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    Debbie's Blog

Ladies, Say ‘YES’ to Sports!

Debbie Waitkus &
Lyn St. James


It always is interesting to hear successful women talk about their career paths and “how it all began.” At last year’s YWCA Women’s Empowerment Event in Phoenix, AZ, a panel of five, fabulous women shared their stories and discussed how participating in sports was instrumental in their personal and professional growth and development. As you read about these women, think about a dramatic connection between success and involvement in sports that was recently uncovered:

Ernst & Young research shows that among senior businesswomen in the C-suite today, 94 percent played sports and over half played at a university level.

Lyn St. James — 7-time Indy 500 Driver

"I like to drive fast. My mother said, ‘Lyn, the gas pedal can get you out of more trouble than the brake.’” Although she wasn’t considered a great athlete at most of the traditional sports, she was exposed to them at school in Grade 7 and became a great athlete by using her brain. She acknowledges that without sports she wouldn’t have the enviable life she’s been living. The 1992 Rookie of the Year (in her 40s!) and survivor of many crashes, including fireballs, Lyn says that when you find your passion, you don’t see the obstacles others see. “It’s all about where you focus.”

Ann Meyers-Drysdale —VP Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury

Ann grew up with 5 brothers and 5 sisters. Her parents wanted them out of the house (imagine that!), so they went outside and played sports. Hers was a sports oriented family. Dad played ball at Marquette, and both parents believed their daughters and sons could and should be participants. Ann says older sister Patty was her role model. “Sports opened doors for me, always,” Ann says. Her family is her biggest accomplishments, she believes. Ann and husband Don have three children; son DJ works for the AZ Diamondbacks.

“The biggest obstacle is insecurity,” she says. Echoing Marilynn Smith (LPGA Co-Founder), Ann observed that there always will be people out there trying to discourage you, suggesting that you should be at home, making babies.

Misty Hyman — Olympic Gold Medalist, 2000 Sydney Olympics (200m butterfly)

Diagnosed with asthma as a young child, Misty had a doctor who told her parents swimming would be good for her. Into the pool she went, at Roadrunner Park in Phoenix, AZ. Her first race gave no hint of the greatness to come. She dove in, swam a few strokes, then headed straight for the side of the pool and got out. After that, her first goal became simply to finish a race. Next goal?—not to finish last. She learned that by setting goals, things become possibilities.

“When I missed making the Olympic team by 3 one-hundredths of a second, I was heartbroken at first. It meant another four years before I could try again.” But she got in touch with why she really loved to swim and be in the pool (and today mentions the smell of chlorine and coffee together!). Her times became record times and she moved forward by overcoming adversity. “The angst and pressure melted away, and the love of swimming shined through.”

Linda Vollstedt — ASU Women’s Golf Coach 1980 - 2001

Linda believes her introduction to golf was destiny. When she was 10 her parents joined a country club in Portland, OR. It was family oriented, and she started playing. Growing up with boys, she loved to compete, but couldn’t compete in football and baseball. Golf was acceptable. She played in tournaments and enjoyed the competition and camaraderie. After earning a degree in Math Education from ASU, Linda went to work as a high school teacher. One day the school needed a golf coach. She said yes. “Destiny,” she says.

More “destiny” was to follow. The golf coach position opened up at ASU. She took it and left a job at the top of her pay grade ($30K, at the time) for a “part time” coaching job that paid $9K. The pay was not fair for a woman, clearly, but Linda made it work. She cashed in her 401K, sold property and did what she could to get by. A small voice kept telling her, “If you do this, you will be rewarded.” She truly believes she has been. During the Q & A portion of the program, Linda was asked about the wisdom of giving kids ribbons for merely showing up. She surprised a few people when she said she believes it’s okay, because kids should be encouraged. She reflected on Misty’s goals of finishing a race and not being last. “I think it’s good to give them something to build upon.”

Nona Lee — SVP & General Counsel, AZ Diamondbacks

Nona was an athlete growing up, playing in the streets with boys. She was a good athlete, but acknowledges she “wasn’t an elite athlete.” After college she worked as a litigator for a law firm, and wanted to start a sports law practice at the firm. She was told no. However, when the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) arrived on the scene, she was able to marry her passion for sports with her law background. One of her favorite memories is working at America West Arena and having a key to the Arena (before card keys were invented).

All of these women had to overcome challenges. Nona was a black, woman lawyer in a male-dominated industry. Today she is happily “where I’m supposed to be.”

You don’t have to be an elite athlete to derive the benefits of participating in sports. But you can challenge yourself, and by challenging yourself, improve yourself — mentally, emotionally and physically. Not everyone can win a gold medal, but anyone can turn golf into gold. Say ‘Yes!’ to sports!

Play Golf, Tackle Anything

Calais Deb 1The other day, while working on details for Arizona Cardinals All-Pro Defensive Lineman Calais Campbell’s 4th Annual Celebrity Golf Tournament, I was reminded yet again that golf is so much more than just a game.

Campbell’s golf tournament supports his CRC Foundation, which is committed to the enhancement of our community through teaching critical life skills to young people, empowering them to become self-aware leaders for the future.  

The tournament brings together hundreds of people — golfers, organizers, supporters and sponsors, volunteers and vendors. A great deal of planning takes place in advance of the event, this year to be held at Wild Horse Pass & Whirlwind Golf Club. On Thursday, May 19 there will be a VIP pairings party hosted by Campbell and attended by a who’s who of sports, entertainment, the Phoenix business community and local philanthropists. The tournament will be played the following day, rain or shine.

