By Dorothy J. Gentry
Once upon a time, Gladys Lee had absolutely no interest in golf. “I was just like everybody else. I thought it was silly to chase a white ball, try to hit it, try to go find it, then put it in a hole,” she said. “People of prominence play golf; you’ve got your presidents, your pastors, all these types of people that play golf.
After talking with the wife of legendary entertainer, the late Dick Clark whom she worked with, she decided to try it. “She told me it was more than a game and I should get involved. After talking with her and I got that adrenalin when you hit that ball and you know that you can do it, I thought of it in a different aspect.
I thought there’s something to it, maybe it is more than just a game. So I started to take it up.” And she never looked back. Fast forward over three decades to today and “Coach Lee” as she is called, is an accomplished DFW Metroplex legendary golf pro (LPGA Class A1). She launched the Women in Golf Dallas chapter, known as the DFW Fairway Divas and has been a force for teaching golf in economically disadvantaged African American communities.
In the 1980s she founded the Roaring Lambing Golf Club for youth in Fort Worth and developed numerous African American golfers who went on to play on the college level. Next week she will make more history as she brings in close to 100 African American female golfers from around the Southwest for the annual tournament, the North/South Shootout, Thursday, September 26 through Saturday, September 28 at the Riverside Golf Course, 3000 Riverside Parkway, in Grand Prairie.
The four-day event will be capped by an awards banquet with the theme, “Putting on the Ritz,” at the Doubletree Arlington Hotel, 1507 N. Watson Road in Arlington, Texas. Tickets are still available. “We are bringing women from all over. This is history making. You look around and you don’t see any of us. Having the women golfers meet here in the Dallas area is very important to me. We don’t see enough African American women on the golf courses in the DFW area,” she said. “I am hoping that this regional gathering will encourage more women of color to come out and get in the game.
Golf is wonderful.” She has introduced “thousands” of African American children to golf by feeding them and loving them. “Kids don’t care how much you know, they care how much you care. When I fed them and loved them, it (golf) was something they started to do. When you show someone that you love them and really care about them, that breaks the barrier,” she said.
That’s how she started and she’s been doing it ever since, most times using her own money. “This is my passion. When you know that you know, that you know, what purpose you have in life, and then nothing can deter you from that,” she said. “And I’ve always known when I stepped out of corporate America, that this is what I was supposed to do. She continued, “I have used the concept of the fish and loaves. I didn’t know, but I keep on keeping on. And God keeps blessing me.”
Dr. Sheron Patterson, pastor of Hamilton Park UMC, is president of the DFW Fairway Divas and credits Coach Lee with helping her learn to love golf. “I’ve always wanted to play. I’m the pastor of a golfing church; we have a lot of golfers there and even an annual golfing tournament and I said wow, if all of them are doing it, I need to get in it,” she said. “I never had the time to play golf and I really wanted a good teacher who would just work with me alone.
So I went looking for a golf coach and met Coach Lee and we have been together ever since.” Coach Lee said she hopes women; African American women in particular, see the importance of golf and get involved. “They’ve got to focus on what it’s all about and what it can do for them and their children. There is the misnomer that golf is primarily for the rich and the elite, but it is not,” Coach Lee explained. “We can all get involved, if we dedicate and practice.” Bridging the gap is the main purpose of the tournament. “I want to bring us together.
You have your league over there, we have ours over here, and once a month we all get together. We have to come together to show we have strength and power.”
A woman in Golf is a section of the Western States Golf Association. It provides outreach activities to women and teens to stimulate their interest in learning and playing the game of golf, and to promote and increase the membership of the Western States Golf Association. There are 15 chapters scattered across California, Colorado, Arizona, and Texas.
For more information on the tournament or Women in Golf, please visit www. westernstatesgolf.com.