Stockbridge, GA – For the fifth year running, the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) supported the Women in Golf Foundation, Inc. (WIGF), as they held the 28th annual National Women’s Collegiate Golf Championship. The championship was held at Eagle’s Landing Country Club in Stockbridge, Georgia this past April.
Student-athletes from five Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) traveled to compete in the 36-hole competition. Before the tournament, the young women gathered for a professional development seminar on “Elevating the Champion’s Game… In Golf and Life,” the theme of this year’s event.
Monday morning focused on education around the business side of the sport through panels on career advice, resume writing, interview prep and personality assessments to assist with their mental preparation and team dynamics.
AJGA’s Vice President of Human Resources, Lauren Shelly, spoke in the interview and preparation Q/A as well as the resume workshop. Several AJGA staff members participated in a round of golf that paired collegiate women with business professionals and tournament sponsors.
The professional development mission originated from Founder and President, LaJean Gould many years ago when she needed to utilize golf to help her professional development early on in her career.
“I would look around the office on a Friday and everyone is wearing golf attire, and I’m still in my suit so something’s wrong with this picture,” Gould said. “I knew I was missing out on something. I figured out I needed to learn how to play golf so I sat down with my manager and said that I wanted to play golf as my professional development.”
Gould would then take lessons and go on to play golf recreationally. One day while playing a round of golf, Gould saw a girls' golf team playing without a coach, and the inspiration to create the WIGF was born.
“They told me that they had been dropped off by the coach who went to take the boys’ team to another tournament,” Gould said. “I didn’t like that picture so we decided we would do something for the girls and this is what it turned into today. It (WIGF’s creation) found me.”
The WIGF has developed and grown over the last 28 years to include its annual Women’s Collegiate Golf Championship, a youth program, the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), United States Golf Association (USGA), Atlanta Girl’s Cup and the Executive Women’s Program. The goal is to encourage the growth of women’s golf and identify career opportunities within the golf industry and other corporate positions.
“What I wanted was to get awareness, equality and visibility around those young girls who played,” Gould said. “Also, I wanted to help with the development around them so they could get better at playing. That’s really what I wanted to help do and I believe we’re achieving that here.”
The AJGA’s mission along with its diversity, equity and inclusion goals tied in well with the WIGF’s vision. The partnership was created in 2018 and has grown stronger in the subsequent years.
“They’ve [AJGA] supported us more and more, which tells me they really believe in what we do here,” Gould said. “Lauren [Shelly] has been a huge help in the development piece for WIGF because they [AJGA] want to hire a diverse group of people for the internship. She’s helping the girls with how to present themselves better, make resumes better and interview better. It just helps energize these kids to want to be better.”
This year, the AJGA’s Director of Operations and Rules worked with the WIGF Director of Golf, Oneda Castillo, to help implement the AJGA pace of play policy for the tournament.
“I think the work you’ve [AJGA] done with us this year has been tremendous in terms of pace,” Gould said. “I appreciate their communication with me because they’ll come to me and say we need to work on this but we’ll help you. I told my people to get this done and this year it’s been smooth out there.”
The event ended with an awards ceremony where Chicago State University won first place receiving the inaugural Renee Powell Cup. Paine College brought in second place, while Savannah State University won the Division II trophy. Katie Robinson of Alabama State University won the individual top golfer medal.
Gould’s next vision for WIGF is to set up a succession plan so that the organization can thrive for years to come. The growth included bringing in new Interim Executive Director Jamie Taylor, founder of Black Golf Directory. The AJGA also supports Black Golf Directory, amongst other new partnerships and hirings.
“I would like to see this organization be around like some big sports organizations,” Gould said. “We’ve got 28 years of work, I don’t want this to die. That’s why I’m building that framework to expand and develop the organization to be long-lasting.”
The AJGA looks to support the WIGF in its initiative in the years to come. For more on the WIGF and its mission and events, click here .