Who Me? Play Golf?
by Caroline Vincent
I admit that
four decades ago (Yikes, Am I that old?) I was a pretty good golfer, for a
woman. Every weekend I played with my
husband. That lasted two years, the
length of my marriage. I had originally
learned to play in college, a women’s college in fact. After those 2 years of regular play, I played
a few times, but golf just seemed to drift away as career took hold. Replaced by hiking, bicycling, tennis,
movies, lattes, spa trips and any number of what seemed to be easier activities
to engage in with my increasingly growing number of women friends and women
lawyer friends, I became rusty, sold my clubs and became a long term ex-golfer.
A few years ago, now an active
mediator spending a lot of time at events where I network with lawyers and
catch up on the latest legal developments, I decided to play at La Costa at a
LACBA Labor & Employment retreat. I
bought new shoes (my old ones with the metal cleats were no longer allowed on
the course), took several lessons locally and went to the driving range. It seemed like I had the swing back, but it
was so short lived. At the golf outing,
I felt completely inadequate, couldn’t hit the ball, was frustrated and felt
that I was putting everyone out. I kept
saying how terrible I was. I realized
this was going to be anti-business development so gave up for good. The notion that this was a man’s game and I
would never be good enough took hold.
A couple of years later, in December 2012 I saw a flyer for a
business development seminar followed by a golf clinic sponsored by WLALA. Really?
Women lawyers playing golf to develop business? I doubted that this would work, but I
thought, gee, I used to have fun playing golf, and it is good exercise, and it
might be fun; oh, what the heck I will try it out. So, half-heartedly I signed up.The panel of women lawyers ranged from law firm partners to
in house counsel. They shared common
stories about how their male counterparts encouraged them to play the game for
business development, and how important relationships are to developing
business. Golf is one of the mainstays
of male business development, they said, and an activity at practically every
firm retreat and business outing. It all
made sense….but I was so bad at the game.
Still doubting….the panel identified only three things I needed to do to
play the game, enjoy it and build great relationships at the same time:
1. Obtain and wear the appropriate attire: shoes, hat, golf shirt and golf pants (I
interpreted this to mean: look
good). I thought to myself, I would
have to go shopping at a golf store, but I could do that.
2. Learn the basic skills and the etiquette of the game.
The clinic included monthly 9 holes sessions and optional lessons before
the game. I thought to myself, I could do that, it might be fun and perhaps I
could learn the game again.
3. No matter how bad you are, always say "I am having a great time.”
They explained that plenty of men are not that good at the game, and no
one likes to play with people who are negative or self-effacing. So show how much fun you are having. Wow, I
could do that!
Immediately excited after this pep talk from these veteran
women lawyer golfers, I launched into the golf clinic with abandon. The first day learning to swing, putt and
pitch at a lesson, then playing 9 holes left me hopeful and discouraged at the
same time. No matter how inadequate I or
others felt, we encouraged each other to say we were having a great time. We laughed a lot. Soon I was outing with other beginners,
intermediates and a few advanced golfers at the monthly clinic and informally
on non-clinic weekends. Mostly we played
just 9 holes, which is easier for most beginner and intermediate women. But from the get go, some of we adventurers
also played some rounds of 18. It took
me a while to hit the ball off the tee more consistently, even longer to hit it
straight and into the fairway. But from
the moment I started I began to have fun.
The clinic plays a scramble format, so the 6 or 7 foursomes
compete against each other. Each player
on a team hits a ball, and the lie of the best shot becomes everyone’s second
ball. The team has only one score. This makes the game less competitive and more
fun, because while I couldn’t hit the ball far from the tee on the long holes
at the beginning, I was pretty good at chipping and putting. Others hit the ball down the fairway, so we
all contributed to the team score.
Sometimes I call our women’s clinic "hit and giggle.” It doesn’t matter how much of a beginner you
are, if you keep playing you just get better, and it is always fun. The more experienced players help women find
the right attire, purchase used or new clubs, get the hang of the pace of the
game and find your way around the course.
Snacks and drinks are part of the 19th hole experience at the
end of our clinic.
I didn’t realize how much fun it would be to get outdoors
with a group of women several times a month, have a bite to eat afterword and
share common interests. As I age I have
focused on sports that are good exercise and easy on the body, like hiking,
bicycling and swimming - it turns out golf is great for seniors (that’s what
all those forward tees are for).
When the June 2013 Los Angeles County Bar Foundation Charity
Golf Tournament invitation arrived in my email inbox, I thought – why not put
together a WLALA team? After all,
sometimes I can hit the ball off the tee, and there are actually some good
players in our group – by now I had been out on the greens about a dozen times,
and even had the outfit together. Haley
Greenburg designed shirts with a WLALA Golf Clinic logo and four of us
registered as a team and played on a very hot day at the Tournament Players
Club in Valencia. Out of 144 golfers, maybe 6 to 8 were women,
and 4 of us were on one team, all wearing pink golf shirts with our WLALA
logos. No kidding, the players thought
we were aliens. Many came up to us in
our starter carts, taking pictures.
"Look, four women on a team!!”
Need I say more about why women should play golf?
Needless to say, we had a terrific time, laughing all the
way. Like, what were we going to do with
the shaving lotion in our goody bag? Or
the cigar swag on the course? We vow to
sponsor a hole at next year’s tournament with pink lemonade and gin, spa towels
and suntan spray! We spread our
enthusiasm for the women lawyers’ clinic to other players and encouraged them
to send their female colleagues to join our effort in playing the game. I think we started something, because when we
got to the LACBA sponsored hole, Executive Director Sally Suchil ran up to us
to get her picture taken, and soon we helped her sign up for the WLALA Golf
Clinic (left to right Jileen Stelding, former WLALA President and LACBA
Executive Director Sally Suchil, Maria Hamar, Caroline Vincent and Patricia
Collins). Go Team!
Jilleen Stelding, WLALA Past President and
LACBA Executive Director Sally Suchil, WLALA Board Member Maria Hamar, WLALA
Life Member Caroline Vincent and WLALA Life Member Patricia Collins
I have now met and developed relationships with over 30 women
golfer lawyers and others in the legal business. Some I knew before, but most of them I have
Now I know why men are such avid golfers, and why women will
follow. It’s a great way to relax and
take a break away from all the reading and writing we do, replying to emails
and making phone calls. The golf course
is a serene and beautiful place, and it’s great exercise. And as a business development technique, it
is hard to beat – for several hours you get a chance to truly connect with
people. The WLALA Golf Clinic has been
the most fun and rewarding activity I have enjoyed all year. A special thanks to Cynthia Cohen for
creating the WLALA Golf Clinic and expanding our development and opportunities
as golfers who proudly venture out to any golf course, any tournament, any
time. I’m having a great time.
Caroline Vincent is
an attorney mediator, neutral evaluator and arbitrator with ADR Services, Inc.
in Los Angeles and OrangeCounty. She specializes in employment, complex
business and real estate, torts, probate/elder abuse, insurance, and professional
liability. A graduate of the USC Gould
School of Law, she is a former member of the WLALA Board and a proud WLALA Life