One might think, at the dawn of the Tiger Woods era, that golf
has come a long way, baby. But consider these numbers: Of the
more than 23,000 members of the PGA of America, only 642 are
women, and just 230 of those are head pros or directors of golf.
In other words, while one out of every five golfers in the U.S.
is female, only one out of every 100 is at the game's top
teaching level. (More than 900 women belong to the Teaching and
Club Professional Division of the LPGA.)
One of the women who has bridged golf's gender gap is Mary
Hafeman, a former LPGA player who's director of golf at the
Radisson Ponce de Leon Golf and Conference Resort in St.
Augustine, Fla. Although there were fewer than two dozen women
head pros in the U.S. when she took the job, in 1989, Hafeman
never considered herself a pioneer, not even four years earlier
when, as a PGA apprentice, she showed up in Columbia, S.C., for
her first business school class--club pros are required to pass
a series of business courses--and was the only woman there.
Arriving early, Hafeman sat at a table with eight chairs. Then
the men began to filter in. "Nobody was going to sit next to
me," Hafeman says. "That was one of the most brutal feelings
I've ever had. It was like I had the plague. I was so
embarrassed. When there were no other chairs left, someone was
stuck sitting with me." After that, Hafeman entered the
classroom at the last minute and grabbed a chair at an already
occupied table. Still, she says, two days of classes went by
before she was invited out to lunch with the guys.
At the time, Hafeman was an assistant at San Jose Country Club,
near Jacksonville. After being hired by Ponce de Leon, which was
looking for a pro who would put the resort's guests ahead of his
or her own game, she felt a sense of deja vu when she attended
her first North Florida PGA meeting. "Initially, no one would
sit next to me there, either," Hafeman says. "After that I
dragged my assistant, a male, along just so I'd have somebody to
Hafeman had intended to be a player, not a teacher. She was a
nationally ranked amateur growing up in West Bend, Wis., and
while in college at the University of South Florida and later at
Florida played against Nancy Lopez and Beth Daniel, among
others. After graduating in 1980, Hafeman won the '81 Eastern
Amateur and then turned pro. She'll always remember her first
LPGA tournament, the 1982 Boston Five Classic. "When I walked
into the locker room, everybody looked at me, but nobody said a
word," Hafeman says. "There was no, 'Hey, glad you're out here.'
I went to the 1st tee and thought I'd jump into a foursome for a
practice round. Well, I stood there for six groups. Nobody
invited me to play. They'd say, 'Oh, we're going to play two,'
or 'We're going to play three.' Finally, my caddie said, 'I
think we should just tee off.' So I played a onesome. I was used
to amateur golf, with a lot of camaraderie and sportsmanship.
The pro game was a business."
May 25, 1997
She wasn't in the business for long. A car accident in the
spring of 1983 in Tucson brought her LPGA career to a premature
end. She was 10 tournaments into her life as a pro when her
vehicle--her brother Tom, who caddied for her, was driving--was
hit on the passenger's side by another car. Hafeman, sitting in
the backseat, instinctively reached forward to grab Tom to keep
him from going through the windshield. He banged his knee on the
steering column, but otherwise neither of them seemed injured.
"We were more worried about the car and the insurance and my
golf clubs in the trunk," she says. The next day, on the Monday
of the Tucson Conquistadores LPGA, Hafeman couldn't turn her
head more than an inch in any direction. Doctors said she had
severe whiplash. "They said, 'You might as well quit playing
professional golf; you're never going to make it,'" Hafeman
says. "I told them, 'You're nuts.'"
She played that week anyway and somehow made the cut. The ball
rolled a long way on Tucson's fast fairways and she putted
well--keeping her head still was not a problem. Hafeman entered
the Samaritan Turquoise Classic the next week in Phoenix, but
when the temperature dropped 20[degrees] and it started to rain,
she could barely move. "That's when I realized there was more to
the injury than I had thought," she says. "I took a month off,
and should've taken a year. But I was just out of college,
anxious and under a lot of pressure. Turns out the doctors
called it right."
Hafeman stayed on the tour for a while but saw herself being
passed by players she had once beaten. "I didn't want to be one
of those donators--that's what we called the people who had no
chance to win and were playing for other reasons," she says. "I
didn't want to just hang on." The end came in the fog-delayed
first round of the Henredon Classic in High Point, N.C. Hafeman
had a local caddie who wasn't impressed by her intensity level
or her play. "He made a comment at the 9th hole, 'Don't you
think you sprained your ankle? You're not really into this.' In
other words: Why don't you just quit. I told him, 'Forget it,
buddy, you're not going to caddie the second nine for me.' So I
got another caddie, but while I played, I realized he was right.
I wasn't into it. I asked myself, What am I doing out here? I
decided that was my last tournament, and it was."
Despite seven years of physical therapy, Hafeman sometimes
experiences a loss of feeling in the fingers of her left hand,
and one doctor has told her that she's 15% disabled. Although
her current career might seem less glamorous than playing the
tour, Hafeman finds it rewarding in other ways. She gives more
lessons than most pros in North Florida and doesn't work behind
the counter in the shop. She has a staff of five assistants to
do that. One recent morning she arrived at the club at 7:30,
went through a stack of mail, met with the course
superintendent, then supervised the shotgun start of a large
group that had booked the course for the morning. She gave three
lessons and had a club-fitting session before noon, then made
sure a sufficient number of carts would be ready for the
afternoon booking, a 64-player University of Florida outing.
Every now and then Hafeman is reminded that she is working in
what has traditionally been a male-dominated world. Customers
sometimes direct questions to one of Hafeman's male assistants,
assuming he's in charge. "He just points to me and says, 'She's
the boss, you'd better check with her,'" Hafeman says,
chuckling. "Men are definitely more willing to accept women now
than 10 years ago. My mom keeps telling me I'm a pioneer, that I
went into uncharted waters and did all the work so others could
follow. I've been able to affect more lives now than if I'd
played the tour. I guess I am a pioneer."