It’s a move that would seem to make sense, and the vice president of the Indiana Women’s Golf Association said it’s time to try.
Columbus resident Tobi Herron, a former University of Missouri golfer and a past Columbus Women’s City Tournament champion, is excited about the upcoming Indiana Women’s Golf Championship that will be contested at Otter Creek on Aug. 2 and 3.
The tournament is being conducted entirely on the weekend.
“We have faced a lot of challenges in the last five years,” Herron said. “We had rapid growth in the ’90s, but more people are choosing to do other recreational opportunities. We needed to take a step back and ask how we capture an audience that is declining.”
The previous mid-amateur championship was routinely played on Sunday and Monday, and that meant participants would have to take at least one vacation day to participate. With women busier than ever, the priority seemed to be on other events. That was especially true with this event, for women 25 and over.
“They get burned out (after playing high school and college golf) or get married and have kids,” said Herron, who is 35. “How do I spend my free time? We wanted to give them the opportunity to play the game they love in a schedule that is more accommodating.”
Mike David, the executive director of the Indiana Golf Association, said it is rare that he has seen a women’s tournament entirely played on the weekend, but he is excited about the change.
“We’ve seen our women’s numbers drop,” he said. “Our high school and college golfers still are coming out in droves, but we have to find a niche for a mid-amateur golfers (ages 25 and above) that encourages them to play. Playing on a weekend should have a positive impact. There are more women working, and it’s not easy for them to get away.”
David, who lives in Franklin, grew up in Columbus and is a 1982 Columbus North graduate, as is his wife, Betsy. He is a member at Harrison Lake Country Club.
“To have both rounds on the weekend is fairly unusual for us,” David said. “We ask for special rates from our member courses, and it’s hard to give up that time. We appreciate Otter Creek, which always has been willing to host our tournaments. (Otter Creek head pro) Chad Cockerham always is willing to go above and beyond. Chad has a progressive way of thinking.”
Cockerham said it is good business to host the tournament.
“It’s a pretty small disruption and a big reward,” Cockerham said. “We will get 80 to 90 golfers around the state who will come to Columbus to stay a couple of nights. That could see the course and want to come back.
“That’s what we want to do. We have done a lot of events with the Indiana (Golf Association) and we’ve done a couple women’s amateur championships. It’s not a new thing, but it’s something we would like to do more of. My hope is that we get a full field.”
Cockerham has seen the trend of smaller women’s fields in tournaments for those out of high school and college. “A lot of ladies run into participation issues,” he said. “Tournament golf is different than regular golf. A lot of ladies play socially and never have played any type of competitive golf.”
While a successful movement has taken place within the industry to attract children to golf, Cockerham said the numbers do lag for women in that mid-amateur classification.
“It is not as popular as it should be,” he said.
Herron fits into that category.
“For me, this tournament is extra special because it has been a big push of mine,” she said. “I am on the board. I am a working lady and I have a son, Owen (2), and a husband (Matt Herron). I work at Cummins.
“I am signed up to play.”
The tournament will host three divisions, Open, Mid-Amateur (25 and above) and Senior (55 and above).
“When I started this job 24 years ago, women’s golfers predominately were in the mid-am range in the state amateur,” David said. “Now in the state amateur and the state open, with maybe the exception of four to six, the rest are high school and college players. I hate to use the term ‘older,’ but we would like to get some of the players out of college to play in the tournaments.”
Herron said the tournament is for women of “all loves and calibers.”
Information about the tournament and signing up can be found at www.indianagolf.org/index. Just click on the IWGA prompt and go to “tournaments.”