|Donna Andrews hopes to launch signature golf schools in '09. (Courtesy of Pine Needles)|
Her transition has been fast and fearless, much like how Donna Andrews approached her LPGA golf career. These days, life inside the ropes might seem easier compared to the niches Andrews has carved out for herself.
And she's looking to open the throttle even more in 2009. She hopes to continue building her brand name by adding Donna Andrews signature golf schools to her business resume.
"I love teaching golf so much," Andrews said during a rainy afternoon chat at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club. "They're there because they want to learn and enjoy the game. I see the fun side of golf again."
Andrews has been the head instructor at Pine Needles since 2006, following in the footsteps of Peggy Kirk Bell, a legend in the women's game who pioneered the popular Golfari schools. Andrews teaches here and at affiliated Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club.
When students began inquiring about real estate in the Pinehurst and Southern Pines area, Andrews became an agent and started a company, Andrews and Tepatti Real Estate, with husband and developer James Tepatti.
"You'd be surprised at how many people ask about all that," Andrews said. "Why should I refer them to someone else when I could do it myself?
"I was the 2-year-old who would always say, why?"
She saved enough of her LPGA Tour earnings during a 15-year career to buy a horse farm in Southern Pines, a dream home and labor of love for the Virginia native. Andrews still does an occasional golf analyst gig for ESPN. Oh, and she has another full-time job, too: son Connor, 2.
No worries. No hesitation. No regrets.
And she thrives on the entrepreneurial spirit of it all.
"I didn't waste any time," Andrews said of her switch from playing to teaching. "I miss the people; I don't really miss the golf. I got to the point where my body wouldn't let me practice and play at the level I was used to competing at."
Andrews won six tournaments, including a major at the 1994 Nabisco Dinah Shore. The last of her victories came in 1998, which, with a couple breaks, could have been a record-setting season. She was in contention in four consecutive events but settled for second each time, including another run at a major in the McDonald's LPGA Championship.
Andrews showed flashes of her old game with four top-10 finishes in 2002. But shoulder injuries, including one shoulder that still pops out of joint, shortened her career and turned her in new directions.
"When you've been able to win, it's really hard to compete when you know you can't get your body to respond like it did in the past," Andrews said. "I don't miss the competitiveness. I found I get a lot of joy teaching. Just to see that enthusiasm, fun and love of the game from your students is rewarding for me."
Andrews believes the LPGA Tour has lost its sense of identity in the past five years or so. With many tournaments scattered around the world and few foreign players generating interest among American fans and sponsors, the tour she knew has reached a crossroads.
"Now it's more focused on money. ... how much I can make, how many endorsements I can get," Andrews said. "I don't see the players having that fun and camaraderie we used to have."
Andrews, who worked in a golf shop growing up, always knew she'd be involved in the game some way or another. It was on her mind while earning a business degree from the University of North Carolina and playing golf for the Tar Heels.
Almost 20 years later, she's a one-stop shot of sorts, a major championship winner who can fix your swing and a businesswoman who can sell you a condo or house with a golf membership.
Being at Pine Needles "really gave me a great opportunity to start small and begin to grow it," she said.
Donna Andrews, so far, has made the most of it, too.
For help in planning a golf vacation to Pinehurst, visit ResortsGolfAndSpas.com or call 800-767-3574.
January 5, 2009
Veteran golf writer Tom Spousta keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation. He has covered golf and other sports for USA Today and The New York Times. Tom lives on a Donald Ross-designed golf course in Sarasota, Fla.