Golf has long been considered a boy’s club, but this point of view is becoming obsolete. According to the National Golf Association, women comprise the fastest growing demographic of golfers. In August 2012, Augusta National admitted female members for the first time in the history of the club. St. Andrew’s in Scotland, considered to be the first golf course, recently announced it would be considering women members. Considering the Ancient and Royal course was actually commissioned by a female monarch in 1550 (Mary Queen of Scots, who is also credited with coining the term “caddies”), this news is well overdue.
The Jacksonville Women’s Golf Association (JWGA) has been in existence since 1927, more than 20 years before the inception of the LPGA. It all started when Winnie Holmes decided to get some of her friends together to create a women’s golf association in Jacksonville. The first meeting for the formation of the group was held Nov. 1, 1927, on the 3rd floor of the YMCA building on Laura Street. Eight days later, the first play day was held on the old Municipal course. It was a blind bogey event with 21 players. Mrs. C.L. Swann was the winner with an 87. They teed off at 9 a.m., and a newspaper article about the event stated that it lasted until noon. Mrs. John L. Holmes (Winnie) was the organization’s first elected president. During her presidency, she also founded the Florida Women’s Golf Association and went on to win its championship.
The purpose of the JWGA is to promote the interest of golf among women players through the holding of weekly tournaments and other such events. Through tournaments, the JWGA makes substantial donations each year to charities in North Florida including Hubbard House, a shelter for victims of domestic violence.
Shan Giordano from World Golf Village is the current JWGA president. Now comprised of more than 200 women, JWGA members have all met the criteria of having a handicap of 16 or better, and many have single-digit handicaps. Several members have even qualified for national events. Giordano said in recent years the JWGA has seen significant growth.
“We have seen stronger fields being represented with some of our competitions,” she said. “What we see is women looking for a different type of competitive environment. Many of those women go on to play in state and national events. All of those levels are feeder groups for supporting women’s golf and helping women to perform in bigger and better events.
“By our virtual existence, the JWGA plays a role in promoting golf around North Florida. We reach out through all of Northern Florida. Having members from 45 different clubs creates an enormous amount of appeal and involvement.”
The fact that the JWGA has been around since 1927 is “stunning when you think about what the leaders who formed this organization had to do to gain acceptance on the golf course,” Giordano pointed out. “Women were just given the vote in 1920. With our organization as old as it is, think about what it took just to travel to a golf course, by Model T or train, from as far as Timuquana or Ponte Vedra. Our women have been committed to golf for a very long time.”
The Jacksonville Women’s Golf Association season ends every year in April because the week of THE PLAYERS is such a big deal to the members of the JWGA.
“We end our season intentionally before PLAYERS week because so many of our members are involved as volunteers: marshals, walking scorers or in communications,” said Giordano.