DALY CITY – Welcome to golf, Cindy Mata.
The intrigue of meeting one of the LPGA’s professional golfers attracted Mata to the AXA Women At The Top of Their Game panel discussion held Tuesday at San Francisco’s City Hall. The event aimed to inspire women in business to pursue leadership in their organizations and community by exposing them to the benefits that come from playing sports, particularly golf.
Mata was inspired.
“It was really fun and I didn’t expect to be as inspired by golf as I was, just because I don’t know anything about it,” said Mata. “And even though my fiancé has played in the past, I’ve always been intimidated like it’s a boy’s club thing and being a young Hispanic woman, I’m not exposed to it at home or with friends, so to hear the pro golfers and the women on the panel and all the successful women here talk about how fun it is to play golf and how you shouldn’t be afraid to do it kind of inspired me to learn more and maybe just go out there with him and play some golf.”
Mata is a member of San Francisco State University’s POW, also known as Providing Opportunity for Women, which is a program that works to empower women. The group partnered with AXA for Tuesday’s event, which is one of three discussion panels held at LPGA Tour events throughout the 2016 season, featuring women who are the top performers in their chosen field. The panel was moderated by LPGA Foundation President Nancy Henderson, who was moved by Mata’s reaction to the event.
“One of the participants came up to me, two things she said, ‘I’m going to try golf, I realized I wasn’t doing it because I thought I wasn’t good enough and this event gave me the confidence to try and another one of the women came to me and said ‘what I came out of this is possible, anything is possible if you follow your dreams and our passion and I’m motivated now to find my passion,’’ said Henderson. “So you know if we can have stories like that, it’s a success.”
At each Tour stop, different executives within the local AXA branches are invited to speak on the panel. For this week’s Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, AXA Chief Operating Officer Sharon Ritchey spoke alongside one of AXA’s top advisors Rebecca Harper, as well as the LPGA’s Mo Martin.
“I think there’s a growing network of women that are coming together and realize that we are getting into core leadership positions and it’s important to educate ourselves and to create a community and keep a common purpose and keep our heads together,” said Martin. “I think things are going that way and I think it’s wonderful. I think society in general is going to benefit from it.”
“At my age I now need to be the mentor and I think that’s what I’m realizing and how much more I enjoy it,” Harper said. “I like being a mentor I like seeing them have success and I like the teaching part. It’s a good win, win.”
“I think it’s actually 95% of women in C-suites actually played sports so it’s actually more than it was before,” said Ritchey. “And women who grew up that way were competitive, the perseverance, all those things they’re going to make it. I think what’s going to make a difference is this younger, this youth, and I think that’s why these leadership academies and LPGA Girls Golf is so critically important.”
Ritchey is now in her second year as a member of the LPGA Foundation Board and helped bring about the organization’s partnership with the LPGA’s Girls Golf program. With Ritchey’s help, AXA has become instrumental in the Girls Golf Leadership Academy, a two-day event held during the summer to educate and empower young girls. The inaugural event was held in 2015 and featured five young executives hand picked by Ritchey to share their own stories with the girls.
“I was like this proud mama standing in the back of the room, watching these girls and watching the reaction to the young girls listening to them and watching them,” said Ritchey. “I’m like this is it. This is exactly what we need to be doing more.”
Instructors Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson of Vision 54 spoke after the panel discussion, sharing some insights into their work with some of the game’s biggest names including Annika Sorenstam. The duo discussed the importance of taking the focus away from the score and committing to each and every shot just like committing to each and every decision in life.
The third AXA Women At The Top of Their Game discussion panel will be held at next week’s Volunteers of America Texas Shootout presented by JTBC.