Teeing off

  • by Roger Brigham
  • Wednesday January 31, 2007
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Very quietly, almost as quiet as the whispered television commentary during every major professional golf telecast when a competitor is lining up a make-or-break putt, a modest but ambitious golf circuit has been launched that could end up shaking the golf world right to its antiquated, homophobic roots.

And wouldn't that be a kick in the pants?

Pam Dunnam had long been active in women's softball through her involvement with the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance. But she and her friends were looking for a new challenge – the next big thing to market in LGBT sports. They found their answer at the biennial Solheim Cup.

Looking into the crowd – the same crowd that the TV cameras so studiously avoid – they found themselves staring at a sea of lesbian faces. Sports-loving, money-spending lesbian tourists.

"We decided this is where we need to go next," Dunnam said. "We saw a niche and became very excited about it. I have not talked to one person in the past five years about this who is not excited."

The formation of foreUS Women's Golf Tour was announced in December. Plans have been made to hold the first three tournaments this year, with six more in 2008 and eight to follow in 2009.

The second tournament will be held August 11-12 in San Francisco, sandwiched by a March 25 tourney at the Doral Desert Princess Golf Resort in Palm Springs and a national championship October 20-21 in Las Vegas.

Dunnam was in the Bay Area recently, meeting with potential organizational partners and scouting out the local golf courses.

ForeUS says it was formed to promote acceptance and increase the influence of lesbian golfers. Its primary outreach is to lesbian golfers but all women are welcome.

Dunnam said, "The goal of foreUS is simple: to provide a unique experience for the lesbian golfer by providing them a competitive and safe environment in which to play golf.''

Which is a lot more than the LPGA has ever said about lesbian golfers and the association's abundance of lesbian fans.

"I seriously doubt they know foreUS exists yet," Dunnam said. "We're not here to be 'in-your-face' confrontational with the LPGA. But when you go to a women's golf event, it is just like a women's basketball game. I just want us to be valued."

The tour is operating on a meager $10,000 budget this year – "It's absolutely bare bones," Dunnam said. "We're all footing expenses ourselves." – and is concentrating on establishing word-of-mouth awareness and creating its own cultural values.

"You have to be very diligent with internal issues," Dunnam said, "and you have to have zero tolerance for [homophobic] comments."

When I started writing about sports a couple of decades ago, the major issue for women in golf (beyond club membership) was the allocation of tee times. The prime times were invariably reserved for businessmen who did much of their wheeling and dealing on the back nine. As women fought for equal pay in the workplace, recreational women golfers fought for equal access to the greens.

A major financial boon for women professional golfers came in 1972 when entertainer Dinah Shore funded the Dinah Shore Invitational in Palm Springs. Over the next decade it evolved into probably the biggest annual lesbian sports weekend in the world. The parties drew major media attention, including a spread in Sports Illustrated that may have cost the event a $1 million sponsorship deal from golf manufacturer Titleist in 1997.

Thus the financial fears and skittish lack of engagement the LPGA has exhibited when it comes to recognizing the reality of its constituents.

"Eventually we want to have booths at LPGA events," Dunnam said. "But that takes money. We're not there yet.

"We want eventually to make sure they value the community."

In the meantime, foreUS will focus on trying to partner with other events and organizations and find out what its constituents really want out of golf events. Organizers hope to create communal blogs and discussion boards to create buzz. They are hoping the inaugural events in 2007 will help determine what direction to take the tour.

"The first events will create membership," Dunnam said. "This is a word-of-mouth phenomenon."

Information regarding tour events and membership is available at http://www.foreus.com.

Golden Gayt Golf season begins

The Golden Gayt Golf 2007 season opens this weekend with Saturday events at Blue Rock Springs in Vallejo and Franklin Canyon Golf Course in Hercules. Nine events are scheduled for the season, culminating with the season-ending finale November 3 at Windsor Golf Club in Windsor.

Most events require reservations two weeks in advance. For the complete schedule in PDF format, go to: http://www.ebar.com/docs/goldengaytgolf2007.pdf.

To make reservations, e-mail [email protected]. If you do not have e-mail, you may call Danny Beaver at (707) 206-5789.

Sports in brief

Ski poles and ski polls: Feelings on the slippery slopes

It is such a non-issue in the Bay Area and the nearby slopes of Tahoe, but in Aspen, Colorado, the concept of a gay ski week is still enough to stir debate.

With the ESPN-televised X Games in town, the Aspen Daily News ran an online reader poll last week, asking the ever-so Dr. Phil question of "How do you feel about Gay Ski Week?" Early results showed an even division among the possible responses of "It's a fun, exciting week that brings business to Aspen" (34.59 percent); "It's too risqu� and morally harmful to the valley's youth" (33.12 percent); and "Giving the gay community one week a year isn't a big deal" (32.29 percent).

Interesting that none of the allowable responses addressed the social and psychological benefits of allowing people to enjoy being themselves for one week.

Boys with Balls goes big time in Daly City

Boys with Balls, a bi-monthly bowling night at Serra Bowl in Daly City, will take over all 44 lanes in the bowling alley February 11 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. for a private party of men, beer, music, and special lighting.

The event will cost $40 per person, which includes 2 1/2 hours of bowling, shoes, dinner, and a drink ticket. The event will also include a silent auction to benefit the AIDS Emergency Fund. Afterwards, attendees have been invited to the Lone Star, where their first drink will be $1 off. Sponsors include Goat Hill Pizza, Capital Graphics, PO Plus, Falcon Studios, and Integrated Back Office.

"We have sold out at 60 people each time we have gone," organizer Mario Hubert said. "This time we were able to convince Serra Bowl that we can fill the alley with 210 participants."

Participants need not be good bowlers, but they must show up half an hour before the event. They cannot request specific bowling partners; instead, they will be randomly placed with other participants.

Tickets are on sale now. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit Boys with Balls at www.boyswithballs.com or e-mail [email protected].