Girls Golf empowers next generation of female golfers through LaBauve Cup at Scottsdale

Members of Team Fire and Team Stars work to get the perfect put during Saturday’s LaBauve Cup putting tournament at Putting World in Scottsdale. (Photo by Jacob Luthi/Cronkite News)

Girls Golf of Phoenix displays a picture of founder Sandy LaBauve, whose legacy lives on in the Valley through the annual LaBauve Cup. (Photo by Jacob Luthi/Cronkite News)

SCOTTSDALE – LaBauve Cup veterans Keyanna Hattemar and Cailin Lewis met each other two years ago at a Girls Golf event.

Hattemar, 9, who has played golf for over half her life, took to the sport to satisfy her competitive edge. For Lewis, 8, her passion for golf started as a father-daughter pastime. Her mother Dana Lewis remembers when she would tag along with her father to play in the bunker sand and eat all of the snacks.

Girls Golf brought Hattemar and Lewis together and is one of the focal reasons the organization exists. Instead of feeling down when Lewis’s Team Stars beat Team Fire during Saturday’s LaBauve Cup at Putting World in Scottsdale, Hattemar reached over to pull her friend in for a hug.

“I want to keep playing and become really good and do well in high school,” Hattemar said Saturday. “I want to get a golf scholarship for college. I understand that other people don’t get the opportunity to play golf. I am really happy that my parents introduced it to me and bring me here (to Girls Golf).”

The format of the LaBauve Cup started as a putting competition before transforming into an outdoor traditional 18-hole course during the second year. The event returned to the putting format for its third year. Team Fire and Team Stars split the first two Cups but with a mix of new and old faces, the playing field was even among the 40 young participants.

Members of Team Fire and Team Stars await the results of Saturday's LaBauve Cup putting tournament at Putting World in Scottsdale. (Photo by <a href="" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Jacob Luthi</a>/Cronkite News)

Members of Team Fire and Team Stars await the results of Saturday’s LaBauve Cup putting tournament at Putting World in Scottsdale. (Photo by Jacob Luthi/Cronkite News)

As the girls entered the putting green Saturday, the facility’s maintenance lead Martin Luna greeted the participants with Green Day’s “Welcome to Paradise.”

“Seeing the girls so excited to come here and play brings me joy,” Luna said. “They could be interested in anything else, like basketball or softball, but they’ve made a choice to go along with their parents to bring them here and I think it should be commended.”

Since the national organization’s founding in 1989 in Phoenix, Girls Golf caters to curious young golfers between the ages of 3-18 through practice sessions, tournaments and family events with 550 chapters. The goal of the organization is to give young girls resources to become better players and make friends along the way to ultimately change the face of golf.

When starting Girls Golf, Sandy LaBauve looked for a place where her daughter could learn the game in a welcoming environment with other girls. She also prides herself in being an accessible teacher as a member of the LPGA. In July, Girls Golf celebrated reaching one million girls through its 34 years of existence and partnership with the LPGA and USGA.

The organization promotes five pillars – empowerment, enrichment, energy, engagement and exercise – to help the girls find their voice and gain confidence on the green.

When Cori Matheson became the director of the largest chapter of Girls Golf, it was a full-circle moment for the former Phoenix youth chapter member. After spending her collegiate years playing golf at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida, she picked her clubs back up and put her leadership visor on to proudly lead the Phoenix chapter for a decade.

“The Phoenix area is so special to me,” Matheson said. “Arizona is simply different. Here we have beautiful golf courses and unlike other places, we get to play year-round. When I played in Florida, the weather was not like this at all and makes me appreciate getting the opportunity to grow the sport here.”

With golf being embedded in Arizona’s culture and having the support of other national golf organizations, Girls Golf lives in the perfect climate to push for change in golf gender inequality. In May, Forbes reported 77% of golfers are male. Golf has been used as a tool to discuss business, but women were shut out of those conversations at private clubs until 2012, when Augusta National changed its policies and other clubs slowly followed.

“Even if the girls don’t play for the rest of their life, they can use it as a networking and business tool and even surprise a few people when they find out the girls can actually play,” Matheson said.

In golf, navigating slopes is not the only difficulty the sport faces. The sport is also challenged with the number of opportunities available for girls’ involvement.

There are 996 women’s collegiate golf programs and 1,318 for men. The LPGA currently has 2,300 members while the PGA has roughly 28,000 members.

When Wyndham Clark won the U.S. Men’s Open Golf Championship in June, he walked away with $3.6 million but his female counterpart Allisen Corpuz left the green with $2 million after winning the U.S. Women’s Open.

“The game of golf is still technically a man’s sport,” Matheson said. “We’re not equal yet. It can be a little bit imitating because when they go to the driving range sometimes they are the only girl. In the environment that we create, they are here (at Girls Golf) with other girls. This provides them a safe environment to at least get out there and rip the bandaid off.”

Girls Golf is currently anticipating its biggest two-day event of the year, the 10th annual Girls Golf Day at Dobson Ranch Golf Course in Mesa on Oct. 6-7, with practice sessions and a tournament filled with opportunities to leave with a new friend, just like Lewis and Hattemar.

(Video by Jacob Luthi/Cronkite News)
Alexis Davis uh-lek-sis day-vis (she/ her/ hers )
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Alexis Davis expects to graduate in December 2023 with a master’s degree in sports journalism. She has interned at the USA Today Network’s Commercial Appeal and ESPN’s Andscape as well as written feature and enterprise stories for Front Office Sports and the MEAC conference. She is an intern in the Phoenix Mercury digital and social departments.

Sports Broadcast Reporter, Phoenix

Jacob Luthi expects to graduate in December 2023 with a master’s degree in sports journalism. Luthi graduated from the University of California, Riverside in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in political science.