News & Politics

The AT&T National Has Something for Everyone, Including Life Lessons for Women (Photos)

The annual golf tournament launched with an executive women’s day.

Congressional Country Club, with the tenth hole in the foreground, is all buffed up and ready for this week’s AT&T National golf tournament, sponsored by the Tiger Woods Foundation. The prize money is $6.5 million. Photograph by Carol Ross Joynt.

The AT&T National is the biggest golf tournament to come to Washington this year.
It is sponsored by the Tiger Woods Foundation, and even though the foundation’s eponymous
superstar won’t be playing, due to a strained elbow, the contest is still a draw.
The Pro-Am tees off Wednesday morning, with Woods expected to attend, and tournament
rounds begin Thursday. Woods may also attend for the presentation of the trophy on

Should you go? If you are a golf fan, of course. Even
if you are not, it’s an interesting
outing. Tickets are available in a range of price levels,
and there’s ample parking, albeit in satellite lots with
shuttle bus service. The
tournament will be broadcast live on CBS, but the location,
Congressional Country
Club in Potomac, Maryland, is lush, sweeping, elegant, and
shady. The shady part matters
because the forecast is for the oppressive steam
heat—temperatures around 90, with
comparable humidity—that is a Washington summer staple. Last
year the tournament had
roughly the same heat, but also the deadly derecho storm that
caused deaths and injuries
in the metro area, massive power outages, and damage to the
Congressional trees and
greens. The clean-up of 50 uprooted trees necessitated an
unheard-of Saturday day
of play with no spectators or volunteers allowed on the course.

Regardless of the weather, it’s a rare opportunity to see a field of interesting players,
including some of the world’s best, here at home. This year’s approximately 150 competitors
on the leaderboard
include three top-20 players:
Adam Scott, who won the Masters,
Brandt Snedeker, and
Jason Day. Also in the field are
Rickie Fowler,
Hunter Mahan,
Jim Furyk,
Vijay Singh,
Nick Watney,
Davis Love III,
Bo Van Pelt, and
K.J. Choi, as well as some promising newer faces. It’s been a disappointment that Woods can’t
play and that US Open winner
Justin Rose dropped out at the last minute, but for golf enthusiasts that’s not reason enough
to stay home.

The AT&T National has something for everyone—it’s family-friendly, emphasizes honoring
the military, and offers golf lessons, food, and golf-related shopping. This year
the tournament began with a focus on women—not a talk about golf necessarily, but
about life, careers, and success. It’s part of the PGA Tour’s new “women’s initiative,”
described as an effort to integrate women into a tournament for men. The day-long
program featured a buffet breakfast with a panel discussion, a behind-the-scenes tour
of the tournament setup, a seated luncheon with a motivational speech from a female
sports agent, and an afternoon “networking” session. More than 140 women attended,
and when a show of hands was called for, fewer than half indicated they play golf.
Being an executive wasn’t required, either.

What did they learn? During the panel discussion, moderated by WJLA’s
Rebecca Cooper, Army major general
Lee S. Price gave advice on pushing through challenges with determination, AT&T executive
Kay Kapoor talked about the power of mentoring, and Dr.
Cheryl Burgess, a DC dermatologist and dermatological surgeon, shared tips for taking care of one’s
skin and overall wellness.
Hilary Fordwich, host of a weekly government contracting broadcast on WUSA, and a golfer, brought
golf and men into the conversation. “Women who can’t golf don’t,” she said, “men who
can’t golf do.” She wanted the audience, which included a handful of men, to know
that learning the sport does not need to be intimidating. She said the key is lessons,
and women are better than men at taking lessons. “You know why men won’t take lessons?
Because they have to listen to somebody,” she said. General Price added, “Women listen
better, but they don’t always hear.” This prompted Cooper to note, “Men, we’re not
picking on you. We’re building ourselves up.”

Molly Fletcher was introduced as the “female Jerry Maguire,” and at first we weren’t sure whether
that was a reference to her professional or personal life—because she opened with
anecdotes about breastfeeding twin babies—but soon enough it became clear she’s the
business and “can do” side of Jerry. She founded and runs an Atlanta-based sports
representation agency, MWF Enterprises. She used her involvement with pro athletes
as the thread of an hourlong talk on how women can “unleash their potential,” which
she broke down into five categories: belief, discovery, clarity, discipline, and execution.

Fletcher wanted her avid listeners to know that they should avoid negative people
and surround themselves with those who “support the way you feel about yourself,”
that they should “create a platform that reminds you how good you are,” that they
need to “embrace change fearlessly and not be afraid of failure,” and that “vulnerability
is courage. It allows you to grow.” She urged women to make a change if they feel
stuck and to recognize their own complicity in whatever their situation may be. “If
you are stuck, it is because it is serving you. Ask yourself, ‘What is at risk for
me to make a change?’” While not saying whether they are her clients, she used NFL
quarterback Tom Brady, NBA basketball player Kevin Durant, and college basketball
coach Billy Donovan as examples of her message. “Be present in your lives,” she implored.
“Be in the moment.”

The behind-the-scenes tour of Congressional included a golf cart ride around the grounds;
a look inside the massive media center; a visit to the tribute wall of signatures
saluting the military; a drop-by at the Grey Goose 19th Hole Lounge, where the women
were offered a vodka, pineapple, and soda cocktail called the 19th Hole; a visit to
the ShotLink trailer, where the minute data of the tournament is tracked and recorded
by lasers and cameras; and a spin in the pro shop, with a 20 percent discount chit
in hand. Everywhere outside there were golfers—some of them pros, in town early for
a practice round, some of them participants in the mini Pro-Am. Women, too, because
the two Pro-Am days include women in the play.

It’s notable, and possibly encouraging for Tiger Woods, that in a day of many question-and-answer
sessions with the speakers and Woods Foundation executives and Congressional Country
Club staff, not one woman brought up Woods’s personal life, which for a spell was
way too colorful. In fact, there was only one question about Woods, which was asked
in the ShotLink trailer and had to do with the basically mundane: how his ball drop
at the Masters got measured. Were the women being polite? Likely not. The golf world,
including women, has made peace with Tiger.