How LPGA Legend Jane Blalock is Breaking Down Barriers With PGA Women’s Clinics
By Ryan Adams, PGA
(Donnelly Wolf/PGA of America)
As Jane Blalock striped ball after ball on the Stonebridge Ranch driving range, behind her stood hundreds of women looking on in awe.
It was easy. It was simple. It was for them.
Blalock’s goal with the range exhibition midway through one of her 12 PGA Women’s Clinics presented by AIG in McKinney, Texas, wasn’t to show how good she was at striking a golf ball. That sentiment speaks for itself — she’s won 27 times on the LPGA Tour, including the old Dinah Shore tournament before it was even a major.
Instead, it was to show the attendees from all sorts of business backgrounds who marveled at her silky tempo that golf isn’t just for those that play on tour. It’s not just for men in corporate boardrooms and C-Suites. And it’s really not as intimidating as it seems.
Golf, actually, can be pretty darn fun and no matter what skill level or gender you are, it can be one of the most rewarding sports you can play.
“In a nutshell, this is all about empowering women,” says Blalock. “It’s about providing them that extra level of confidence so they’ll join in, accepting those invitations to play and introducing a whole new world of women to this great game.”
PGA Women’s Clinics was born in 1990, after Blalock, who by then had careers both on the LPGA Tour and in the financial world, saw an opportunity to get more women in business into golf — something the sport sorely lacked at the time.
Blalock reached out to a friend who was head of marketing at Mazda, and asked if they’d be interested in sponsoring a clinic for women.
Mazda LPGA Golf Clinics was an instant hit — their first clinic at Bethesda Country Club in Washington D.C. sold out in three days.
“I thought, ‘OK, we’re on to something here,’ and it just expanded,” recalls Blalock. “Three, five, and then at one point up to 15.”
Mazda eventually departed as a sponsor, then came Gillette, who left, too, but Blalock kept the clinics afloat until she met fellow New Englander and PGA Past President Suzy Whaley. They chatted over ideas, and Whaley mentioned how they’d love to have the clinics under the PGA umbrella.
Within three days, Whaley spread the word, talking to the PGA of America Board and former CEO Pete Bevecqua, who were equally excited about the clinics. It led to the clinics being reorganized under the name PGA Women’s Clinics and, more recently with the COVID-19 related golf boom, younger women have come filled with enthusiasm.
“Thirty percent of the women who come have never played golf before,” says Blalock. “But what happens after is those same women go back to their office or their networks and create their own little groups to play golf together. So the clinics really become this catalyst for women to empower other women, too, when it comes to golf.”
One of those people is Kate Baldwin, who works for Fidelity Investments and is from Virginia Beach. Balwin was participating in her second PGA Women’s Clinic of the year at Stonebridge Ranch with a couple of clients. She picked up golf during the pandemic like a lot of people, and caught the bug but still felt she could learn more.
“The PGA Women’s Clinics wipe away all the barriers and intimidation from golf,” says Baldwin. “There’s no reason for women to be left out of the conversations and camaraderie that come with golf. Jane is great about emphasizing that idea and her coaches are so great about helping with every question about technique or etiquette that we have."
"It’s led to me not being scared to raise my hand anymore when the invitation comes for something golf-related at work."
Kate Baldwin, PGA Women's Clinics participant
Annette Cunanan was in McKinney for her fourth PGA Women’s Clinic. Based in Orange County, California, and working for Brighthouse Financial, she’s noticed how impactful the clinics have become since her first own.
“It’s phenomenal. Every year they’ve gotten better,” says Cunanan. “These clinics just breed a ton of confidence in us as attendees. It’s time well-spent at a beautiful location that you just can’t replicate anywhere else.”
There's something unique with PGA Women's Clinics. Blalock noticed it right away, the thousands of attendees have experienced the same, and the PGA & LPGA Coaches like Becky Maciolek, who's been a clinic coach for 20 years, see it at every turn.
It's the realization that golf is for everyone.
"Seeing them hit that one shot, their faces, the excitement," says Maciolek, "it's the moment they understand that, hey, this is for me, too."