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Women gaining ground on courses

Susan Whitall Detroit News

In the male-dominated sport of golf, female golfers often had to put up with bad tee times, indifferent golf course personnel and grumbling from male golfers who saw them as trespassers. Even the clothing and gear was all about little girlish skirts with cutout appliques and hot pink golf balls.

But now, the situation for women on the links is more on a par with the men.

The number of women golfers is increasing, though they still make up just 24 percent of adult golfers today, according to the National Golf Foundation. And women overall seem to be encountering fewer problems and more progressive attitudes from younger males.

“Golf in general has become very open and more tolerant than ever,” says Lisa Woodcox, a golf professional for 17 years and executive director of the youth program First Tee of Michigan.

“For a long time, a lot of people didn’t like the thought of seeing kids out there either,” Woodcox says. “But golf courses are much more accepting of the kids and the women now. It makes good business.”

Still, women find it fun to laugh about some of the outdated attitudes they occasionally encounter.

The best revenge is to speak softly and carry a Big Bertha, and develop a highly developed sense of humor. Spring Javor, a golf professional with the Crystal Mountain Golf School at Fox Hills in Plymouth, Mich., likes to set up male partners who don’t know she’s a pro for a shock.

“Oh, you take an ugly practice swing,” she says. “Then they can’t believe it when they watch you hit a 250-yard drive.”

Former “Charlie’s Angels” actress Cheryl Ladd, a regular on the celebrity pro-am golf tournament circuit, is the author of the new book “Token Chick: A Woman’s Guide to Golfing with the Boys,” (Miramax Books; $23.95).

In her book, Ladd relates her adventures as, often, the only woman in a pack of males playing celebrity golf tournaments and as Buick’s official “golf ambassador.” While her experiences playing with people such as Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods were overwhelmingly positive, not all of the male golfers she encountered patterned their behavior toward women after the Knights of the Roundtable.

Despite the arrogance and the rudeness she’s encountered from some men, her view of the sport - and most of the male sex - remains sunny.

“The kind of women I wrote the book for are fearless, aren’t afraid to meet the challenge and enjoy themselves,” Ladd says. “They really understand that you don’t have to have a perfect game. You can still go out and have a blast.”

Like many women, Anne Lozon, a marketing administrative manager, took up golf for a very important reason - she fell in love with some sharp-looking golf shoes.

“I saw these golf shoes, and that was it. I thought, I’ll put them on my feet and I’ll play golf again,” she says.

Kyle Grant, 44, of Detroit, advises his male friends who are taking up golf to study women golfers on television.

“You can learn a lot from women’s golf,” Grant says. “For women, it’s not how strong you are, it’s all about technique. It’s not how hard you swing, it’s about tempo. The women will get a good square contact with the ball, and that’s what counts.”

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