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Golf/U.S. Open

Clinic at Oakmont helps attract young women to golf

| Friday, June 10, 2016, 8:12 p.m.

Deloitte chief executive officer Cathy Engelbert was helping run a chipping station at the spectator square adjacent to Oakmont Country Club on Friday when she noticed a young girl sitting out of the exercise.

“The first time she hit a bad shot, she said, ‘Oh, I'm terrible,' ” Engelbert said.

Engelbert responded with some quick encouragement.

“I said, ‘You're not terrible. You've got confidence,' ” Engelbert said.

The girl's next three shots hit her target, an oversized, inflatable hippo.

Building confidence in young women for the purpose of developing future leaders is a key focus of Deloitte's community outreach, Engelbert said.

In partnership with the USGA, Deloitte held “Impact Day” on Friday at Oakmont — which will host the U.S. Open from Thursday through Sunday — engaging around 100 girls from the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program in a series of golf fundamentals stations.

The event was one of several annual outreach events held by the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program and one LPGA Foundation director Kiernan Schindler said demonstrates how far the program has come.

When Schindler started in her role a little more than five years ago, she said the program engaged about 5,000 girls in the United States. Since, the program has grown to facilitate active participation from more than 50,000 girls across 360 sites and is expected to grow to 60,000 by the end of the year.

In addition to more resources, Schindler said, the program has grown by making the sport more accessible to groups of young girls and giving them professional instruction once they begin playing.

“I was somebody who went in and survived amidst the 10 boys. I was the one girl. That's not happening all the time. A lot of those girls will try it and leave,” Schindler said. “What happened is girls started playing golf as an extra sport because they were finding these (LPGA-USGA) programs where they could engage with other girls.”

The program began in 1989 and recently has grown to a point where organizers have learned how to use platforms like the U.S. Open to introduce girls to golf without making that introduction too overwhelming.

“Golf is an intimidating game to enter. The opportunity to really welcome them and make sure that young girls feel welcome into the golf community is a high priority,” said Sarah Hirshland, USGA senior managing director of business affairs. “We're at that critical mass now where we understand how to create programs as an introduction that girls are receptive to, which is important.”

The result of events like Impact Day, Engelbert said, is a focus on teaching traits applicable not only to sports but also success later in life, such as in running a business.

“One is patience, one is perseverance and one is practice,” Engelbert said. “I think there are so many lessons to learn from golf.”

Andrew Erickson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at aerickson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @AErickson_Trib.

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