Posted on Sep 1, 2009 :: Networking
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Carolyn Barnett-Howe (left) of Swing Solutions and Diane Dushenski

On a recent sunny Monday morning, two dozen area business women swap suit jackets for polo shirts and board rooms for the fairway. Members of the Executive Women’s Golf Association and their guests are unloading golf clubs in the parking lot of Riverview Country Club in Appleton by 8:15 a.m. for the association’s Golf for Business outing on July 27. It seems a much more appealing way to start the week than dragging into the office and facing mail, meetings and monster piles of work.

“I feel like I’m being naughty,” comments one guest.

But having fun is just one aim of the event, which includes breakfast, a presentation by golf pro Carolyn Barnett-Howe and nine holes of golf.

“The mission of the group is really to help women learn to play and enjoy the game of golf for both business and for fun,” says Karen Alesch, a software consultant who acts as EWGA chapter development specialist at the national level and golf education chair for the local chapter. “It’s been more of a man’s game. It’s not something that women have used for a business tool, so we’re all about doing that.”

EWGA tells its members that business golf isn’t all about making the sale or snagging a promotion – mostly, it’s about developing relationships that will help you advance your career.

The group has existed for a little more than five years, says Alesch. The EWGA has 125 chapters in the U.S., Canada and France and about 17,000 members. The local EWGA chapter, which covers the Fox Cities and the Green Bay area, has about 110 members. And despite the group’s name, it’s not just for the bigwigs.

“Anybody can be a member,” Alesch says. “You know, it says ‘Executive’ Women’s Golf Association, but I think the “E” stands for ‘Every,’ it’s Every Women’s Golf Association.”

But golf isn’t the only focus of the group – it can’t be in Wisconsin, where the off-season lasts most of the year. In the fall and winter, its focus shifts to networking. Events have included a St. Patrick’s Day happy hour with Wii golf, a pottery painting outing and new member orientation gatherings, says Lisa Werner, chapter president. This month the association has tentatively planned a night golf with glow-in-the-dark balls, and in October, “Golftoberfest” at Fox Hills Resort in Mishicot, which includes two days of golf and a banquet.

The golfing events return in the spring. Never golfed? That’s OK: The chapter has a program for new golfers.

“When I joined, I had golfed, I think, three times in my life,” Werner says.

Werner says she hopes that joining the EWGA would help women build the confidence to ask their clients to come out and golf with them.

“It seems it’s something the guys can do,” Werner says. “A lot of women mention, ‘I hate how the guys go out on Fridays and they just golf and I’m sitting at the office.’”

Speaker Carolyn Barnett-Howe says even though golf was still a bit of a man’s game, women were making headway. Barnett-Howe, a four-time Wisconsin Women’s State Open Champion who owns Swing Solutions in Menasha, discusses some business golf pointers and answers questions about course etiquette. A few of her tips:

» Leave hyper-competitiveness at home. Some women are trained to be perfectionists from an early age, Barnett-Howe says, and that can even keep them off the course – what if they play terribly? But nobody cares how you’re playing; they’re focused on themselves. The day should really be all about your guest and making them feel comfortable.

» If you are terrible, don’t apologize for the way you play. That’s exclusively a female trait. A man might say, “Oh, I suck!” but wouldn’t say he was sorry his game was off, Barnett-Howe says.

» Save business talk for when you’re having drinks after the game.

» Choosing an easy golf course makes everyone look good, she says, and playing nine holes may be more appealing to those pressed for time.

» Don’t throw the game if you’re playing better than your male counterpart. It’s not about who’s winning or losing, it’s about building friendly relationships.

EWGA member Danielle Collins, director of sales and marketing at Fox Hills Resort in Mishicot, says she joined the association to help build her skill and confidence in the game. She says it’s also been a terrific resource in making connections with other community business women. She was drawn to the July 27 event because of its focus on using golf as a business resource.

“It’s the networking and meeting new people, which is great for everyone who comes out here,” Collins says, while waiting in a golf cart to start the shotgun scramble. “It’s just a fun day. And then, of course, the speaker was great.”