An interview with LPGA pro Jennifer Wyatt
Dennis Begin of Golf West sits down with retired LPGA professional Jennifer Wyatt
An interesting story circulated about Jennifer Wyatt when she was in junior high school. The golf coach, who didn’t want girls on the team, called an organizational meeting in the boys’ change room. Wyatt walked right into the change room to register. Although she was not permitted to play on the boys’ team, the situation made her even more determined to succeed.
Wyatt went on to earn a golf scholarship at Lamar University in Texas, where she won two individual NCAA Division One championships. Her professional golfing career has been one of growth and success.
Her biggest accomplishments include making the LPGA tour in 1989 on her first attempt at Q-School, winning one tournament on the LPGA tour and one tournament on the Australian PGA Tour and epresenting Canada as a member of the 1987 gold medal team in the Commonwealth Games held in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Wyatt retired from competitive golf in 2011, with her last win at the 2009 Washington State Women’s Open. She currently teaches at both the Savage Creek Driving Range and her home course of Quilchena Golf and Country Club in Richmond. Here Wyatt reveals some details of her life on tour, her view of the LPGA and the status of women’s golf.
GW: Do you miss the tour, the travel and the competition?
JW: No. Playing the LPGA tour is very hard work combined with the travel. It was a relief to retire because of the constant pressure to perform for money. What you miss are the home stay friends, the fun Monday softball game and of course my friends on the tour.
GW: How do you attract young girls to the game and what programs are available?
JW: Girls 14 and younger need to enjoy the game as a social event. Lessons have to include instruction as well as chipping and putting contests. There has to be less focus on competition and winning. Throw the score card away for the first two years. Play only six holes, forget the rules and just enjoy the experience.
As for golf programs, there are many training programs including elementary school programs, the Junior Linkster Golf and Divot Tour, CN Future Links, the Maple Leaf Junior Golf Tour, the Canadian Junior Golf Association, the B.C. Golf Zone program, B.C. Summer Games and the B.C. junior girls’ championship. The First Tee Program in the United States is not available in Canada.
GW: How do you attract older girls and women to the game?
JW: That is very difficult to do. Young women have too many distractions: part-time jobs, men, university, careers, marriage and starting a family. If they love the game, they will eventually return as their kids grow. In the recent Beach Grove Ladies Open, the organizers tried a novel idea with a fun flight for non-competitive women to play alongside the tournament golfers. The goal is to get women back into the game and enjoy the social participation.
GW: What is your philosophy of instruction?
JW: You want to keep it simple, male or female, as the mechanics of the golf swing are the same for both. The body has to stay centered and yet allow the club head to travel along the correct plane and path with speed. The golf swing only lasts 1.5 seconds, so keep it simple. When you hit a ball, your head has to be empty of thoughts and just feel the swing.
GW: Is the game of golf too difficult and should it be changed?
JW: That has become a very trendy topic. [There are] ideas to change the game based on shorter courses of 12 holes, larger cups on the green, fewer hazards and reducing the penalty strokes. All of these ideas would speed up the game and make playing more fun. There has to be more executive or par 3 courses with lower green fees. Tournament golf has to remain as is.
GW: Is the LPGA in trouble?
JW: No. What has happened to the LPGA since 2008 is only a reflection of the economic recession in the United States. Yes, the LPGA has lost tournaments and sponsorship. The new commissioner, Mike Won, has enlarged the tour from 23 to 27 tournaments with $30 million in prize money. With 121 players from 26 countries, the game has produced new stars such as Sun Yong Yoo [South Korea], Ai Miyazato [Japan], Yani Tseng [Taiwan], Suzann Pettersen [Norway], Stacy Lewis [US] and the 16-year-old sensation Lexi Thompson [US]. The LPGA will be just fine.