How Women Can Link Up On The Links

Mixing business and golf has long been a largely male pastime. It was de rigueur for the fellows to entertain business contacts on the links. But it was unusual for females to do it. Now, stereotypes have changed.

The 3,600-member Executive Women's Golf League is helping give females more opportunity to network with others who enjoy the sport. Seasoned golfers can compete in tournaments such as the second annual Business Links '94, held earlier this month in Palm Beach, Fla. Tyros can attend clinics on topics such as correcting hooks and slices.

In 2 1/2 years, the league has blossomed to 63 chapters. It will try to match up partners of comparable ability. "When the newcomer comes in, we make her feel like part of the family," says Nancy Oliver, who started the league, which also boasts veterans such as Janina Jacobs, 38, a Detroit restaurateur who in the mid-'70s was the first woman on the men's golf team at Wayne State University. "We don't want to be allowed in the men's locker room. We just want to play golf," Jacobs says. (Lest chauvinists cry foul, there are 15 males in the league.)

EQUAL PARTNERS. Golfers interested in joining can call 407 471-1477 or write 1401 Forum Way, Suite 100, West Palm Beach, Fla. 33401. Dues are $52 a year and include a quarterly publication and discounts on magazines and greens fees.

Just like men, women hope to parlay 18 holes of schmoozing into something more profitable back at the office. In fact, the league has run seminars on how to incorporate golf into business. Jane Shumaker, an associate vice-president for operations at Dean Witter Reynolds in Buffalo, plays with bankers and brokers in local tournaments. Helped by contacts made on the links, Shumaker has become president of a securities club.

The surge in women's golf is not limited to the league, of course. Some 40% of all new players since 1990 are female, according to the National Golf Foundation in Jupiter, Fla. And of the nation's 24.8 million regular players, an estimated 5.4 million, or 22%, are women. In fact, many schools specialize in teaching golf to women, including Marlene Floyd's For Women Only Golf School (800 637-2694) in Hilton Head, S.C., and Craft-Zavichas Golf School (800 858-9633) in Pueblo, Colo. The Golf Foundation (800 733-6006) can put you in touch with other organizations. Reach a certain level of proficiency, and the only professional handicap you'll have will be on the scorecard.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.