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W.Va. Amateur champ helps grow ranks of female golfers nationwide

By By Marta Tankersley
Staff writer
MARTA TANKERSLEY | Gazette
Brooke Bellomy, a former West Virginia Women’s Amateur champion, is one of the young women who have swelled the ranks of female golfers nationwide, state golf officials say.
CHIP ELLIS | Gazette Robin Alawat-Strauss of Parkersburg gets her photo taken with Jase Robertson, from the “Duck Dynasty” television show, who was among the amateurs playing Wednesday in the pro-am tournament at the Greenbrier Classic. The official PGA event starts today. For more on the Classic, go to Sports, 1B.

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — When she was a student at Wheeling Park High School, West Virginia Tourism Commissioner Amy Shuler Goodwin played golf — on the boy’s team.

“When I went to school, no women played golf,” Goodwin said. But growing up, her dad owned a pro shop and she was immersed in the sport.

“You don’t have to be the strongest or the fastest to win at golf,” she said.

That might be one reason the sport is gaining popularity among women, Goodwin said.

The West Virginia Golf Association, with 85 member clubs and more than 11,000 golfers, is working to “ensure the game is available to those who have traditionally been underserved,” said Executive Director Brad Ullman.

“The WVGA is taking the lead, the time and devoting the resources to develop the growth of women’s golf in the state,” he said. “It’s a game for all ages and both genders.” He said the game is experiencing a decline nationally, but that “we’re bucking national trends for the growth of golf here in West Virginia.”

There is no better place to play, he said.

“Look around,” Goodwin said. “You couldn’t find prettier golf courses than Oglebay, Stonewall, Canaan and, of course, The Greenbrier.”

Like their male counterparts, executive women are taking business out on these beautiful courses, too, Ullman said.

“It offers women the opportunity to build business relationships and interact at other events, too,” he said.

“A lot of business deals take place on the golf course, where colleagues participate in golf scrambles with their clients,” Goodman added. “It’s really a career builder.”

Golf also benefits women academically, in that many colleges and universities now have women’s golf teams and offer scholarships.

Brooke Bellomy, 21, has been studying at North Carolina’s Campbell University on golf scholarship. She also is a volunteer at the driving range during this week’s Greenbrier Classic PGA event.

Bellomy grew up near Huntington and played golf for Cabell Midland High School.

Always interested in sports, she took a particular interest in golf at age 11 and has been taking lessons from Rick Ellison, the golf pro at Guyan Country Club, for about seven years.

“I like to compete,” she said. “Once you start competitive golf, it’s harder to keep calm, but now that I’m older, it’s easier.”

Bellomy, who already has enjoyed an impressive amateur career, including a win at the West Virginia Women’s Amateur, said she hopes to go professional after she earns her degree in sports management.

Research has shown that interest in golf “in the junior ranks has grown significantly,” Ullman said.

“It’s just remarkable that, in the First Tee Program for ages 5 to 12, the percentage of girls is now 49 percent,” he said.

He credits that U.S. Golf Association with helping those numbers increase by giving the women more exposure on the national stage.

“They had back to back U.S. Opens this year,” he said. “Women see others succeed and they are more apt to think they can golf, too.”

Reach Marta Tankersley at marta.tankersley@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.


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