Lisa Wilson-Foley This Connecticut course owner doesn't kid around when it comes to catering to women golfers

August 12, 2001

At first, the squeals of children swarming over brightly colored
playground equipment in the shade of a locust tree seem out of
place--the kids are only 50 yards from the 9th tee at the Blue Fox
Run Golf Course in Avon, Conn.--but then this thought occurs to a
visitor: If a temple of testosterone like Gold's Gym can offer
child care, why can't a golf course? The answer was a no-brainer
for Lisa Wilson-Foley, one of only a handful of women in the U.S.
to own a course. She and her husband, Brian, the owner of 21
nursing homes in New England, have seven children, so providing
child care was a logical part of her plan to get more people,
particularly women, to play Blue Fox Run, an 18-hole public
course 12 miles west of Hartford that she purchased for $3.5
million in January 1997.

The 40-year-old Wilson-Foley, a 21 handicapper, says that when
she took out the loan to buy Blue Fox Run, she knew next to
nothing about running a golf course. So she listened, and what
she heard was that the people who had been running the place
hadn't been very friendly. "They were into the mind-set that if a
sprinkler went off when you were playing, you were stupid," she
says.

It was not long before Wilson-Foley began to formulate the plan
that last year resulted in Blue Fox Run being ranked among Golf
for Women magazine's top 100 women-friendly public courses in
the country. The secret to her success? "We started being nice
to women," she says. "Now a woman can get a tee time on the
weekend, and when you come in, we're as friendly to you as we
are to a man."

Service with a smile was only the beginning. Wilson-Foley used
some of the proceeds from the sale of her health-care businesses,
which she had built into a $15 million-a-year enterprise, to
upgrade Blue Fox Run. Designer Stephen Kaye has gradually
renovated the course, fixing things such as tees that were too
far from the fairway for many women and holes that were too long
for a woman to reach in regulation. Since most women refuse
simply to walk into the woods when nature calls, Wilson-Foley
also made sure that rest rooms were strategically located
throughout the course.

In 1997 Wilson-Foley hired a man and a woman as co-head pros, and
they stocked the pro shop with women's, as well as men's, apparel
and equipment, including several rental sets of women's clubs.
Women's leagues were expanded beyond the traditional Thursday
morning coffee klatch (even an evening league was started, so
working women could play), women's clinics were added, and
Wilson-Foley reached out to women's organizations looking to hold
fund-raising tournaments. In April 2000 an $800,000 clubhouse
expansion project was completed. The addition features a
well-appointed women's locker room (the men's locker room was
renovated) and a fully equipped child-care center, a rarity in
golf.

Women have responded. In 1997 they played about 15% of the rounds
at Blue Fox Run. Last year that figure was up to 30%. Not that
men aren't welcome. "I don't like it when people say, 'That's a
women's course,'" Wilson-Foley says. "I don't want there to be a
perception that women have taken over this place and scare away
the men. I would be killing myself, because the women's market is
only 20 percent [of all money spent on golf in the U.S.]."

In 1999 Wilson-Foley acquired a nine-hole course near Hartford's
Bradley International Airport and this winter will begin work on
another Kaye-designed nine holes at Blue Fox Run. She also owns a
miniature golf course and a 23-lane bowling alley in Simsbury,
Conn., and co-owns the Hartford FoxForce of World Team Tennis
with her husband. "I will look at almost any business, but it has
to be within 15 miles of Hartford," says Wilson-Foley, who spent
too many hours behind the wheel while managing her health-care
companies.

Her message to men? "Get this into your head, guys: You can play
on Sunday morning. Bring the kids and give your wife the day
off."

COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT CLARK Wilson-Foley makes kids feel at home at Blue Fox Run.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)