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The Women in Golf Series: Julie Fenn

Apr 9, 2014

Julie Fenn puts the “non” in “non-traditional student.” Before coming to Golf Academy of America in Phoenix, Fenn had earned an engineering degree from Tufts University, and worked as an industrial engineer in arenas as diverse as aerospace, automotive and the Silicon Valley. She had an MBA and 25 years of solid work experience, but was ready for a change.

Golf was an unlikely suitor. “I didn’t touch my first golf club until I was 17,” she said. “My mother encouraged me to take it up for business. I played a little after college, but it was tough to afford.”   

She sidelined golf until her 30s, when injuries from other sports started wracking up. That’s when Fenn decided to pick up her clubs again. “I tried to put the competitive spin on the game and it didn’t work,” she said.  “I wasn’t as good as I thought I should be. But as soon as I decided to have fun on the course, that’s when I fell in love with the game. It was recreation, relaxation, and an escape from what life throws at you--a way to be outside, with people and having a great time.”

Her interest in the game kept building. With an east coast address and cold winter weather to show for it, Fenn started traveling to milder climates to play golf. It wasn’t too long before she decided to make a move to Arizona. It was there, while getting a haircut, that she bumped into a magazine article about Golf Academy of America. She decided to pursue her passion, enrolling shortly thereafter.

“I joined in the summer semester,” Fenn said. “That’s traditionally the smallest group, because of the Arizona heat. I was the only female in class and was by far the oldest, but I was there for a very specific reason. I was interested in seeing the entire package--what’s available in the golf business--then deciding on my career. I wanted to apply what I already knew to golf.”

Fenn’s transition from the traditional business world to a career in golf began just a few weeks into her GAA schooling. She started volunteering at the Junior Golf Association and later worked at the Arizona Women’s Golf Association as the USGA P.J. Boatwright Intern, which helps recipients get started in golf administration. Here, she learned course ratings, tournament administration, handicapping and networking. She loved it. 

After graduation, Fenn spent more than two years working at green grass facilities. She was passionate about the work, but not the lifestyle. “Leaving was a life decision,” she said. “The best thing for me was to get back into administration where I had a predictable schedule, but could still be face-to-face with the customers.”

These days, Fenn is Executive Director of the Women’s Golf Association of Northern California, an organization that promotes the interest of women’s amateur golf by providing educational, competitive and social opportunities for its members. Fenn’s group is one of 84 full-service regional associations that can issue course ratings and handicapping, provide rules education and run tournaments.

She credits much of her success to connections made at Golf Academy of America. “Your most important asset is networking with fellow students, faculty and anyone else you meet as part of the Academy,” said Fenn. “As students, we were encouraged to go meet the staff of clubs where we played, acting professionally all the time. This business is all about who you know.”  

Fenn says she is seeing opportunities for women becoming more mainstream. She offered this piece of advice for women considering a career in golf: “Make sure you want to give back. This game is about honor and integrity. If you have the desire to understand and support that history, but modernize it, you’ll do well.”