Women take over the greens ahead of Shaw Charity Classic
She grew up around the sport, honing her skills on a course near the family cottage. By the time she was a student at the University of Calgary, Aryn Flette was good enough to make the Dinos’ female golf team.
The 29-year-old Calgary native, though, is the first to admit it can sometimes be lonely out there. “As a kid, I was always playing golf with boys,” says Flette, who now works in the city’s oilpatch. “I always wished there were more girls out there.”
On Monday morning, Flette gets her wish as she joins several other ladies’ teams on the greens at the Canyon Meadows Golf and Country Club.
“It’s really cool to see the thick rough, to play on the course before the competition,” she says on the day before competitors will join locals in a pro-am before the fourth annual Shaw Charity Classic (shawcharityclassic.com), the Calgary stop for 50-plus golfers on the PGA circuit.
“I love how golf seems to be more cool to kids,” she says before teeing off under sunny skies. “But I really love how it’s appealing more to the ladies. It’s huge to get the women out.”
Earlier in the day, more than 100 local female executives and golf fans were treated to breakfast and a pre-game pep talk from LPGA legend Judy Rankin, along with local businesswomen Samantha Charlesworth, as part of the inaugural BDC Women’s Day.
Sean Van Kesteren tells me that he’s thrilled to see such a big turnout of female golfers 24 hours before international pro stars like John Daly and Tom Watson begin descending on our city for the event that runs until 5 p.m. on Sunday, September 4, to compete for a purse of $2.35 million.
“This is an area where I think we’ve been falling a little short, to be honest,” says Van Kesteren, the tourney’s director. “Out of about 400 golfers in our pro-am,” he says of the event Wednesday and Thursday before the big competition, “we only have about 15 or 16 women.”
A major pillar of the Shaw Charity Classic’s mission, he says, is to encourage people of all ages and walks of life to enjoy the game of golf, whether that’s as a player or a spectator. “This is our first year where the women have their own event,” he says of the fundraising day for a variety of children’s charities. “It’s win-win for everybody.”
For golfers like Jen Baerg, it really does feel like a winning combination. “I think it’s wonderful that we get the opportunity to participate,” says Baerg, an oil and gas professional who is also a member of the host club for the Shaw Charity Classic. “It’s pretty exciting to be playing on the course just before all the guys arrive.”
Baerg, who’s here with a group of fellow golfers who’ve been playing together for a few years, says that taking up the sport 10 years ago was one of the best things she’s ever done. “It’s all about getting together with the ladies, going for a drink after a game, going on golf trips together.”
Samantha Charlesworth, who is out golfing after her inspirational talk, is almost evangelical when she talks about how the game of golf has benefitted her. “I came to Calgary 20 years ago, into a male-dominated industry,” says the CFO of Superior Lodging Corp., a national hotel developer and operator. “If you are going to get to know people, this is the way to do it.”
Charlesworth says there’s nothing like “spending four or five hours golfing with someone, to see if you like like, trust and respect them — and want to do business with them.”
Constantly improving his own game as director of the Shaw Charity Classic is something Van Kesteren has excelled at since he took on the directorship of an event that brings up to 40,000 spectators out each August and last year, raised nearly $4 million for Alberta youth-based charities.
“We expanded our Kids Zone this year, and I think we’re the first tourney to include a petting zoo,” he says of the many improvements, which also includes a charity fun run on Sunday morning. “We’re really focused on getting some new folks out this year.”
While Aryn Flette hasn’t missed a Shaw Charity Classic since it started, she’s glad that this year, she already has more company in the way of female fans.
“It’s a great sport for everyone,” she says before teeing up and making a predictably impressive shot. “Golf is cool.”