Women Golfers Have A Handicap, All Right

When Janet Coles, a 15-year veteran of the Ladies Professional Golf Assn. Tour, retired in 1990, she looked for work at several of the country clubs along California's Monterey Peninsula. Then among the top 40 all-time money winners on the LPGA circuit, she was sure she would find work as a full-time instructor. But the best offer she got was from a club that wanted her to spend part of her time folding sweaters in the pro shop for $6.50 an hour. "No one wanted to hire me to teach," says Coles, now a successful private teacher.

Her case isn't unusual. If you're a professional woman golfer, you need a squad of commandos to break into the ranks of head pros and directors of golf at the 8,158 full-length courses across the country. "There is no question that the very top clubs in this country are only hiring men," says Kerry R. Graham, president of the LPGA's teaching and club professionals. "Even the few women who have gained these top positions don't receive the recognition they deserve."

GIVING UP. The result: increasing frustration among many women golf pros. "They can't get beyond the glass ceiling of the golf industry and get more key positions," says Cindy Davis, who runs the LPGA's program for teaching and club pros. Women are in demand as assistant pros, she notes. But those jobs generally pay less than $20,000 a year. By contrast, a head pro at a top club can pull down close to $100,000 a year.

Many women have simply given up trying to storm the gates. Instead, they're forging alternative career paths, opening their own golf schools and teaching programs. That's what LPGA pro Dana Rader did. In 1987, after seven low-paid years as an assistant pro in Charlotte, N.C., she opened a golf school. "I created a position because I had to feel I was moving up," she says.

But while a big-name teacher can earn about $75,000 a year, the job doesn't carry the authority and influence mf managing 18- or 36-hole facilities. One of the few to have made it so far is Malia Fouquet, head pro at the private 36-hole Palm Valley Country Club in Palm Desert, Calif. "For every hour a man works, a woman has to work two," she says. "You always have to prove yourself." Many women golf pros complain that their LPGA credentials are considered second-rate. Like their male counterparts, only a handful of women golfers ever compete on a pro tour. Instead, most pros teach golf and manage golf facilities, a business learned at schools run by either the Professional Golfers' Assn. or the LPGA, which was formed in 1950 because women were barred from the PGA. After a discrimination suit, the PGA began accepting women members in 1978. Fifteen years later, barely 3% of the PGA's 23,000 members are women. Most country clubs, though, still won't hire a head pro who doesn't carry a PGA card.

Trouble is, many women don't feel welcome in the PGA. "It's a good old boys' world in this field right now," says Fouquet, a PGA member. Counters PGA Chief Executive Jim Awtrey: "The PGA is very focused on providing opportunities for all members, including the women." And Larry Degenhart, director of golf at the Eastwood Golf Club in Orlando, says that if women wanted the work badly enough, they would get it. "I wonder how many women professionals really go after the jobs," he says.

But it's unlikely that even Degenhart could fault Coles, the LPGA veteran, for a lack of ambition. Although she enjoys teaching, she wistfully recalls life on the tour, where only performance counted. "Competition is cut and dried," she says. "If I get a lower score than you, I advance. You don't. It's kind of the charm of professional athletics. The political part of succeeding is eliminated." Back in the real world, though, sexual politics is still in full force.

      Women, as a share of all U.S. golfers who play regularly
      Women, as a share of all accredited U.S. golf professionals
      Number of men who are head pros or directors of golf courses
      Number of women who are head pros or directors of golf courses
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