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Bandon Off-Course: A few thoughts and couple tales from the Bunker Bar

So, if you’re reading this now, you may have read my previous posts regaling my sappy experiences at the church of Golf at Bandon Dunes. What I deliberately left out of my previous posts are some curious moments that (although comical) seemed to deter from the genuine homage I wanted to pay to the courses. But as we all know, golf trips are never just about the golf. It’s the little moments between shots and rounds that bind these experiences together. So without further adieu, let’s get into some other juicy bits from the trip.

Just like any small fish in a large pond, being a woman in a variety of male-dominated fields can offer a unique lens on some time-honored experiences traditionally held by the opposite sex. My experiences in golf are no different, but I will say, that I am grateful that I picked up the game later in life when the archetypal chip on my shoulder had long smoothed over.

Like any person making their way into the world (often professionally speaking), I learned how little one is “offered a seat at the table” and if you want a “seat at the table”, you must simply take it. There are graceful and not so graceful ways to do this of course, and like all useful qualities, there was a steep learning curve for me. It’s a lifelong balancing act of room reading, self-authority, ethics, and personal boundaries. But I can confidently say that with the sage advice in Theodore Roosevelt's Foreign Policy (“speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far”) and years of practice, I have learned how to relish not only taking a seat at any table but doing so with grace and a deeper respect and understanding of the social intricacies that lie therein. Let's just say that a whole new world of doors open when you feel curious, confident, and rightfully included enough to hop on the tee sheet with anyone, regardless of gender or club social standing.

So, what does any of that have to do with golf? In my experience, a lot actually. I don’t consider myself to be overly sensitive, nor inversely calloused and closed off. There is no true living in indifference, so I guess that leaves me somewhere in the middle. Feeling my feelings, but filtering the input/output. I have learned that the healthiest social option for me (at the advice of my husband) is to first seek to understand, rather than seek to be understood. This is much easier said than done, but I will say that it has saved me and others at the proverbial “table” a fair amount of awkward exchanges. My social default in any interaction is to always provide others with the benefit of the doubt, perhaps to a fault at times. With that being said, unless I am otherwise being made to feel unsafe, it has become a favorite pastime to invert the would-be unwanted advances or comments of the opposite sex to my advantage. With lifelong experiences in sports, music, construction, and golf, one can imagine many times I've encountered such situations.

*smiles, sips drink, and scans the room, sets drink down*

Now, it’s no secret that Bandon is a sausage fest. Now, this was made mentioned to me ahead of time, but no joke I think I saw like 3 other golfing females the entire time we were there. Now, in no way does this bother me, and in no way is this story going to make a statement about gender neutrality in golf (we'll save that for another time). In fact on the contrary; if women want to go to Bandon, then they should get their asses to Bandon! It's a ridiculously good time! But back to the sausage fest - as you might have guessed, I am pretty indifferent to this particular dynamic. In my professional and personal experiences, it's pretty par for the course, and I'm merely stating this as a context reminder for the following story.

The first night we went to the bunker bar, I experienced one of the funniest albeit rare moments as a girl golfer. We got there somewhat early, grabbed some drinks and sat at the bar. Played some dice and eventually moved onto the pool table where we parked for a while until traffic in the room picked up. At some point, I went to use the restroom and when I re-entered the room (which at this point happened to be packed) I hear someone yell at the top of their lungs: “GIRL!”. I shit you not, it was like a record-scratch from a movie where the whole room just stops and looks. I scan the room and see 1 other female in a sea of dudes playing dice and she’s pointing right at me smiling. Without skipping a beat I yell: “GIRL!” and we high five, and I swear to God the entire room cheered. In merely 1 exchanged word a piece, my moment with this woman and the rest of the room was one of the best moments of comradery I've ever experienced in golf or otherwise. Talk about calling a spade a spade, this shit was hilarious and heartwarming.

Now onto a different kind of story:

I am never going to speak on anyone else’s behalf, so what I say herein is purely based on my own subjectivism. So based on my own experiences, I have seen a wide variety of social dynamics between men and women in golf, both on and off the course. Anyone could tell you that this sport continues to grow and change with time, and it has been fascinating to see this change happen in real-time. Golf is a culture all its own; riddled with traditions, rules, and decorum. It even has its own language and dress code. Having respect and understanding of this culture can take you far within this society. I feel like I have patiently approached learning these customs with grace and humility; what's more, I feel that I belong, and that's a pretty cool feeling. Even at Bandon (golf mecca), I’ve paid my “golf-society member dues” via my dedication to the game enough to feel like I have a right to be here. Being a woman in golf is not a rare thing, but every once in a while, believe it or not, I encounter someone who just hasn’t quite gotten on board with the idea that belong in the same places that they do. On our second night at Bandon, I encountered such a someone, and this someone missed the mark, big time.

(It’s important to note here, that I was not wearing anything out of the ordinary for Bandon, just normal golf clothes, and nothing that would otherwise imply I am here for no other reason than the other patrons.)

We got done with dinner and decided we were going to go down to the Bunker Bar for some pool and drinks. For those who don’t know, the Bunker Bar is located down a flight of stairs, past the locker rooms, and at the end of the long hallway. It's a cozy, windowless, cigar-smoke-filled fun fest nestled in a dark downstairs corner of the facility. It's just my kind of place. Now, at the top of the flight of stairs that leads down to the Bunker Bar, there is a set of bathrooms. On this night, Chris needed to stop at the bathroom before we went down, so I waited for him outside for him and watched as groups made their way past me, and head downstairs to the bar. As I am waiting, a group of about 5 men enter from an adjacent door leading from the outside and start making their way past me to the stairs. I make it a point to greet people and make eye contact where I can, which would be perfectly normal in this setting. Each nods and says “hello” as they pass me and head down the stairs, I politely return a courteous: “hi there”. The last gentleman makes his way about halfway down the stairs right as Chris is exiting the bathroom, just in time for us both to hear this guy’s voice echoing up the stairwell: “well THAT was subtle! hahahah”. (Yes, they were implying what you are thinking...) I look at Chris with a massive shit-eating grin, spin toward the stairs and start marching down the stairs right past this whole group of rioters and announce:

“Alright, boys it’s time to go get us a BIG glass of subtlety!".

Subtle Guy: "Wait what? What's going on?"

Katie: "Ya didn't you know it's subtlety night and You’re buying!”.

Four of the guys immediately start laughing and giving the one guy a world of shit for what he said while Subtle Guy goes: “Well it is a MENS club!”. (*slow clap*) Well sir, if that's true, then you just put the nail in the coffin by insinuating I was a hooker, so pay up :)

Everyone laughing their asses off, we entered the bar, and within two shakes of a lambs tail, Chris and I each had an apology drink in front of us courtesy of foot-in-mouth Sublety guy.

Now look, I never game him guff, we laughed it off. Watching this dude crumble because I had the fortitude to call it out was *chefs kiss* priceless, and I doubt he’ll make the same mistake again(or who knows, maybe he will).

These were just two of the many other stories I have, but these two were my favorite stand-out moments. Every night we went to the Bunker Bar or any of the fantastic other bars and restaurants, we met incredible people and chatted with the staff. The folks that work here are so much fun and highly dedicated. They learn your drink, they learn your name, and are never short on personability and professionalism. Hats off to them; they are the glue that made our seamlessly enjoyable experience possible. And for any other women that might hesitate to join in on the fun at Bandon, just remember that a world of fascinating experiences just like these await you. Cheers bitches.

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