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East County Wednesday, Apr. 6, 2022 4 months ago

Prose and Kohn: Lakewood Ranch Country Club's WGA has fun on the course

The association is centered around competition, but is mostly about camaraderie.
by: Ryan Kohn Sports Editor

On the No. 5 hole at Cypress Links, Barb Shaw was waving her club as if it had some magical power to make the shot she had just struck veer onto the fairway.

"C'mon, c'mon" she repeated to herself. 

It didn't work. The shot did not veer enough. 

"Oh dear," Shaw said. "Actually, more like oh (expletive)…"

She uttered a word I can't include in this story, but it caused her partner for the day, Kathy Weisblat, to laugh. 

"Sorry, I have a potty mouth when I play," Shaw said. 

Barb Shaw tried to force her tee shot on the No. 5 hole to veer right, but to no avail.

No apology was needed. It was one of many chuckle-worthy moments from my March 29 morning spent with the Lakewood Ranch Country Club's Women's Golf Association, which was holding the first day of its two-day Spring Member-Member event.

The association, which has over 300 members, had 171 players participate in the event. On the first day, players either played the Cypress Links course, playing a best ball shamble on the front nine and normal best ball rules on the back nine, or they played the King's Dunes course, playing best ball on the front nine and a scramble on the back nine. On the second day, the players flipped courses. 

The member-member event was Kentucky Derby themed. Each flight was named after a famous racehorse — Seattle Slew, Secretariat and War Admiral, to name a few — and fun facts about the race were scattered on signs across the two courses. Did you know, for instance, that the founder of the Kentucky Derby was Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., the grandson of William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame)? I didn't before, but I do now. In addition to these fun facts, all the golfers dressed the part. That is to say, they all looked like the members of elite society that line the Derby's stands — as much as people can look elite while in golf-appropriate clothes. 

"Just make us look skinny," Brenda Deona said after I snapped photos of her group.

Everyone else laughed and agreed. I didn't have to do anything to make the pictures nice. Everyone looked ready to party. 

Events like these are a common occurrence with the WGA. Marcie Caplan, the current WGA president, said the association has a chairwoman and co-chairwoman for each event who handle the planning alongside various team members. Each event also has a dedicated book which acts as a summary of events and is passed on to the following year's chair to make sure the new chair has an idea of how to plan the event.

It also helps prevent repeat ideas. Caplan said making sure each event remains fresh requires talking to other clubs to see what they do as well as conducting online research and keeping up with present-day news. For instance, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the club held a "Mask-erade" event that allowed people to play and have fun while staying safe. 

Caplan said she started golfing almost 40 years ago, but her obsession with the sport increased when she moved to Lakewood Ranch eight years ago. She immediately got involved with the WGA, which is celebrating its 20-year anniversary this year, as a way to meet new people. Not only did Caplan accomplish that goal, but now, she considers her WGA friends as people she will cherish for the rest of her life. 

"The people in it are quite different," Caplan said. "There are people in their 40s who are not yet retired and there are people still playing in their 80s. That is what I find so amazing about golf. All of those people find connection through it. It's about camaraderie as much as it is competition."

The competition side did manage to shine through during the Spring Member-Member event — but even that was served with a side of sweetness. After Tracey-Lee Wingrove hit her tee shot on an early hole in the middle of the fairway, the opponents in her group, Donna Wrobel and Regina Beatty, issued the traditional compliments.

"You can't hit it any better than that!" Beatty said. 

Lisa Stilwell reacts to her tee shot on the No. 5 hole on the Cypress Links course.

Of course, the women of the WGA all want to win, but they won't sacrifice politeness in that endeavor. At this particular event, Valerie Duva and Bonnie Staley (140) were named the overall champions and earned $140 each. Caplan and her partner, Mona Neal, finished second in the Seattle Slew flight and received $80 each. The cash is nice, Caplan said, but the real reward is getting to hear their names called at the dinner that followed the conclusion of the event. 

It was also at the dinner that the women let loose on the dance floor. Even more than playing golf, Caplan said, the get-togethers are where she has the most fun. As the competition part of the day is over, the dinner and dancing are an opportunity to experience pure joy. And unlike during a round, where you only interact with the people in your group, the get-togethers allow everyone to mingle together. The mix of things the WGA provides is why it continues to go strong after so many years, Caplan said. 

"It's been 20 years of women dedicating their time, meeting people, and having fun," Caplan said. "We're fortunate to be supported by the club. We have a great time."

Of that, there is no doubt. 

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I’m the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. I was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. My biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. My strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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