Getting To Know Barbara
The USGA's new leader of the Women's Committee
talks about her passion for the game, her plans to
increase opportunities for women in golf and why it's
better to be called "BAD" than
February 11, 2009
Interview by Rhonda Glenn
At the United States Golf Association's Annual
Meeting, which took place Feb. 3-7 in Newport Beach,
Calif., Barbara Douglas of Scottsdale, Ariz., was
confirmed as chairman of the USGA Women's Committee.
Douglas grew up in Chicago, a self-acclaimed tomboy
who enjoyed all sports. A business major at Southern
Illinois University, Douglas's career track included many
years as an executive with IBM, then a stint at the
National Minority Golf Foundation, where she served as
president for five years.
Douglas, whose current USGA Handicap Index is 10.0,
began playing golf as an adult and qualified for the U.S.
Women's Amateur Public Links Championship four times in
the 1980s. She was named to that championship's committee
in 1992. In 1993, she was named to the Women's
"Barbara brings a wealth of experience to the
committee, said Roberta Bolduc, Douglas's predecessor as
Women's Committee chair. "She has worked in both the
private and non-profit sectors, and she has wonderful
organizational skills. She is a forward thinker who is
committed to golf and the USGA."
USGA President Jim Vernon is equally confident of
Douglas's ability to shoulder her new role. "I have
had the honor of working with Barbara in a variety of
capacities and have grown to admire her passion for and
knowledge of the game," Vernon said. "Barbara's
rich experience both as a volunteer in golf
administration and in her business career will enable her
to push the Women's Committee to new levels of
achievement in her new role as chairman. I look forward
to working closely with her to confront the challenges
facing the USGA and the game of golf."
Douglas spoke with us about her life and the
How did you grow up, and what did you like to do when
you were a child?
I grew up in Chicago as an only child. My mother, Marva
Harper, was a high school teacher and counselor, and my
father, Sonny Harper, was an electrician. Golf was not a
part of our community or circle of friends, so I didn't get
involved at an early age. I tried my hand at tennis, but I
was never very good at that. In high school gym classes, we
played a little bit of everything, so I was just sort of an
all-around tomboy who climbed trees.
Did you face racial discrimination as a youngster?
|Barbara Douglas will become the
first minority to chair the USGA Women's Committee.
The first thing that I recall facing was when my family
bought a house in a primarily white neighborhood that was
turning over and becoming integrated. I remember going to
school and someone had written on the pavement at one of
the entrances to the school campuses, that favorite phrase,
"Go home, n-----." I just sort of passed it off
because I'd been sheltered from that kind of thing. I knew
it existed, but my parents really sheltered me.
How did you become involved in golf?
I was working for IBM in Toledo. I met a man who was a
golfer and he suggested that I take up the game. To that
end, he saw an ad for golf clubs on his office bulletin
board, so he bought them and gave them to me. One good
thing was that my friend never tried to teach me, but
suggested that I see a professional. I took lessons and
then started playing with friends. I fell in love with the
game because of the outdoors, the physical aspect of it,
the challenge of it and because you're dependant just upon
yourself. I remember the first time I went out on the
course, going to the first tee and seeing all those people.
That was at a time when many people thought women shouldn't
be allowed on the golf course. But my thought as a beginner
was always, "Please, please, hit the ball!"
We know through research surveys that many women are
so intimidated that they don't stick with golf. Are
conditions better today?
I think there are a lot more opportunities for women to get
into the game. But women are not as willing to go out on
their own to play. When I left Toledo and moved to New
York, I really didn't know any people there. On Saturdays
and Sundays I would go out to golf courses as a walk-on and
ask to be paired with someone.
That's quite brave.
You're right, because that's something that 99 percent of
women wouldn't do. I play very sporadically now, with my
USGA commitments the last two years. I now sell real
estate, so I don't play on weekends but try to play at
least twice a week. In the summer when there's more
daylight, I can play golf and then do an open house or meet
with a client. I love to play. After the Christmas holidays
we played five days in a row. I love to walk, so we walked
and it was fun. I play as often as I possibly can.
Your nickname is BAD?
It started back in my IBM days because my initials are
B.A.D., Barbara Angela Douglas. They just started calling
me "Bad" and it sort of stuck. I don't mind
because it's a term of endearment -- and I much prefer that
How did you become involved with the USGA, beginning
with when you became a member of the Women's Amateur
Public Links Committee in 1992?
I was taking lessons from the professional at Blue Hills
Golf Course in Orangetown, N.Y. One day the pro handed me
the application to play in the WAPL. I sort of laughed, but
the qualifying site was in New Jersey, and I thought,
"Why not? I love to play." I thought I would play
a practice round, play the qualifying round and go on my
merry way. So, I played and qualified for the last spot. I
was absolutely thrilled. I went to the championship and I
was awful, but I tried qualifying several times and did get
to a number of championships. I was working for IBM at the
time, the typical 70-80 hour work week, and trying to
practice at night at a lighted driving range. One day I
asked Carol Crosby, the local WAPL Committee member, what
she did and how she got into committee work. I thought it
was something I might be interested in doing. Lo and
behold, a few years after that, Carol moved out of the
state and recommended me for the committee. I was thrilled.
