Local ladies take to the links
Golf provides recreational, professional opportunities for women
By KATIE VANBRACKLE
It’s Ladies Day at St. Ives Country Club in Johns Creek. On this warm and sunny Wednesday morning, dew still sparkles on the driving green. The musical chirps of birds combine with the ‘whack’ of clubs hitting balls as a row of colorfully clad golfers warm up with practice swings.
Groups of ladies laugh and greet one another as they carry their clubs toward a line of waiting carts.
Some are there to participate in a formal competition league, while others, known as the Gal Pals, play simply for fun and to improve their skills.
Donna Fahey of Milton, a regular Gal Pal, hops into a cart with her daughter Allie, a rising senior at Milton High School. Allie plays for the Milton girls’ golf team, which won the state championship at Augusta’s West Lake Country Club in May.
All three of Fahey’s children have been swinging golf clubs since they were young children.
“It’s a great family sport,” said Fahey. “We take our clubs with us on vacations and play together as often as we can.”
Golf is a life skill according to Joan Delk of Alpharetta, who is the current teaching professional at Big Canoe and Crystal Falls golf clubs in north Georgia.
“You get some fresh air and exercise and enjoy quality one-on-one time with your husband, kids or best friends,” said Delk. “It’s a game you can enjoy from your childhood well into your golden years.”
Delk began playing at the age of 10, when her grandmother gave her the gift of lessons. A natural athlete, Delk loved the game from the very beginning and went on to earn a golf scholarship to Furman University, where she met her husband John.
“John joked that I was the most expensive date he ever had,” laughed Delk. “In order to be with me, he had to buy clubs and take up golf.”
When Delk made the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour, John left his job to travel with her for a year as her caddy.
Delk played golf full-time for eight years, but switched to part-time when her son and daughter were born. Today, she enjoys coaching the girls’ golf teams at her children’s school, Mt. Pisgah Christian School in Johns Creek.
As a teaching professional, Delk gives golf instruction to both men and women. How do the men respond to a lady pro?
“It’s really not an issue,” said Delk. “Most female pros hit about the same distance as a strong male amateur. Also, having played on tour gives me credibility when I demonstrate swings and teach lessons about mental strategy and club selection.”
Delk also trains women who work in the corporate world and feel the need to take up golf in order to stay on par with their male counterparts who forge relationships with clients on the golf course.
Karen Killebrew of Milton began taking golf lessons to keep up with her husband Cam’s family, all avid golfers. Cam’s father, baseball Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, organized two golf tournaments each year to raise funds for various charities.
“I began playing golf with my father-in-law and now I play with my kids,” Killebrew said. “It’s the perfect inter-generational sport.”
Hooked on the game, Killebrew sought a career that would allow her to spend as much time as possible on the golf course. She now uses her event planning skills as a tournament advisor for Magnolia Golf Group, which provides leader boards, player gifts, logo apparel and management advice for golf tournaments across the Southeast.
Killebrew recently helped organize a successful golf fundraiser for the new Cambridge High School, which will open in Milton this fall.
She is also working with North Fulton Community Charities on a charity golf event to take place July 23 at Country Club of the South.
In September, she will assist with the American Cancer Society’s Pink Ribbon Classic at the River Club in Suwanee, where most of the golfers will be women.
“The Pink Ribbon Classic is a very touching event,” said Killebrew. “It begins with a balloon release during the cart call. White balloons are released to honor those who have died from cancer and pink balloons represent those who are still fighting. It’s very emotional.”
Whether playing to raise funds for charity or simply for pleasure, golf teaches skills that can be applied to all areas of life, says Delk.
“Golf is not just about mechanics,” she said. “There is also a mental component. Just like in the business world or your personal life, you have to learn when to be aggressive and when to take your loss and go.”