of golfing buddies.

Jean Roper, a Regions bank branch manager, said the organization has helped her network with other professional women and make new business contacts. She has turned several of her golf partners into mortgage clients, she said.

Playing the game also has given her confidence to compete in tournaments dominated by men. She recently played in a golf tournament, she said, in which she was the only woman.

For years, many golf clubs have been, either by tradition or by the club rules, men only. Things are changing now, but some of those social stigmas cling on.

"It think Executive Women's Golf Association is a means to break down that barrier," she said.

Before Ann Davis, a commercial property manager, joined the association, she said she had no hobbies. Now, she know how to golf.

"Golf has given me a new perspective on life," she said.

Frank Witsil can be reached at (706) 823-3352.