As Katherine Cohane heads to the green for her employer’s semi-annual golf clinic at Echo Lake Country Club in Westfield, NJ on Monday she will be looking forward to getting to know her colleagues outside the office.
“Conversations at the clinics don’t immediately focus on work,” says Cohane, who is vice president at American Express in Battery Park City. “We begin discussing each other’s experiences playing golf. We might then ease into a more natural conversation about family and friends.”
This fun, social environment, she notes, creates an organic opportunity to better understand co-workers.
Linda Zukauckas, executive vice president and deputy chief financial officer at American Express, agrees that this boosts business.
“This deeper connection has helped me better understand what [Cohane] needs from me as a leader,” says Zukauckas. “As a result, it has made our working relationship stronger and our team more impactful.”
Zukauckas launched the golf-clinic program in 2010, when she realized that senior women needed access to informal networking opportunities, especially with male colleagues and business partners. Typically, the clinics consist of 75 women from vice president level and up, and they include instruction and a networking lunch with an executive speaker.
“The golf course is where professionals build camaraderie and often hear about under-the-radar opportunities,” says Zukauckas, herself a golfer for more than three decades. “According to the National Golf Foundation, women comprise only 24 percent of golfers — women are missing out on valuable opportunities to build their networks.”
By teaching women golf skills, the executive vice president proclaims, “We are helping level the playing field for those striving to reach the C-suite or boardroom.”
Yet, according to a 2016 McKinsey & Company survey, women currently hold 33 to 37 percent of management, senior management and director positions and 19 percent of C-suite jobs.
Mary Camuto, organization and leadership development consultant and author of “Make the Most of Your Workday” (Career Press), says that successful leaders recognize that building relationships is key and golf is one way to accomplish this.
“If your work culture includes business decision making, sharing information and social bonding in the club… or at a post-game happy hour, then golf may be a way to be included, engaged and known outside of your formal workplace setting,” she says.
Susan M. Moss, Esq., partner at Chemtob, Moss, Forman & Beyda, LLP in Midtown, concurs. “Playing golf in legal networking is hugely important,” she says.
Early in her career, she excelled at the windmill in mini-golf, but didn’t know how to play golf on a course.
The Upper East Sider honed her skills by taking three lessons each summer. “Conferences are all about networking — if most of the conference people are on the greens, you need to be there, too. Even after everyone leaves the greens, they talk about what happened for hours afterward.”
And by playing with members of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York, she has gotten to know foursomes really well, which have “helped me settle cases with these attorneys when difficult issues in our cases arose.”
Mindie Barnett, CEO of MB and Associates Public Relations in Hell’s Kitchen, intentionally started golfing for the “sole purpose of doing business on the course.”
Having made new friendships, struck deals and broadened her network, she aims to spend four hours each week on the green this spring. Her ammo?
“Look the part and walk the walk. If you dress for success — good clubs, nice outfit — and aren’t horrible playing, you’ll be taken seriously as soon as you speak. Your knowledge and experience will sell itself.”
And there’s an extra bonus: stress relief.
“I can clear my head, enjoy a pretty surrounding and unplug from technology,” she says.
Barnett also points out that “since there are less women on the course at the present time, we will stand out among our male counterparts and may have an even better shot at breaking through the glass.”
As for Delphine Lincy, the Gramercy Park resident picked it up during downtime in the recession. The senior human resources business partner in financial services recalls leveraging a pairing with the head of HR at Goldman Sachs.
“He was the nicest guy and helped connect me for a job interview,” she says.
Although she didn’t get the job, she went through several interview rounds. Throughout the years, she’s been paired up with the ambassador to the Bahamas, a senior writer at Golf Digest, Tom Brady’s dad, a former caddy to PGA tour players, and has played behind football great Jerry Rice.
“Getting better at golf definitely helps your confidence,” Lincy says. “From the early years, when I stepped up to the first tee, knowing I would hit the ball all over, men would not want to play with me.”
She pushed through humiliation, intimidation and embarrassment to become better than them, adding that the sport also emphasizes important skills in both business and life: “Honesty and integrity, those are the best fundamentals of the game.”
Overall, while playing golf doesn’t guarantee a golden ticket to the corner office, it is a way to build relationships with stakeholders.
“The golf course is not the boardroom,” says Zukauckus, “but it is a valuable place to connect with those who can help you get there.”