Top: Sam, Pam & Cherie enjoy a laugh
Bottom: Shelia and Sally re-live some EWGA memories on the photo board
Twenty years after EWGA Seattle's formation, nine past presidents and the current president came full circle, returning to Chateau Ste. Michelle where the initial organizational meeting took place. Along with past and current members, they celebrated the chapter's 20th birthday with Nancy Oliver, the national association's founder, and her husband Ed.
Like many "newbie" golfers, Oliver was intimidated about playing, even though she had been involved in the golf business for a dozen years. "I could only imagine how uncomfortable it must have been for other businesswomen who weren't even connected to the game," she recalls. After feeling less than welcomed when she golfed with the non-working members of a "ladies group" at a nearby club, she decided to form her own group of beginner golfers.
What started in 1991 as an eight-week clinic ("inclusive of a glass of wine!") to help businesswomen learn the game blossomed into an organization that has touched the lives of more than 100,000 women.
"Little did I know there was such a demand for this kind of welcome portal into the game," Oliver recalls. She balks at being called a visionary. Instead, she says she did not have a vision - "I had a vivid imagination."
When first formed, the group was known as Executive Women's Golf League - "because people thought we were good if we were a league," Oliver quipped. She credits an unexpected mention of her group in a national newspaper with catapulting it onto the fast-growth track.
Unbeknownst to Oliver, her friend Steve Hershey, who was a golf writer at USA Today, wrote a brief article about her "adventures." It included her photo and home phone number - and it appeared on the front page of a special section "for something called The Masters."
"My phone rang off the hook for weeks," Oliver recalls. Within a few months, women in more than a dozen major cities around the country were launching chapters. That led to the formation of regions and the recruitment of sponsors to host regional events. The goals would be to have a balanced menu of activities for players of all ability levels, and to usher in new players with a warm and welcoming environment.
As part of the Seattle Chapter's 20th "Birthday Bash," members were asked to recall a favorite memory of their first year. Many recounted an intimidation factor similar to what EWGA's founder experienced. First-year memories included: "I was terrified." "I didn't even play my first year of membership." "Feeling nervous." "I thought about just not showing up that first night of league."
Every "fear factor" comment in the informal survey was offset by "fun factor" memories, and gratitude for friendships that have been formed.
In a "live interview" segment during the anniversary celebration, the past presidents who were in attendance were invited to share a favorite recollection from their term. Their wide-ranging answers elicited everything from chuckles to empathy:
- Snow for our tee-off brunch,
- Launching the Columbia Cup (competition with the Portland Chapter),
- "Giving birth" to chapters in Spokane and Boise,
- Winning a Chapter of Excellence Award.
- Making friends from around the country.
- Overcoming a fear of public speaking ("and an urge to throw up")!
- Meeting women who taught me so much.
Many of the assembled nodded in agreement when one past president called it "the best experience of my life!"
Capping off the evening, Nancy Oliver told the audience to never underestimate what you can do with a dream, "especially if you've got the imagination, the passion and a team of people. Your chapter has continued to be what I wanted this organization to be."