Atlanta PGA pro wants more women to play golf

Jackie Cannizzo, PGA pro golfer and founder of Dare to Golf. PHOTO/JESSICA MCGOWAN

When Jackie Cannizzo decided to move to the Atlanta area in the mid-1990’s, the PGA professional golfer called the Georgia PGA of America to inquire about the golf scene. The woman who answered the phone told Cannizzo she may be better off in a different city. “This is a good old boys network,” the lady said. “That’s exactly where I want to come to,” Cannizzo replied.

Two years ago, Cannizzo launched Dare to Golf, an organization designed to help women change their careers and gain confidence through the game of golf. Through instruction, support and mock competitions, the program prepares women to find their comfort zone in what is still a male dominated sport.

Related: Society in a tizzy over course behavior

Topgolf recently featured Cannizzo in its “In Focus” series:

Cannizzo, a native of East Syracuse, New York who lives in Duluth, took up the game as a young girl when she played with her parents. She has since played all over the world and became the first PGA professional to play in the women’s U.S. Open.

Of 28 million golfers in the world, fewer than 5 million of them are women. Cannizzo said it is harder for women to enter the sport.

The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) was founded by in 1950 and would later create a teaching division in 1959. Almost two decades later in 1978, Nancy Lopez helped re-energize women’s golf when she won five consecutive tournaments.

Using the principles from a book called “Dare,” by Becky Blalock, Cannizzo invites women in the Dare to Golf program to challenge themselves to do meet a golf goal. When the program ends, they are expected to complete their dare.

In three phases of the program, women cover the basics, get out on the course, and finally, apply golf to their careers. Lessons are taught Saturday mornings and Wednesday evenings at the Country Club of Roswell where Cannizzo also serves as Director of Golf Instruction. In addition to getting on the golf course, women in the program have the opportunity to participate in mock tournaments and attend networking events.

Many of the women who participate in Dare to Golf are corporate executives, but others are retired and want to play recreationally. Some were looking for ways to meet up with more women on the golf course in a supportive environment.

“One of the things we recognize is that a lot of women were being left behind as far as being left out of the conversations because a lot of times the guys were taking off playing golf with their clients or other peers,” Cannizzo said. “So that was really part of the goal of Dare to Golf was to get more women to recognize if you are being left out of those conversations, what other conversations are you being left out of? “

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