Even those who don’t play golf can support The CRC Foundation by purchasing a ball for the helicopter ball drop for just $20.

All these people, joining forces to support a charitable foundation…and many of them don’t even play golf. Yet, golf gives them the opportunity to participate in a worthwhile activity, to contribute their time and talent, to be involved in their community. It also opens the door to meeting new people, creating new friendships and perhaps discovering new business hook-ups.

I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but the importance of golf as a vehicle for bringing people together, enhancing life and promoting personal growth is something I never tire of promoting.

Golf. It’s a game and so much more — and anyone can get involved. How can you turn golf into gold?

For information about Calais Campbell’s CRC Foundation and the celebrity golf tournament, visit: www.thecrcfoundation.org

Enjoy this video from EA Sports about Calais and how he channels his passion through The CRC Foundation and makes a difference in the community. https://vimeo.com/158266816

Throw Down Your Hat


Throw Down Your Hat!

There we were, in the middle of a business/golf workshop, attentive on the putting green, learning about green reading. We look and listen: The ball tends to break toward downtown Phoenix. See this mound here? — it will push the ball to the left, definitely to the left.

Then something powerful and memorable happened. Suzy studied her putt, struck the ball and sent it toward the hole at least 40’ away.  As it neared the hole it broke to the left, broke more to the left, looked like it would go…but caught the edge of the hole, rolled around the rim and stopped six inches away. Suzy had come so close, only to miss. She was clearly excited – perhaps a bit disappointed, but very excited.

Our instructor, Doug Hammer (now at Troon North Golf Club), moved quickly to build on her enthusiasm. He gave Suzy a high five for a great effort. Then he said, “Okay, what you do now is take off your hat, throw it to the ground, and say in disbelief, ‘How did that NOT go in?’” We all laughed and for the next few minutes practiced throwing off our hats and visors (followed by lots of high fives for our great effort!).

Let yourself have fun playing golf. The way young kids do. They can send an eight-foot putt whizzing 30 feet past the hole, yet jump for joy that they missed the hole by only an inch.

The professional golfers are a little different, of course.

During Sunday’s final round at the 2016 Waste Management Phoenix Open the threesome of Brendan Steele, Jeff Overton and William McGirt worked their way around the front 9. Rumblings from their caddies revealed unhappiness with the greens, which were harder and less receptive than on the prior three days.

Coming off a triple bogey on #9, Overton was clearly unhappy, but he chipped in for a birdie on #10 and hope returned. He went to the Par 4 11th hole with a bounce in his step and crushed his drive to the left middle of the fairway, position “A,” because the pin placement was back right. But his approach shot bounced on the hard green and rolled off the back.  Off flew his visor; then, he thrust his hands at the sky and shouted, “You’ve gotta be kidding me!” And then it got worse.

Overton discovered that his ball had come to rest beyond a sprinkler head, which meant he’d have to execute a more challenging chip shot rather than a putt. He made bogey on the hole. His round continued downhill from there.

As an amateur golfer, you can learn a great deal watching the professional players —everything from how to stretch and warm up before you start play, to how to hit virtually any shot. But perhaps they can learn something from you, too. Throwing down your hat, for example. The right way to do it is with a winning smile and a high five.

Hats off to turning golf into gold®!

Arizona Golf Association

Look what the Arizona Golf Association had to say about Debbie Waitkus!

courses we still miss
Click image to be forwarded to the article.

Welcome Hannah Stuart to the Golf for Cause Team!

Picture of Hannah

Hannah Stuart will be a senior at Arizona State University this year in the esteemed W.P. Carey School of Business. Studying Business Communication and Business Sports and Media Studies, Hannah found Golf for Cause through ASU’s Sports Business Association. She liked what she heard about Golf for Cause, and reached out to Debbie after researching the company. Speaking with Debbie made her like Golf for Cause even more. She liked how Debbie’s business model targets women, but also men, and gets them not only involved in golf but teaches them how to use it as a business tool. Hannah feels that women sometimes still get put on the back burner in the business world, and believes an ability to play golf could be a valuable asset.

“Debbie is proactive and strong and dedicated to making golf a great business tool for women. I have always been intimidated by golf, I guess because I never understood it. When I talked to her and heard her enthusiasm, it gave me the feeling that anyone is welcome, and that golf is super fun. I found myself wanting to get out there! She eliminated the intimidation factor for me within seconds.” 

When she was younger, Hannah sometimes went to the driving range with her father. She liked it, because it was fun, but it was frustrating too. She’s ready take it up again, and thinks it would be great to get out for a round of golf with her dad.  

Hannah has jumped in at Golf for Cause assisting with the Nine & Wine golf mentoring program and several golf fundraisers – The Marilynn Smith Charity Pro-Am, Partners in Action “Next Up” on the Tee Tournament and National Bank’s Winter Swing Charitable Golf Tournament.

Looking ahead, she isn’t sure where she’ll be in five years, but hopes it has something to do with sports and communication. She thinks it would be interesting to work on the business side of communications and media outreach to the public for a company involved with college or professional sports. For now, she likes what she is doing with ASU’s Athletic Development Center, which is working with athletes to make sure they are on top of their grades and motivated so they can keep playing and stay in school. She also encourages them to be passionate about something in addition to sports. “I try to help them make good decisions,” she says.

Hannah, you made a good decision of your own in joining Golf for Cause. Welcome to the (golf) club!

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