Gather around the tee box. Quiet for the shot. Wait for it. Wait for it longer…even longer. Wait for it for 187 years. That’s how long it took for Wesleyan to create a varsity women’s golf team. In mid-October, the University announced that women’s golf will become the 30th varsity sport (15th for women) at the beginning of the fall semester in 2019.
This is a huge announcement, not just for the University but for the athletes.
“This is a pretty momentous occasion for me as a female golfer as well as a Wesleyan student,” captain Saadia Naeem ’20 said.
The magnitude of the creation of a women’s golf team cannot be emphasized enough. So often women’s golf does not receive the respect it deserves from schools, the public, and even press publications.
“[This is important] considering how much time and pressure it took before the athletic department actually decided to give women’s golf the due diligence it deserved,” Naeem said.
The formation of this team was a collective effort that, according to Athletic Director Mike Whalen, took years to plan and execute. It’s difficult to imagine the effort required to build a varsity sport at an NCAA institution, especially from a student perspective.
For those not familiar, golf at Wesleyan is a co-ed varsity sport but has historically been male-dominated. The women’s team formation alters that, so now women have their own recruiting system, team budget, and coach. Their coach of choice is Jon Wilson, a PGA professional at Lyman Orchards Golf Club in Middlefield, Conn. Wilson has notable experience in collegiate golf. He was an assistant coach on the Yale women’s golf team for four years, as well as serving as a golf pro at multiple northeast golf clubs.
“[I was] asked to be the head coach of the varsity women’s golf team at Wesleyan, [and] I am truly honored,” Wilson said. “The program will revolve around a culture of commitment, sportsmanship, integrity, and competitive attitude.”
Wilson loves the idea of women’s golf coming to the University, believing there are lots of opportunities for success in Middletown.
“I am confident that the student-athlete talent pool is vast and will allow us to recognize future golfers for our program,” Wilson said.
The women’s team also participated in the NESCAC Women’s Golf Championships this fall which is a huge bonus for exposure and preparation headed into that same competition next year.
In a more significant vein, the announcement of the women’s team is important in understanding sports in society. Women’s golf (and basically all other non-male sports) is simply not shown equal respect in sports culture. The athletes and their abilities are traditionally under-appreciated and under-covered by press outlets. The formation of a women’s team at Wes, hopefully, brings attention to the importance of women’s sports at more levels than just collegiate. Naeem and her team earned this creation through hard work and planning, a testament to their dedication to golf. Athletes care about their respective sports, and we must think of an image of passionate athletes as people of all genders and abilities, not just male superstars: sport is much more than that. It’s imperative to try to understand the struggles that non-male athletes go through compared to the experience of male athletes. This goes for all levels, elementary school all the way up to professional. So, through this, we can understand and feel ecstatic about the announcement that Wesleyan will be adding women’s golf in Fall 2019.
Ben Owen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.