Girls Make Golf Better

The Patty Berg League helps girls learn what’s great about golf.
Golf pro and founder of the Patty Berg League, Andrea Kellar, with her daughters, Meagan, left, and Grace.

Each year, Connecting with Kids, a program of the Edina Community Foundation, recognizes people in our community who’ve had a powerful influence on the development of young people. One of the 2015 honorees is PGA golf pro Andrea Kellar. Since 2009, Kellar has been organizing and leading the Patty Berg Golf to Life league, a summer golf program for girls.

Kellar won a national collegiate title at the University of Miami. She also won the Florida state amateur championship and was a USGA mid-amateur medalist. She played professionally for three years.

When Kellar settled down and started a family, she began teaching golf and is now the director of membership and a golf pro at Olympic Hills Golf Club in Eden Prairie. She’s been teaching golf since 1995 and has taught players of all ages and skill levels. But having two daughters ignited Kellar’s passion for instructing junior players, especially girls.

Kellar worked with many young girls who wanted more than a weekly lesson. They wanted to get out and play. “The city of Edina was kind enough to allow me to start the Patty Berg League with 15 girls at the Fred Richards Golf Course,” says Kellar. The league was named in honor of Minnesota-born professional female golfer Berg, who helped establish and was the first president of the LPGA. By 2014, Kellar’s Patty Berg league had well over 100 participants.

“The league grew because the kids were having fun,” Kellar says. “When I was a kid, my parents would give me money to go hit golf balls. Sometimes I’d ditch and go hang with my friends.” Now Kellar can look out over a golf course filled with girls because it’s the place to hang with friends.

Most instruction is about etiquette and how to navigate a course. Parents help younger players. But as soon as players are independent and able to carry their golf bag for nine holes—a huge goal for many—they’re on their own. “Developing skill is secondary to fun,” Kellar says. “If I can get them to love the game, I can get them to play the game.”

The league’s success is aided by parent volunteers who share Kellar’s vision—no pressure, just fun. When Bonnie McGrath’s daughter, Sheila Ann, was 10 years old and wanted to play golf, McGrath got interested and very involved in the Patty Berg league. McGrath acknowledges golf can be intimidating but that Andrea’s style helps develop strong young women. When Sheila Ann started, McGrath walked with the group and helped the girls understand who tees off first, putts first and to be quiet during shots. “I remember my daughter once leap-frogged over her golf bag,” says McGrath who acknowledged the excitement and then explained behavior that is more appropriate on a golf course. She says, “This is a place where that kind of thing can happen and the players can learn.”

Kellar later invited some girls to participate in a charitable golf event with her. This evolved into an annual Golf to Hope fundraiser sponsored by Kellar’s pupils. Players pick charities, choose uniforms and make flyers. Then they get pledges and play golf to raise funds.

Golf to Hope play begins at 4:30 a.m. with glow balls. Every hour, another group of five to six girls arrives to play with Kellar. At dusk, the captains tee off and Kellar marches with them up the 18th fairway where parents are waiting. “It’s very moving,” says Kellar. Golf to Hope has raised nearly $55,000 throughout the years.

(The Patty Berg League has been on hiatus in 2015 due to the closing of
Fred Richards Golf Course. Contact golftolife PattyBergLeague@
for information about 2016 league play.)