Despite Augusta, women's golf presence grows

By Marc Strauss

Despite Augusta, women's golf presence grows

April 7, 2012 Updated Apr 7, 2012 at 4:27 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Jan Leonard has been enjoying the game of golf since she was a teenager.  She still recalls her first round 45 years ago and how few women played the game back then.

"No, there weren't a lot of women on the golf course," remembers Leonard, who was preparing to play Friday morning at Kellogg Golf Course.  "I actually started when my father took me out.  He loved to play golf when he was younger and after his kids came along, when I got to the age, he decided to go back out and play and he took me along with him."

A lot has changed since Jan's first golf outing with her father.  Now women account for almost a quarter of the people who play golf.  And yet they're prohibited from membership at Augusta National Golf Club, annual site of The Masters.

That exclusion of female members has become an issue again this week because the CEO of IBM, a major sponsor of the tournament, is a woman, Virginia Rometty.

"One of the immediate questions was will she be allowed into that group and I don't believe that's being decided yet," said Peoria golfer Linda Mosher, whose been following the story.

For now Rometty is at least a candidate for membership.

Private clubs in central Illinois have been accepting women as members for years.  And in Edelstein, Arrowhead Country Club has welcomed women members since the day it opened in 1958.

"Maybe they were a little ahead of their time," said Cam Brewer, club manager of Arrowhead.  "I think out here the group that established Arrowhead were golfers.  The women golfed, the men golfed, and they just didn't see a line between the two at all.  They enjoyed the game and didn't see any reason why women couldn't come out and play as well."

Five years ago Eileen Setti and her husband Chris joined Arrowhead.  But she says she's played other places where she hasn't felt as accepted.

"Very often I'll be on the driving range and I'll be the only woman and it'll be all men.  You have to be comfortable in your skin to do that.  What I always find is you just ignore them and you just go and play and work on your game," said Setti.

20 year-old Megan Frager represents the next generation of women's golf.  She was out playing with her father Friday morning.

"A lot of the female golfers in the professional ranks are becoming younger and younger, so its kind of an inspiration to say, hey look, high schoolers can also become golfers," Megan said.

Maybe someday Megan's game will inspire another young woman