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Women of the World: Educating Students for Global Citizenship
--A Q&A with Latvia's Irina Liberman '06

In and Out of Africa

On a Global Mission:
Kavita Ramdas '85 Helps Girls and Women Build New Lives by Investing in Their Dreams

Strokes of Genius:
Top Women Golfers to Compete at Mount Holyoke

--Audry Longo '05 Tees Up


Mount Holyoke College News and Events College Street Journal Vista


Top Women Golfers to Compete
at Mount Holyoke

  In the 1930s, MHC was the only college in New England that had golf in its curriculum.
When Laurie Priest, Mount Holyoke's director of athletics, announced to the College community that the United States Golf Association wanted to hold the 2004 U.S. Women's Open at Mount Holyoke's golf course, The Orchards, people were stunned and delighted. The Open is the world's most prestigious women's championship, drawing players such as Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb and prime-time television coverage across the globe. How could The Orchards attract such a huge sports event? Simple: It's one of the best golf courses in the country.

In 1922, Holyoke industrialist Joseph A. Skinner, who served as president of the Mount Holyoke College Board of Trustees from 1912 to 1931, decided that his daughter Elisabeth, an avid and talented golfer, should have her own course. Wanting the very best, Skinner called upon Donald J. Ross, the Frank Lloyd Wright of early twentieth-century golf course architects. He provided Ross with a rolling 200-acre site across the road from his summer estate, on the north side of the Mount Holyoke campus. The course became known as The Orchards, for the rows of apple trees Skinner planted there in the early years.

Joseph A. Skinner.  

The golf course, which was sold to the College in 1941 for $25,000, was a worthy addition to Mount Holyoke's ambitious physical education program instituted by Mary Lyon, who founded the College in 1837. At a time when women were discouraged from physical activity, Lyon believed that intellectual and physical education were of equal importance. Although the College's athletic activities have changed since Lyon's day, they are still going strong. In September 2000, Sports Illustrated for Women rated Mount Holyoke the number one women's college for women athletes.

Over the years, many MHC golfers have advanced to the Division III Women's National Championships, including team captain Audry Longo '05 (see sidebar), who came to Mount Holyoke in large part to participate in the golf program. "It's a privilege to play here," she said. She is looking forward to the 2004 U.S. Women's Open. "Everyone on the team is so proud to be able to show off their facility to the world."

Big changes came to The Orchards in 1999 when Mount Holyoke entered into a 25-year lease of the property with Arnold Palmer Golf Management. The arrangement has been a tremendous boon for the course and the College. Palmer has invested $1.5 million in improvements, including $800,000 to restore the course to Ross's original design. In 2000, the organization donated $500,000 to establish an endowment fund in support of the College's golf program, named in honor of Winifred W. Palmer, late wife of Arnold. "The Palmer people are very supportive of the College, very professional in their attitude towards the team," Priest said.

It was Priest who first drew the USGA's attention to The Orchards. Three years ago, Joan McAnaney Fay '73 came to play in the College's Friends of Athletics golf tournament. She mentioned to Priest that her husband, David Fay, executive director of the USGA, had always loved The Orchards. Ten days later, Priest received a telephone call from David Fay, who told her the USGA was interested in holding a championship there. Priest at first was silent with disbelief. "Yes, Laurie," he repeated, "the U.S. Women's Open."

The Orchards has hosted several significant tournaments, including the 1987 USGA Girls' Junior Championship, the 1993 National Golf Coaches Association Division II and III National Championship, and the 2002 NCAA Division III Women's National Championship. Capturing the U.S. Women's Open marks it as a truly great course.

The U.S. Women's Open is a big event for western Massachusetts, which has never before hosted a major golf championship. The event, which will be held June 28-July 4, is expected to draw more than 100,000 spectators to South Hadley. It will require 2,300 volunteers and have more than 15 hours of live television coverage on ESPN and NBC.

Priest sums up her pride and satisfaction in having 156 of the world's best women golfers compete at Mount Holyoke: "How many courses were designed for a young female player? And at a time when women had no exposure to golf and restricted time to play? This is a prestigious women's college and we're hosting the most prestigious golf event for women. It's a perfect story." Joseph A. Skinner would certainly agree.

Audry Longo '05 Tees Up

For MHC's golf captain, it was the course
--not just the courses--that drew her


For Audry Longo '05, who has been playing golf since she was a young girl, the decision to come to Mount Holyoke was--in golf parlance--a gimme. "I came to see the campus, and I fell in love with the school," Longo said. "And then the golf course was right there. I mean, how perfect is that? The course was the icing on the cake."

As captain of the College's golf team for the past two years, Longo loves having a home course as challenging as The Orchards. "It really helps to be able to practice on a course this hard," Longo said. "It's one of the hardest courses the team plays." The course's proximity to the College is another big plus. "I feel so privileged to have it right here," Longo said. "Other teams have to drive 20 minutes or more to get to their practice course, but I can go out in the middle of the day and putt for an hour if I want to."

Longo, a history major and economics minor, plans a concentration in American history. She appreciates being a Division III athlete: "We are truly student- athletes; we make academics and sports mesh." She also enjoys the familiarity of a small liberal arts college. "I love being able to walk down the hall and have three or four professors recognize me and know my name--that's something I truly cherish here."

Having the 2004 U.S. Women's Open at The Orchards this summer is a dream come true for Longo. "To know that the best women golfers in the world will be playing our team's home course is amazing," Longo said. Not only will she attend this prestigious event, she will be finishing a yearlong internship with the USGA, working on the championship's organization and publicity. Whether on the course or off, Longo said, "golf will definitely be part of my professional future."

Longo first swung a golf club with her two older brothers in her backyard in Middletown, Connecticut. Her father, also a golfer, soon recognized her passion and skill and arranged for her to have professional instruction. Longo recalls being the lone female at junior golf clinics, having only male teachers, and playing single rounds through men's foursomes at the Tournament Players Club at River Highlands, which hosts the Greater Hartford Open. Not until she played on the golf team at Mercy High School in Middletown, which she led to second place in the state championships her senior year, did she finally get to play with other girls. Although playing in an all-male environment did not dampen her ardor for the sport, she is pleased that women are more visible on the golf scene these days. "It's definitely made me more respectable on the golf course. I'm no longer just 'that girl who plays golf,'" she said, adding that she won the women's championship at River Highlands last summer.

Longo's earliest heroes were Freddie Couples and Tiger Woods, and she has enjoyed adding women to her list of personal idols. Annika Sorenstam has been a strong role model. "She has worked out to a new level, building her body with weight training," Longo said. "She inspired me to work out, and I have tried to make the team's workout program more serious." She also admires Suzy Whaley, a professional from Connecticut who qualified to play at the Greater Hartford Open last summer. "Women golfers can do anything," Longo said. "We're here to stay, and we're only going to get better."


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