I thought it made sense rather than trying to compete
against college kids who played every day. I didn't have
the time to devote to that and I wasn't that good. The WAPL
Committee was a great committee, and we had a lot of fun.
My thrill was in going back to chair that committee after I
became a member of the USGA Women's Committee.
Were you surprised to be selected for the Women's
Committee in 1993?
I was absolutely flabbergasted. Marty Leonard, a former
chairman of the Women's Committee, called me. It was a
Saturday afternoon, and I had come home from playing golf.
Marty asked if I would be interested in doing this. After
she went through the normal spiel, she said, "Would
you like to think about it?" I said, "I don't
need to think about it."
Was some of your surprise because you are a
|Barbara Douglas, right, has served
on the Women's Committee since 1993. (USGA
No. I've endured a lot of discrimination, both from being a
female and a minority. But it's never the first thing
that comes to my mind.
I don't automatically think that I was not selected
because I'm a minority or a woman. I almost always
conclude that the other person got it because he or she was
better qualified. At the same time, I don't think that
I was selected, nominated or appointed to a position
because I'm a woman or a minority. Instead, I
automatically recall my parents' constant refrain:
believe in yourself and strive for excellence. I believe
that the good things that have come my way are the direct
result of my hard work and dedication and people's
faith in me.
So ... I guess that goes back to my parents, drilling
that thing about independence into my head. I was raised to
be very independent. I remember at a very early age having
an allowance and having to live all week on that allowance.
If I spent it I didn't get any more money. I also had
to learn to cook from scratch, no pancake mix or cake mix.
I had to learn all these things. I was just raised as a
very independent, self-sufficient person, which has served
me very well.
How is the USGA different from your original
Prior to the time I got on the WAPL Committee and the
Women's Committee I didn't know anything about the USGA,
even when I competed in the U.S. Women's Amateur Public
Links. I think, in some ways, that is our downfall. Part of
the problem is that a lot of the people on committees have
grown up in the USGA and in families involved in golf. I
didn't grow up in golf, so I didn't know anything about the
USGA. A lot of the golfers coming into the game didn't grow
up in golf and they know nothing about the USGA. The LPGA,
the USGA, they didn't know the difference. That's still a
You're known as a real stand-up rules official. What's
your philosophy on the role of the rules official?
Clearly, the rules official is there to help the players
and not there to call penalties on people. The official is
there to help and to try and ensure that players don't
accidentally, through ignorance, violate the Rules of Golf.
If there's a situation, I'm going to address it, but by the
same token I'm not going to stand there and watch somebody
make a mistake.
What is your concept of the Women's Committee
First and foremost, we oversee the national women's
championships, including the U.S. Women's Open. I don't
think people realize that it's our number-one
responsibility. That's a huge responsibility. Relative to
the women's championships, we oversee all of the qualifiers
conducted around the country. And while we have the
championship committees, it's still our responsibility to
ensure that those championships are carried out in a superb
manner and that they are the best that they can possibly
One of the things I want to focus on is women's golf in
general. I think our main focus has to be through the
women's golf associations around the country. The Women's
Committee can't be a hands-on committee in that regard; we
just don't have the ability to do that, but we can be
involved through our Regional Affairs Department with
women's golf associations around the country. How do we
help them continue to grow and develop? Our focus on girls'
golf with the
is another area where we can be effective by helping to
grow the game and ensure that the game continues and is
available to young girls who are starting in the game.
So, you are a strong advocate of the USGA's role with
regional and state associations?
Absolutely, that's the grass roots. That's where it all
happens. It's not going to happen in Far Hills [USGA
headquarters in New Jersey], and it's not going to happen
through members of the Women's Committee, except through
our focus on those organizations and how we can help them
grow and develop. We need to bring people into the game and
ensure that they have the opportunity to play and the
opportunity to compete. There are a lot of women who want
to compete, and there are different levels of competition.
There are women out there who are never going to play in a
USGA national championship, but they enjoy competing.
That's where the state associations come into play.
In that regard, I just came off the board of the
Executive Women's Golf Association (EWGA). They really do
great work by offering the opportunity to women to get into
the game in a non-threatening environment. The EWGA has
more than 20,000 members, and its national championship
attracts about 2,500 women at different qualifying levels.
It offers the opportunity to the high-handicapper as well
as the single-digit handicapper to compete, so it offers
something to women across the board. State associations
offer the opportunity for women at all levels to compete as
well, and to grow in the game. Many of them offer
development programs introducing the game to women who want
to learn and start to play the game. I think that we
definitely have a responsibility to support them in every
way we can. That's one of the things I want to look at. How
do we better support associations? It's not all financial.
There are other ways.
Why do you choose to do this sort of work?
I have a friend who always introduces me by saying,
"She's guilty of golf." And that's true. I love
the game and think it's a great game. I'd like to see more
people have the opportunity to play the game, especially
women. As I always say to Marty Leonard, "Look what
you got me into!"
Rhonda Glenn is Manager, Communications. The runner-up
in the 1965 NCAA Championship, Glenn has played in 13USGA
championships. She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org
For more on the subject of minorities in golf and the
USGA's long history of welcoming minorities in its