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Drummond Golf oct 2020
Open Mic Time with Hally Leadbetter

Hally Leadbetter has a message for every woman who plays golf.

“’Welcome, I’m so glad you’re here. We are a work in progress and while a lot of awesome changes have been made, we have a long way to go and you can be a part of it, whether that’s changing policies at your club or speaking out when you see something that might be slightly problematic. Golf is a game for everyone. We want you here and if anybody is telling you otherwise, them they don’t speak for the majority of people who play golf.”

Leadbetter shares her message and her passion for golf on an assortment of online channels, notably Golf Digest, Golf Pass and YouTube where her insights and gift of humor have earned her a substantial following.

The daughter of celebrated teaching professional David Leadbetter, Hally came to golf later than some and she was approaching her teen years before she began playing the game seriously. Prior to that, she competed in horseback riding as a show jumper and enrolled in acting and dance classes.

Hally credits her father and her mother Kelly, a former LPGA Tour player, for not pushing her into the sport. “My parents never forced me. They were just like, do what makes you happy and I feel very fortunate they took that stance because I think if they had tried to push me, I would have said, ‘No way.’

“They were great golf parents. They knew the ins and outs of the game, the triumphs and the heartbreaks and they were nothing but supportive when I was doing things other than golf and equally supportive when I was on the course.”

Leadbetter eventually earned a scholarship to the University of Arkansas, but after spending two years at the NCAA Division I level, she transferred to Rollins College, and helped the Tars win the Division II national championship in 2016. It was at Rollins that she confirmed she had a talent for entertaining when she hosted an early-morning show on the school’s radio station.

After graduating from Rollins, Leadbetter tried the LPGA Tour for a few months but soon realised the lifestyle of a tour player wasn’t a good fit.

“I had the physical makeup to be successful as a professional golfer, but I don’t think my mind was built for it.”

In 2017, Leadbetter went to work for Golf Digest as a social-media specialist before migrating to the PGA Tour where she served as a producer and host. In 2019, Leadbetter returned to Golf Digest. Today, she is a senior producer of digital content for Golf Digest and Golf TV and their lead on-air host. Note: those who don’t have access to said outlets can also find her content on YouTube and Instagram.

Leadbetter’s social media activity might include a three-hole golf match against a celebrity opponent, pointing out the advantages of a hybrid over a middle iron, or offering suggestions on how to find a good instructor. And all of her knowledge is delivered with a healthy dose of humor.

Leadbetter embraces the creative process working alongside like-minded individuals.

“I think that’s been the most fun part of this process, being around other creative people and really brilliant people who have or haven’t been in the golf industry. We basically put all our heads together and come up really funny stuff. I’ve always been a creative person, but I’ve made it a point to try to flex that muscle by putting the time in and surrounding myself with other creatives.”

Leadbetter often uses humour to drive a point home. One example is the All Female Country Club which details the experiences of a male golfer who visits a club where the entire membership is female. The video, which runs just under four minutes, illustrates what doubtless many woman golfers have experienced at male-dominated clubs. It contains elements of humor but is most of all, thought provoking.

“I think when you’re trying to change people’s behaviour, sometimes, pointing a finger at them, and saying, ‘What you just did there was wrong or bad, or was problematic,’ is not the most effective way to make change. When you take that approach, most of the time people immediately shut down because they think that you are calling them a bad person or insinuating that that they would somehow offend you or someone else on purpose when it’s not the case at all. I think this video is a really effective tool because it puts people in a situation where they can examine their own behaviour,” Ledbetter said, “and say ‘Oh that is kind of messed up.’

“Humour lightens the mood; it’s a comedic tone, but, simultaneously, it gets people thinking ‘Have you ever said this? Have you ever done this?’ and they can have that conversation internally with themselves without being made to feel like they’re being put on display for being a bad person. I think it’s a more effective way to bring about change and to have conversation.”

Leadbetter offers her vision of the golf industry going forward.

“On the professional level, I’d love to see more mixed-gender golf tournaments. I think the Grant Thornton Invitational was a raging success. Honestly, it’s great for the LPGA and I would say great for the PGA Tour as well. Let’s see more of that.

In terms of the female recreational golfer, the country club golfer, etc. I’d love to see more golf clubs invest in their women’s locker rooms and make sure that the females have just as much of a space as the men do, an ‘If you build it, they will come’ situation.”

In terms of junior golf, Leadbetter stated she would like to see golf courses take part in a program where kids can go out and practice for free.

“I played a lot of junior golf in England and the junior golf setup there is a lot different. For example, the British offer junior golf memberships and the parents don’t have to be members of private clubs in order for their kids to be members too. Plus, they have a lot of junior golf tournaments, junior team events.”

“I want more country clubs to open their doors to juniors and if their parents can’t necessarily afford to be members, at least their kids can get a junior membership.

Improving access to golf facilities for juniors and for women is still a huge deal.”

Words by Rick Woelfel