B A C K G R O U N D E R . . .
Pam Swensen is the “face” of the EWGA to the golf industry and as the CEO oversees the coast-to-coast administration and operations of the association. Celebrating its 25th Anniversary in 2016, EWGA is the largest women-focused national amateur golf association in the United States with chapters located in more than 100 cities as well as international chapters in Bermuda, Canada and Italy.
She represents the EWGA on several industry committees to “grow the game” and advocates for issues that will make the women’s golf experience more welcoming. She’s a member of the Golf 20/20 Advisory Board, a founding partner in the National Women’s Golf Alliance and serves on the International Network of Golf Advisory Board.
Ms. Swensen holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Skidmore College (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.) and a Masters of Science in Communications from Boston University (Boston, Mass.). She is a published author as part of the EWGA Foundation’s recent book launch called “Teeing Up For Success.” Ms. Swensen will be stepping down from her position after 15 years leading and growing the association. Her tenure concludes January 20, 2017.
T H E S W E N S E N S T O R Y . . .
When deregulation hit the telecommunications industry in the 1990s, our company selected golf as an effective way to entertain our business clients. This was a key part of my marketing role and I quickly realized I needed to learn to play golf. Fortunately, the EWGA Boston chapter had just started and I joined. So I was a member first, and then in 2002 I joined the association staff and became CEO in 2006.
MATT WARD: You’ve been at the helm of the EWGA for 15 years — what’s been the biggest accomplishments?
PAM SWENSON: Providing women of all skill levels the opportunity to compete on a national scale in a fun and inviting environment delivering on our mission to enrich women’s lives through the game of golf. Between the EWGA Championship and the EWGA Cup, over 3,000 women compete annually and the events keep growing. Another accomplishment I am very proud of is the formation of the EWGA Foundation — the charitable arm of the EWGA that provides Women on Par Scholarships, support for LPGA-USGA Girls Golf and leadership and educational opportunities. It is women helsing women giving back and paying it forward.
MW: Is there something you wish you could have started or completed — that you will not be able to do?
PS: I wish we were further along in our corporate membership program. We want to help corporations get more women into the game to advance their careers. Women need to have golf as a skill set on their resumes. It’s a door opener, conversation starter plus it’s a great health and wellness benefit! More corporations should embrace the benefits golf affords its employees – especially for their women leaders.
MW: What kind of grade level would you give the major golf organizations such as the USGA, PGA of America, LPGA and PGA Tour in promoting the game in taking proactive steps in getting more women and girls involved with golf?
PS: I will give the golf industry an A minus. Many entities are working on this effort. Look at the success of the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program and many other grassroots efforts like The First Tee and PGA Jr. League Golf Program. While Get Golf Ready is an adult program with a large percentage of participants being women, more support is needed across the industry specifically from the companies that employ women and benefiting from being in the “golf” space as a business. The creation of the GolfForHer website is a real positive serving as a resource for all women and girls.
MW: What strategies would you suggest the major golf organizations follow in opening up even more doors for women to get involved with golf?
PS: The real strategy to get more women into the game starts with how welcoming the local experience is for women. This is a key in getting women out on the course and having them as returning customers. I am proud to be a founding partner for the National Women’s Golf Alliance (NWGA). We help facilities understand what they are doing well and how they can improve the golf experience for women and roll out the green carpet to make them feel invited, engaged and meant to be there! There is a customer service opportunity at every single touch point where a golf person comes in contact with the consumer that truly impacts the perception and experience.
MW: In less than two months America will have a new President. How do you view his comments about women in general and his active involvement in the golf industry through his different courses?
PS: We are an inclusive organization and as such do not engage in political discussions. While we may not agree with his remarks, it’s a personal choice on whether individuals want to play at his courses or attend tournaments hosted at his properties. And he certainly has some beautiful golf course properties.
MW: When new members join the EWGA what’s the main issue you hear them bring up when asked?
PS: “I wish I would have known about this organization sooner.” That is often the first thing women tell me and then go on to talk about all of the friends and fun they are enjoying with EWGA.
MW: How does golf bring in more women to the game when rounds can take five hours to play and the impact of successful teaching has not really lowered handicaps appreciably — for men and women?
PS: Frankly, most courses are too long which makes it a long round and not real rewarding to play, especially for newer golfers and women. Making pars and birdies is fun – bogies and “snowmen” not so much. The industry needs to understand this and address course playability. That is one of the key areas addressed in a NWGA evaluation. The Play it Forward campaign is a great idea for men, but most women golfers do not have that option.
MW: You can change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be?
PS: It would be the general public perception of golf — that it’s stuffy and “not for me”. It’s a sport for a lifetime and really anyone can play.
MW: Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?
PS: Stay true to yourself and your beliefs and be kind to others. My mother instilled that in her children and we live by it.
MW: You’ve got one word to describe yourself — what would it be?