Special to LPGA.com
Thanks to a generous donation from a Hall of Famer and the efforts of a talented group of filmmakers, the true story about the 13 women who founded the Ladies Professional Golf Association could soon be told in high definition.
Documentary filmmaker Charlene Fisk and her Eleven 11 Films production company have spent the last 18 months developing the concept and beginnings of a film about the 13 women who fought to form the LPGA in 1950. “The Founders Film” will tell the story of that group of courageous pioneering women who didn’t take no for an answer and dedicated their lives to creating an organization that would stand the test of time.
They did just that, and Fisk and her team have decided to present the story to the world in the form of a feature-length film. The film’s mantra is stated early in the nearly three-minute trailer that can be found on TheFoundersFilm.com: “When men were calling the shots, 13 women made their own course.”
After her father-in-law, Michael McBride, initially told Fisk about the founders last year, she decided to investigate the story more thoroughly.
“I looked into it a little bit more and realized how important the story was for women’s history and women’s sports history,” said the Atlanta-based Fisk, the winner of five regional Emmy’s. “I got in touch with Louise Suggs and talked to Marilynn Smith, and that’s when I realized the story’s potential and how necessary it was for it to be told.”
Fisk and McBride were at last week’s JTBC Founders Cup in Phoenix and received some great news from Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, who shot a final-round 63 to win the tournament by a stroke. While accepting her winner’s trophy, Webb decided to donate $25,000 to the project.
“I was just standing on the 18th green when Mike (Whan) was introducing me, and it just came to me that I would love to be a part of that documentary being produced, and I really think it’s something that should be produced,” Webb said in her post-tournament press conference. “And I think there should be a lot of attention put on it so that people are aware and maybe they get the total funding that they need.”
Webb’s donation is a big boost for Fisk and her team, who plan to use archival footage, photos and interviews coupled with fresh interviews and anecdotes to tell the founders’ story in the film. Fisk received more than $10,000 in initial donations through a Kickstarter.com fundraising effort, but she said the film needs additional support.
“There’s a lot of support for the project, and a lot of people want to see it happen,” said Fisk, who has been writing editing and producing in the film industry for more than 15 years. “We have preliminary funding, but we’re only about 15 percent funded. At this point, we’re going as far as we can.
“Now, it’s all about fundraising so we can get the funds to complete it, and we’re really hoping to get it done by next March.”
Fisk said she has received considerable support from LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan and the LPGA and the hope is to debut the movie at next year’s Founders Cup. She plans to conduct more interviews and search for archival footage and photos in the coming months to move the project along.
From her earliest explorations into the subject, Fisk knew she had an important and unique story that needed to be told. The closeness the Founders share and the family atmosphere that is prevalent on Tour was an eye-opener for Fisk.
“My biggest surprise was the community-type atmosphere these women all had,” Fisk said. “That’s when I realized the reason why the LPGA was successful. They all share this special bond of sportsmanship, but also this family relationship where they would do anything for each other.
“It’s really incredible, and I haven’t seen it in many other organizations. To me, it was like, ‘Oh, wow. This is not anything like what I thought it was going to be,’ which was just a story about a sports organization. It’s much more than that.”
As with all documentary films, the project is a labor of love for Fisk and her team, which includes associate producer Layla Bozek, writer/editor Maureen Simpson, creative director Maggie McBride and writer Dana Lee.
It will be a film about history, perseverance and triumph and made to honor Alice Bauer and Marlene Hagge and Patty Berg and Bettye Danoff and Helen Dettweiler and Helen Hicks and Opal Hill and Betty Jameson and Sally Sessions and Marilynn Smith and Shirley Spork and Louise Suggs and Babe Didrickson Zaharias.
“We persevered, did a lot of hard work, had plenty of heartache and a lot of happiness,” Smith says in the film’s 12-page pitch deck on TheFoundersFilm.com. “What was really meaningful was that we were a family, all out there to help each other.”