Golf association 'teaches us about the community'

When Judy Lacko moved to Concord three years ago, before she met anyone who shared her affinity for golf, she used to go to Rocky River Golf Club and play a nine-hole round two or three days a week on her own.

One of the club's pros picked up on her playing independently and suggested that if she were interested in playing with partners, she should contact the Executive Women's Golf Association. The group is designed to network women through golf.

Believing her skill level wasn't good enough for a group whose name sounded so prestigious, Lacko declined the offer. The club pro made the contact for her anyway, though, and over time Lacko has been delighted that he did.

Lacko has immersed herself in the group, playing in EWGA's league at Rocky River and in other association events. Last year, she was recognized as the group's volunteer of the year.

Founded in 1991, the EWGA has more than 100 chapters nationwide. The Charlotte chapter has about 150 members.

The term "executive" in the name is a bit misleading, since Megan Everett, vice president of the EWGA in Charlotte, said the group has members "from all walks of life." There are women of all ages with a variety of careers.

The EWGA's aim is "connecting women to learn, play, and enjoy golf for business and for fun."

The organization sponsors six leagues around the Charlotte region. In Cabarrus County, it supports league play at three courses: Rocky River, Larkhaven Golf Club and Highland Creek Golf Club.

From spring through fall, the association also hosts "weekend tour" events on alternating weeks: one-day events in which members play 18-hole rounds and can participate in friendly competitions, such as closest to the pin contests.

Judy and Jerry Lacko, both of whom had recently retired, moved to Concord from Columbus, Ohio. They liked Charlotte's weather and art scene and that it was a city on the rise.

Jerry doesn't golf, but the EWGA provided a outlet for Judy, 68.

"Because I wasn't working, and semi-retired, for me, it was difficult for me to meet other people," Judy Lacko said. "(The association) was a way for me to get involved with a group of gals that loved to play golf that was well-organized."

Another Concord resident, Judy Heylmun, sought out the EWGA when she moved into Cabarrus County a couple of years ago. She moved from northern New Jersey, where she had been a member of an EWGA chapter there for 15 years.

Heylmun, 57, first got involved with the Charlotte chapter by attending one of its Tee Parties, the association's season-opening welcoming event for new members.

A product researcher at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, Heylmun said being a member of the EWGA has helped her make business contacts through golf.

"The EWGA was a way to meet women with a common interest," Heylmun said. "Some of the best stuff is the after-golf activities, where you can talk about 'where did you go for dinner?' 'I saw a movie,' 'Did you know they opened a new store?' It teaches us about the community."

Heylmun and Lacko especially enjoy the volunteer opportunities EWGA provides. They will be helping with Zumba and golf events Sept. 23-24 to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in honor of a former EWGA member, Debbie Heindorf, who died in February.