Tee Time for Staffers

Players of All Skill Levels Welcome In Congressional Golfers Association

Posted September 30, 2003 at 3:17pm

Arnold Palmer wannabes and Tiger Woods worshippers can take a swing at competitive golf by joining the Congressional Golfers Association.

Brian Walsh, a five-year veteran of Capitol Hill who now works as chief of staff for Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.), has played weekend rounds of golf with three other Hill staffers for the past four seasons. After summers spent on the green and, during worse times, in the bunker, the group suspected there were other swingers on the Hill.

“There’s an alpine club and an equestrian club for Congressional staffers, but up until a few months ago, there was nothing for both men and women golfers,” Walsh said.

The Women’s Congressional Golfer’s Association, headed by Ruth Ravitz Smith, has been driving off the red tees for the past five years. The group of more than 100 members encourages all women, even first-timers, to join.

“We want to help women work on their game so they can enjoy golf and use it as a professional tool,” Smith said.

Despite the mutual enthusiasm for the game, Walsh and his gentlemen friends knew they weren’t about to be the newest members of the WCGA. They speculated other staffers on the Hill would be interested in a golf group open to both men and women in which they could exchange tips and clubs while networking on the green.

Walsh sent out e-mails and advertisements to find out if an interest did exist, and after a few weeks, he heard from many interested players.

“We were hoping to get 72 people to make 18 foursomes,” he said. “We quickly got over 200 members and are still growing.”

As the newest golf club on the Hill, the CGA spent its first months recruiting and encouraging membership. By mid-summer, men and woman, Democrats and Republicans, seasoned and novice golfers alike contacted Walsh ready to join the group.

In August, 100 of the Hill’s staffers hit the links for the CGA’s first tournament, held at Virginia Oaks Golf Club. The event raised $1,400 for The First Tee, a charity that brings golf to underprivileged children. The charity was also the beneficiary of Monday’s First Tee Congressional Golf Tournament, which pitted Republicans and Democrats against each other in a Ryder Cup-style tournament. Republicans won 11-9.

The WCGA also held functions this summer to raise money for The First Tee, and events between the women’s and co-ed leagues are being planned for the closing weeks of the season. Before the last round is played, the two groups hope to squeeze in a few more hours at the driving range and a final golf clinic. Walsh, who has been called one of the “more serious golfers in town,” said the CGA and WCGA will continue hosting social events during the off-season.

“Both groups definitely encourage not only golf but networking and socializing on the course,” Smith said. “We all tend to get a little too serious about our jobs and could use a break sometimes.”

To participate in Congressional Golfers Association activities, send an e-mail to Walsh at capitolhillgolf@mail.house.gov.