Leslie Andrews, a former ESPN marketer who at the age of 30 forsook corporate boardrooms for the greener pastures of golf, and who later became a teaching pro and a corporate golf consultant, has, with Adrienne Wax, written a book, “Even Par: How Golf Helps Women Gain the Upper Hand in Business,” which says that working women are handicapping themselves by not taking up the sport.
During a recent conversation at Montauk Downs, where she gives lessons most of the year, Andrews, who may well be the first to offer such a primer, said, in reply to a question, “For beginners, men and women, the physical skills are the same, but the psychological experience is far different for women. Women have far more difficulty making the transition from lessons to playing. They think they’re not good enough, whereas the guys just go out and let ’er rip.”
The spirits of those who might not feel good enough, the blond, blue-eyed teaching pro said, with a smile, would undoubtedly lighten considerably should they check out the foursomes on the first tees. Timid souls would see then that the vast majority of golfers, men and women, are not playing the same game as it is played on television — far from it.
All Andrews wants to do is to get women in the game so that they, too, can be part of the conversation, as it were, and have fun at the same time.
“According to a study by Catalyst,” she writes, “46 percent of female executives cited ‘exclusion from informal networks’ as a main impediment to their ability to reach the top of an organization. And the biggest informal network is golf. Why would you let an inability to play golf stand in your way when it is relatively easy to learn?”
“In the work GolfingWomen does with businesswomen we debunk the myths of golf and underline its realities,” the former three-sport athlete at Wellesley and Dartmouth M.B.A. said. “If Annika Sorenstam, who might be the greatest woman golfer ever, and who’s my size, is your standard, you better ratchet it down.”
“At ESPN you had to play golf,” she said in recounting her own experience, which, amplified by a decade of teaching, had led her to write the book, which has, she said in reply to a question, been doing quite well.
While the golf industry, Andrews said, had tried to get more women to play the game, “the percentage of female players has remained pretty much steady, at between 23 and 25 percent, over the years. But the industry has treated women like men. Women don’t need more lessons, they need help with the psychological things. The bar is not as high as you think!”
Myth #1: “To play in a business outing, you need to be a good golfer.”
Reality #1: “To play in a business outing, you need to show up.”
Myth #2: “All men who play in business golf outings are good golfers.” Reality #2: “Wrong. Most people, regardless of gender, are not good golfers. Yet they are golfers, regardless of ability level.”
Myth #3: “Men don’t like to play golf with women.”
Reality #3: “Generally speaking, my experience has been that men like to play golf with women. First, most men like being with women, period, and, second, as more women move into influential roles in business — hence become key clients, bosses, and so forth — men need to build relationships with women just as much as vice versa. Remember: this isn’t personal; it’s business.”
Myth #4: “You need to make a major commitment — both in time and money — to learn to play golf and participate in golf outings for business.”
Reality #4: “Golf is an investment, yes, but an investment in you . . . a tool to propel you up the ladder of your career. . . . You need an understanding of three things to play golf: 1) Basic golf skills; 2) How to maintain the pace of play throughout a round, and 3) Golf etiquette.”
So, she would say, take a few lessons from a teaching pro (not from a friend, relative, or significant other), get a golf calendar, put up on your office bulletin board a photo of yourself in golf attire on a golf course, and say yes when someone asks if you’d like to play in the next company golf outing.
Anyone can learn to play golf, she said, during the course of three months, with a little persistence.
Andrews would advise that beginners here — male or female — start out playing at the nine-holers, the Sag Harbor Golf Club or Poxabogue, rather than at Montauk Downs, even though its head pro, Kevin Smith, she said, was “very woman-friendly.”
The Downs was, she added, “a long course that plays much longer when the wind’s blowing. It is difficult, but it’s playable. And beautiful, and open to the public. We’re very lucky to have this course here in our backyard.”
On the subject of tees, “they really are ability-related rather than gender-related. Men tend to hit longer than women, but the women pros at Sebonack next year will be playing from the back tees. . . . You should play the tees that fit your game.”
As for beer and betting, women oughtn’t to fret. “There is pressure to drink and pressure to gamble, but you can decline in various ways.”
When this writer said a golfer of his acquaintance maintained he did better after having had one or two beers, she smiled and said, “Drinking doesn’t improve your game — that’s a known fact. The betting thing is tricky. Men tend to like to bet on golf, they need the ‘action,’ it piques their interest. Women tend not to be into that. But there are ways to excuse yourself. Betting, however, shouldn’t discourage women.”
There are 10 chapters in the breezily written “Even Par,” each beginning with a quote, perhaps the most helpful of which is Lao Tzu’s “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”
Thus, in signing off, on page 121, Andrews says, “Grab a 5-iron and carpe diem.”