Moving women fore-ward in golf ... and their careers

October 12, 2017 | GET MORE : Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

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Professional golfer-turned-banker Susie Roh inspires women to say "yes" to a day out on the links.

Long gone are martini lunches, but striking deals on a golf course remains a reality in the world of business.

Unfortunately, many businesswomen don't golf, so they may be missing opportunities that their male colleagues find on the links. They also miss chances to develop friendships with colleagues and managers outside of work.

Women often are too intimated to say "yes" to a golf outing, says Susie Roh, senior vice president and regional fiduciary manager for U.S. Bank, and former professional golfer. By not participating, they miss chances to create "informal networks and create important social capital," Roh said. 

She and the Denver chapter of the U.S. Bank Women business resource group want to change that. They recently hosted, "Even Par: Tee Up Your Confidence On and Off the Course," an event at a driving range aimed at helping boost female employees' confidence on the golf course – and in their careers. 

"The no. 1 thing I wanted to have happen at the event was to make golf seem less intimidating to women," Roh said. "I wanted to pull back that veil and show that women don't have to be intimidated and they don't have to be the best. Just showing up and saying 'yes' gets you a long way."

Roh was a four-year letterwinner and a golf team Academic All American at the University of Oregon in the mid-1990s before she began to compete in professional mini-tours after college. Although she was successful in the mini-tours, winning one, she never made it fully into the LPGA.

"I realized I wasn't going to make a living at golf, so I got my amateur status back in 2003," Roh said. She continues to compete in amateur events, earning medalist honors as a qualifier for the U.S. Women's Mid-Am in 2016.

She told the 50-plus employees at the event last month that golf has been a good icebreaker and business tool for her, because it gives her something in common with her colleagues and clients.

"If golf is thrown out to the men in the office, every single one of them will say, 'yes,' and the women will say, 'Oh no, I'm not good enough,'" Roh said. "Prepare yourself to take the invite. Say 'yes' to the event and you'll discover you're no worse than many of the guys."

Some of Roh's golf tips included:

  • Be on time, or early. 
  • Stay out of people's way.
  • Play "ready” golf – keep up the pace so you're not slowing everyone down.
  • Learn the terms associated with the sport.
  • Wear appropriate attire – shirts with collars, no blue jeans. 

Dave Crittendon, senior vice president and Colorado private banking managing director for U.S. Bank, said golf "is a very 'pay it forward' kind of sport. People want to help other people get better, because everyone started out horribly."

An avid golfer, Crittendon is also an ambassador to the U.S. Bank Women group in Denver. He came to the event to encourage his female colleagues to try golf, and to provide some coaching tips alongside Roh.

"I've cut two of the largest deals I've ever done on the golf course," Crittendon said. "You talk about everything out there – work, family, hobbies. You really get to know people."

For Meredith Gall, vice president of asset-based finance for U.S. Bank, the event was a great way to get reacquainted with the sport. She used to golf with a group of women when she worked in San Francisco, and she was participating in a golf outing a few days after the event.

"This was perfect timing," she said. "I got to dust off my clubs, brush up on my golf etiquette and get some tips from an expert."

Stacey Ziegelbauer, a senior paralegal in the bank's legal department, said the event was a fun way to get to know some of her colleagues.

"It was a really great message, because I don’t know that women notice that they say 'no,'" she said. "It was an even stronger message for me to get out of my box, find a friend and just have fun."

Heather Draper is a member of U.S. Bank's public affairs and communications team.