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Making Waves: Revitalizing Women’s Mid-Am Golf

March 13, 2023

Orginally posted in Global Golf Post: Women on March 4, 2023

TAMPA, Fla. - For Kaylin Crownover, the reason she fell away from competitive golf was simple — burnout. The 30-year-old resident of Tampa, Fla., picked up the game when she was young, going on to play at Campbell University and then professionally on the Symetra Tour (now the Epson Tour) after college.

After playing golf for a living, she simply needed a respite from the game.

That break lasted for a few years until she met her now-husband, Tim. She began playing for fun with him, and it was not long before her competitive spirit came back in full force. Crownover competed in her first Florida State Golf Association championship in 2021 and qualified for the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship a year later.

Crownover’s story is like so many other women her age in golf. For one reason or another, women who have spent their life playing golf — some going on to play collegiately and professionally — lose touch with the game in their early 20s, leading to declining levels of participation in women’s mid-amateur golf.

The FSGA is dedicated to making competitive golf accessible to women of all ages, including these mid-amateurs.

One big factor that leads to this decline in participation is money. In 2018, the FSGA announced it would have a reduced entry fee for the FSGA Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship for competitors between the ages of 25 and 39 years old. The entry fee was reduced 50 percent to $80 for these golfers and includes two rounds of golf, an awards luncheon and a tee gift.

“It really allows younger players to be able to compete in great events without having to worry about how to pay for them,” said Kelli Pry, a Florida women’s mid-amateur competitor. “Price is something that’s a big detail I take into consideration before playing in something.”

Another cause for female mid-amateurs leaving the sport is that after graduating from college, they are left without solid footing in amateur golf, having to wait two or three years before they are eligible for mid-amateur events. In 2020, the FSGA announced that it would lower the age requirement for the Florida Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship to 22 years old from the traditional age of 25.

“Lowering that age gives players something to transition into right away rather than having to wait for two or three years,” Pry said. “Mid-amateur golf is all about competing and camaraderie.”

Since these women’s mid-amateur initiatives were put in place, the FSGA has seen the number of mid-amateur players competing almost quadruple, with the number growing each year.

In the 2018 FSGA Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, there were only six competitors in the field under the age of 40. In the 2022 championship, more than 25 golfers in the field were under the age of 40.

The past three FSGA Mid-Amateur champions have all been under the age of 40, with 23-year-old Ashley Zagers capturing the 2022 event. Zagers played collegiately at Florida Southern

College and the University of South Florida before graduating in 2022 and claiming the FSGA Women’s Mid-Amateur title a few months later.

“As we aim to grow numbers in women’s mid-amateur golf, it is extremely encouraging to see increased participation following several of our initiatives,” said Ryanne Haddow, the FSGA women’s golf tournament manager.

While the reasons may vary for why someone fell away from the game, the reality is that it is hard to get back out on the course. That is one of the reasons why the FSGA launched The LinkUp in 2020.

Taking place in the Tampa Bay area, The Linkup is a casual nine-hole scramble with a weekday shotgun start after work for females ages 21-39. Whether a player competed as a junior, collegiate athlete or just played for fun, the gathering seeks to create a welcoming and casual golf experience for those looking to pick the game back up.

The goal of these events is to get women back on the course in an exciting way. If The LinkUp leads some of these players back to competitive golf, all the better.

Another area where the FSGA is looking to elevate women’s mid-amateur golf in Florida is with national championship funding. This ensures that these women’s mid-amateurs from the state have the opportunity to compete at the highest level once they come back to the game.

The FSGA Foundation proudly offers its support to help offset some of the expenses associated with competing in a USGA championship. Florida residents under the age of 30 are eligible to receive up to $2,000 to help cover travel, lodging, caddies and other expenses associated with playing in the event.

Last year, the FSGA Foundation provided more than $115,000 to Floridians who played in a USGA championship, including the five players who competed in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship at Fiddlesticks Country Club’s Long Mean Course in Fort Myers, Fla. Two of these players advanced to the round of 32: Jamie Freedman of Miami and FSGA staff member, Jackie Twitty of Tampa.

Haddow said she thinks the cumulative effect of these efforts will provide meaningful change.

“I believe seeing these increases over the last few years shows that we have only scratched the surface in women’s mid-amateur golf and that there is potential to continue to grow in this area of the game.”