With 80 female business owners exhibiting at the 2023 edition, the presence and participation of women in the PGA Show, the largest annual international business event of the sport, is more prevelant and relevant every year.
“I mentor a few of the women entrepreneurs from companies that are here on the floor. I’m watching them slowly grow and just like I’ve been mentored by other women in business. There’s just more of us now,” said Jane Spicer, connected to the golf industry for 44 years as the CEO of Daphne’s Headcovers.
For Spicer, who has been exhibiting at the Show in Orlando for over 30 years and is one of the longest running female CEOs in golf, the growth of women participation in the sport and the industry is reason for celebration.
“It is something to absolutely celebrate, that we can come together supporting and uplifting each other. It is exciting to see innovative and smart women doing wonderful things,” she added.
Ali Putnam, Founder of A. Putnam, an apparel company for women that uses luxurious fabrics and garments to honor the tradition of golf, is one of those new innovators. “This is our launch. I have been working on this for a year, but I can’t even say that I have been in business longer than a few days,” said Putnam, who used to occasion of the PGA Show to start her business and launch her brand.
According to the National Golf Foundation, the percentage of women on the course rose to 25% in 2021, up from 19% a decade ago. Tami Fujii, Co-Founder of Kinona, a golf apparel brand started in 2017 to cater to women as they go through body changes and shifts in their lives, is very aware of the evolution of female participation in golf.
“It is an underserved demographic, and we really want to make sure that we are focusing on their needs. We want women to really feel empowered and to welcome all women to the game of golf,” said Fujii, an outspoken supporter of the LPGA*USGA Girls Golf, the only national junior golf program that specializes in providing girl-friendly environments for juniors to learn the game of golf.
With more than 500 sites around North America, Girls Golf has become one of main catalyzers of the growth in female participation in the game. The reach of the program has increased by 1,800% since 2010 and now more than 35%, or more than 1,1 million, of the junior golfers in the US are girls.
Lucky In Love, a Miami-Based women’s sports clothing brand that offers bright colors, fun patterns, and vibrant energy to golf enthusiasts, is the official apparel sponsor of Girls Golf. “We are excited to work with them. We had a bunch of girls come to our office and design their own skirts. It is really fun to see all their designs come to light,” said Andrea Cherniak, Director of Sales and Marketing at Lucky In Love, presenting at the Show for the fourth time.
Golf legend Nancy Lopez started playing golf at a time when there were not even clubs made specifically for women. “I had a meeting with Arnold Palmer and decided to start a women’s line of golf clubs. Our focus has always been on women, not just the clubs, but now also with the clothing line,” said Lopez about the origins of Nancy Lopez Golf.
“The PGA Show gives great visibility to the brand. Coming here with all these other amazing companies is just very special. We’ve had great traction and had people really appreciate the clothing, touch, and feel it,” added Brooke Bauer, Director of Golf at Nancy Lopez Golf.
For Melissa Thrasher, VP of Thrasher Golf, a leading manufacturer and supplier of driving range equipment founded in 1980, the PGA Show is an opportunity to see old customers and to make new connections. “They are always surprised to hear that we are a woman owned business and that someone like me can know about how a ball washer operates,” said Thrasher.
“Over the last eight years we have been seeing more and more female reps and business led by women. It is a really exciting time in the industry for women,” she added.
Sheilagh Wilson, Founder of Birdie Balou, which makes fun and functional styled golf gear and accessories designed in the USA, shares the same excitement. “Everybody wants something new and different, and the women’s product is just fresh, and it is bringing a little more life to what might be already out there,” said Wilson.
Top Knot, creator of a golf cap for women to wear their hair high or down thanks to a magnetic back closure, is part of those fresh and lively new products for women. “Our experience with the PGA Show has been amazing. We have been seeing so many buyers and open so many accounts, and we just keep going,” said Tori Lord, Owner of Top Knot, about her company’s debut at the PGA Show.
“I should have come to the PGA Show a long time ago,” said Wilma Erskine, with 40 years in the golf industry, most of them as the General Manager of Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, the site of the past 148th and the upcoming 153rd Open Championship.
Esrkine, now an international consultant for golf destinations, wants to encourage more women to enter the golf world and looks forward to coming back to the PGA Show every year to “celebrate the increase in female participation in golf and the golf industry.”