Angela Aulenti didn’t realize it at the time, but the top influence for her future career was the same person who drove her to the golf course every day as a child.
Her mother, Mickey Aulenti, ran the food concession at Longshore Golf Course in Westport, Conn., so the precocious youngster tagged along to the municipal course, became interested in the game and spent many hours observing every lesson taught by the club’s golf professionals.
“I started playing around age 8 and I hung around with the pros,” said Aulenti, who has been the head pro for 29 years at Sterling Farms Golf Course in Stamford, Conn. “I watched them and thought that was something I wanted to do.”
Young Angela was too young to play on the course, so she used a cut-off club to get started in golf on a three-hole course she created around the concession area. Eventually, she became bored and would sneak onto the golf course, prompting her father, a Westport police officer, to be dispatched every day to escort her off.
The youngster watched her mother’s management and customer-service roles expand and her responsibilities increase when she took over the city’s beach concession -- which she handled with ease. That experience would set a blueprint for Aulenti’s own career in the years to come.
“My mom was her own woman working in a municipal facility,” added Aulenti. “What I grew up seeing was that hard work pays off and you just put your nose down and get the job done. I didn’t really know what I was seeing, but later on, I realized the impact that it had.”
Aulenti became an LPGA member in 1980 and worked in the Golf Digest Golf Schools. She also worked for 11 years at Metropolis Country Club in White Plains, N.Y., under the tutelage of Master Golf Professional Gene Borek.
She became the first female head professional in her home state of Connecticut in 1994 when she got the top job at Sterling Farms, a public facility. Two years later, she was asked to also run the city of Stamford’s other public course, E. Gaynor Brennan Golf Course, where she has served as Director of Golf for 23 years.
“Originally, they didn’t want change or a woman in charge, but I was doing a good job at Sterling and after a couple of years, they asked me to run the other golf course because it helped make the town more money,” Aulenti added.
Another early influence stemmed from an uncomfortable experience that happened to her as a teenager. Aulenti was 14 when she signed up to compete in the Connecticut Girls Junior Amateur, listing Longshore as her home course. Twenty minutes later, she was informed by tournament officials that she was being disqualified because she did not play out of private course.
“Back then, that was the rule,” Aulenti said. “Word got out about what happened to me and The New York Times and a lot of other newspapers called.”
Rolling Hills Country Club in nearby Wilton, Conn., heard about Aulenti’s experience in the state’s junior championship and offered her an honorary membership until she turned 18. She accepted their offer so she could play in tournaments.
“It was a little awkward because I was a young kid, but it was a big thing, especially since neither of my parents played golf,” Aulenti added. “Fortunately, that [private-club membership] rule requirement for the championship has changed.”
Aulenti vowed that if she ever had the opportunity, she would make sure that juniors always had access to golf. That promise became a reality at the two public courses under her management that now offer robust junior programs. Five high school teams also utilize the public courses.
It was former LPGA President Patti Benson who reached out to Aulenti to become more involved in the professionals’ organization. Benson asked her to become the LPGA’s National Tournament Chairperson, which led to Aulenti serving as the Northeast Section’s president for six years.
“Patti really helped me get involved with the organization and mentored me to become section president,” said Aulenti, who added a club-fitting studio and a management company to her portfolio. “I felt honored that she thought I could do it.”
Later, former LPGA President, Dana Rader, also encouraged Aulenti, who served on Rader’s executive committee. Now, Aulenti serves on the Northeast Section’s tournament committee and on the LPGA’s Hall of Fame Committee.
“I’m going to take it as a challenge to myself to find younger LPGA members and get them involved just like Patti [Benson] did for me,” said Aulenti. “If I can help get the next generation involved, I’ll be proud of that.”
A breast cancer survivor, Aulenti turned her 2005 diagnosis into a chance to help others in her role as the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s National Honorary Chair in 2007.
She has continued to enjoy competition, winning the 2007 LPGA National Championship Senior Division individual title, along with the 2007 LPGA Team Championship with Kammy Maxfeldt. She also won the 2009 LPGA Professionals National Championship/Pro-Am and qualified to compete in the 2018 U.S. Senior Women’s Open.
In addition, Aulenti was named as the 2011 LPGA’s National Professional of the Year and was recipient of the LPGA’s 2014 Nancy Lopez Award. She was inducted into the 2012 Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame and has been named as a top-100 club fitter by Golf Digest, Callaway and Titleist.
But now, as an inductee into the LPGA Professionals’ 2022 Hall of Fame, Aulenti feels a great sense of pride in all the ups and downs of her golf journey.
“The LPGA is a women’s organization [that] I’ve always wanted to put time and energy into because it’s everything I believe in,” she said. “For my peers to nominate and vote for me for our Hall of Fame, that is the very humbling part.”