World Golf Hall of Fame and LPGA Hall of Fame Member JoAnne Carner kicked off a fun-filled afternoon of golf instruction, during the 4th Annual Women's Play Golf America Day, at the PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on March 13.
Carner told the audience of nearly 400 golf enthusiasts, including 40 PGA and LPGA Professionals from across South Florida, how it is never too late to take up the game of golf. For living proof, she recalled the story of how her sister, Helen Sherry, 80, started playing the game just 10 years ago, when JoAnne gave Helen her first lesson.
"She was wearing a pair of jeans, so I had to take her to the end of the driving range where no one could see us, because you're not supposed to wear Levi's," she recalled with a laugh. "The wonderful thing about playing golf is you can play it forever. My sister is 80, and she is loving every minute of it."
Among the attendees at Women's Play Golf America Day was Amy Rainis, 34, of Palm City, Fla. She had her first golf lesson ever at last year's event and returned this year to buy her first set of golf clubs. "I really did get hooked," Rainis said. "Golf is accessible and very encouraging. My husband plays golf, and I want to join him in playing the game."
Lynn Whitfield, 56, and Lynn Solomon, 53, who are both African-American attorneys, made the 50-mile trek from West Palm Beach, Fla., to take part in the event, which included a clinic by The PGA of America's Director of Fitness David Donatucci and PGA Master Professional Charlie Sorrell.
Whitfield and Solomon stressed how welcoming the game is to people of color. "People are nicest on the golf course," said Whitfield. "I think we should turn the world into golf because there would be no more issues with diversity."
Meanwhile, Carner, affectionately known during her playing days as "Big Momma," entertained the crowd with demonstrations of her pinpoint hitting accuracy. At one point, she tried to hit a bad shot intentionally and wound up hitting the ball to the center of the driving range green. "See, I can't miss even when I want to," she said as the crowd roared. "That's because in my prime, I would hit a minimum of 14 to 16 greens a round."
Carner was impressed with the set up for the event at the PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance, which featured complimentary 10-minute golf lessons in each area of the game, including full-swing, chipping, putting and bunker play, as well as equipment demos by Callaway, Cobra, TaylorMade and Titleist. "I think this is fabulous. The equipment companies coming out to an event like this to do club demos. You usually don't see that, but it gives these women a wonderful opportunity to think about the right new club for them."
"Joanne Carner's presentation was exceptional and a great inspiration to play the game for women of all ages," said PGA Village General Manager Bob Baldassari. "There is no doubt that Women's Play Golf America Day goes a long way to grow the game and increase player participation. We are proud to host this annual tradition – led by PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance Director Holly Taylor – which has not only sparked new lessons, tee times and merchandise sales from attendees over the past four years at PGA Village, but has also encouraged hundreds of women to get into and return to the game of golf."
Women's Play Golf America Day was created after The PGA of America's internal research showed that women strongly believe that the game of golf is good for business and networking; has health and fitness benefits; and allows families to spend quality time together. Over the past five years, the majority of new golfers have been women.
Carner believes it is treasured memories that are attracting women to golf. "My sister, after practicing four or five weeks every day brought me her golf ball and said, 'Look! It's the same ball I started with.' It's the little things in golf that are such a pleasure that keep bringing us back to the game."
Indeed, it is never too late to get "hooked."