By Shannon Chalfant
In addition to the 2009 Solheim Cup, this week also marks the 50th anniversary of the LPGA Teaching and Club Professionals. To celebrate, the Club Professionals set up what they called a "Front Row Experience" on the driving range at Rich Harvest Farms in Illinois, and gave free, ten-minute, hands-on lessons to fans.
The LPGA Teaching and Club professionals are composed of 1,300 teachers, university coaches, and golf experts. The club was started with a handful of women who saw a need for young players to be granted the opportunity to learn the game. These women had a mad passion for golf and saw an opportunity to promote the game, especially to women.
There was also a monetary consideration. Young women had to work hard to get sponsors for tour events, and this club provided a new option for them.
As a self-proclaimed writer and a widely agreed upon "non-golfer", I decided to step out of my comfort zone and onto the driving range for a little help from the professionals and a lot of public humiliation. Susan Hartfield, a once TV writer turned golf teacher, risked her reputation by giving me a lesson. I took a few practice swings so she could see what adjustments would be needed. Then, I stepped up to the tee and swung away.
Susan said I had a "natural swing" and encouraged me to take another. So I did, but when I hit the ball, it nearly nailed the golfer teeing off next to me. Golfers deem this a "shank", onlookers deem it dangerous. At this point, I had to assume that when Susan said my swing was "natural", she was politely leaving off the word "disaster."
At the ten minute mark, my ball was in the air where it belonged, and I felt a sense of personal achievement and gained a greater respect for the talent and control golf requires; and that, Susan Hartfield says, is what LPGA Teaching and Club Professionals is all about.
"We are teaching young golfers honesty, integrity, and a whole set of life skills right on the driving range by facing the issues that all golfers face," Susan said. "There are going to be good bounces and bad bounces, fun playing partners and dull ones, pure shots and ones that are off the mark, but you have to manage your emotions to reach your goals."
For the fans, this Front Row Experience provides the opportunity for people to get free pointers from professionals who know how to help them. To Susan, the Front Row Experience is a chance to celebrate the game of golf along with the success and advancements women have made in the sport.
"It is a special weekend in women's golf," Susan said. "It's always fabulous to see the best players in the world play - and it's awesome for the public to see what all the professionals have to offer - but what's more exciting is to promote the game of golf and to get people involved, especially women."
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This is the first year for the event.