Byline: Garry Smits, Times-Union sports writer
The increasing popularity of golf among women doesn't only have to do with the fact that Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and Se Ri Pak have jump-started the LPGA Tour.
Making women feel welcome can be as simple as the courtesy of a course ranger, a well-stocked pro shop and area tournaments showcasing the best amateur players.
The summer of 2002 has been a good one so far for women's golf from South Georgia to Flagler County. It started with a survey in Golf for Women magazine that ranked the Sea Island (Ga.) Golf Club at the top of a list of the "50 Best Courses for Women," with the Amelia Island Plantation Ocean Links ranked 11th and the Ocean Hammock Golf Club in Palm Coast 32nd.
And beginning today, a course that made Golf for Women's top 50 list two years ago will again host the First Coast Women's Championship. The Ponce de Leon Resort in St. Augustine will hold the event for the 12th consecutive year, with more than 80 players competing in the 54-hole event.
Leading the field will be Katie Quinney of Florida State, Winnie Dorminey of Jacksonville University, Melodi Hines of Bethune-Cookman College, Katie Ruhe of South Florida and area amateur veterans such as Mary Tappmeyer, Debbie Drabinski, Patti Deschler, Susie Fonde and Suzy Strock.
Ponce de Leon director of golf Mary Hafeman said two-thirds of the field has a handicap of less than 10.
Hafeman, a former University of Florida player, said the Golf for Women Top-50 list has become an increasingly desired honor every year, especially for resort courses such as the Ponce and Sea Island.
"There are more couples who go on golf vacations," she said. "It's only good business to make women feel just as comfortable as men."
The standards for inclusion on the top-50 list are based on surveys of consumers on course design, conditions, pace of play, instructional programs, no restrictive tee times, spa facilities, child-care, food and beverage and pro shops that stock women's golf clothing, shoes, gloves and equipment.
Courses that make the list also have established an atmosphere of courtesy and accommodation for women, Hafeman said.
"There are some places where women feel unwelcome the minute you get out of the car," Hafeman said. "Even the rangers do it, when they radio back to the pro shop about what they think is a slow group of women. …