Everything is different. When eight club pros women from the PGA of America and LPGA Professionals qualified for the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship through the 2019 LPGA Professionals National Championship, this major was scheduled for early summer. Most had mapped out their calendars accordingly, balancing work with enough practice to be at their best when they arrived at Aronimink.
Then the world turned upside down.
“In the off-season I was in Florida in January, playing in events and being with my members. And then all of a sudden everything changed,” said Joanna Coe, the director of instruction at Baltimore Country Club who is the 2019 Women’s PGA Professional of the Year.
Coe played in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship last year at Hazeline National outside Minneapolis and, like all the club pros who qualified, she had a detailed preparation plan, which she threw away early in the spring.
“We were shut down from the end of March until May 7,” Coe said. “Then, (Maryland) was the second-to-last state to open back up. So, yeah, we were frustrated; our members were frustrated because golf is an outdoor sport and the safest thing you can do. So, during that time, I started posting some instructional material on social media. I’d never done that before. I usually have a very busy teaching and tournament schedule, so I hadn’t had time to do much online instruction. This year I said if I was going to be home, I had to stay busy. My members appreciated me doing it and I got the hang of it pretty quick.
“Then, when we opened up (Baltimore Country Club in May), I went from zero to 100 immediately. I’ve never been busier. My lesson schedule is booked three or four weeks in advance. It’s been a really good problem to have. We currently have record rounds and I’ve had a record number of lessons. Golf’s more popular than ever because everyone was stuck at home for so long. So, Baltimore Country Club was the place to be for our members for the entire summer.
“My days (from May onward) were, wake up super early to answer all my emails and make sure my day was ready, then I’d teach for 12 hours, then eat, pass out and start all over again. It was fun, but it was also the least amount of golf I’ve played since I was a young girl. I did take some time out of late August and September to play golf to get ready (for this week).”
That story has been repeated by all the PGA and LPGA Professionals in the field at this championship. The coronavirus lockdowns disrupted work, practice, and life in general, not just for golf pros but for everyone. Like most business operators in the country, coaches and club pros saw business vanish in the spring only to come roaring back at record levels once lockdowns ended.
Just like the best and brightest in any profession, the club pros in the field this week adapted. Rather than allow themselves to be overwhelmed, teachers and coaches figured out ways to balance their workloads with the need to practice for a major appearance.
That isn’t just an LPGA Professionals story. It’s the story of women throughout the world, strong and creative who adjust to new realities and perform at levels no one expects. It was the message time and again during Wednesday’s KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit. Whether it came from Stephanie Linnartz, Group President of Marriott, who spoke passionately about the consistency of change in everything we see and do, or LPGA Tour player Mariah Stackhouse and Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad talking about breaking barriers, the message at the summit was the same one found on the range at Aronimink and in the practice rounds where many of the club pros played together:
The world throws obstacles in your way. Leaders adapt, maneuver, and keep pressing ahead.
“I’ve been a very busy teaching pro so I’m never going to be as prepared as these (LPGA Tour) girls,” Coe said when asked about the week. “The length of major championship golf courses is fine for me. I’ve always been a long hitter. So, it doesn’t really matter if the course if 5,800 or 6,800 (yards long), I play a similar game. I like long, hard golf courses. But you’re teeing it up against the best in the world. I’m not used to that with what I’m doing. It’s hard to settle yourself down. I even felt a little something in the practice rounds, last year and this year. My heart rate was up at a faster pace.
“But that’s where we are today,” she said. “I’m just going to have to go with my knowledge and maturity and experience and try to execute as best I can.”
That’s more than a mindset for major championship golf. As the speakers at Wednesday’s KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit said in one way or another, and as all the women in the country, in or out of the game, will attest, it’s an edict for navigating the uncertainties of life.