Not so long ago, Pamela Kuong, MBA’87, a senior vice president at Bank of America, disliked golf. When a colleague suggested that she learn to play, she laughed and told him she preferred “real sports,” such as soccer and swimming. “I said, ‘Golf? It’s not even a sport. It’s too boring to watch on TV.’”
The colleague persisted, suggesting that golf would give her opportunities to mingle with business clients. Kuong reluctantly began to visit a local course with her sister and brother-in-law to learn the basics, but she remained unconvinced. About three years later, a client invited her to join his foursome at Woodland Golf Club in Newton, Mass. That day she golfed 18 holes for the first time and shot a 98, a remarkable score for a beginner. Kuong says the client told her, “You have no idea what you just did,” and urged her to take lessons.
So she did, in part because she saw that it really could benefit her banking career. Golf allowed Kuong to spend up to six hours with clients, getting to know them better than she ever would in an office. “I would never get that time if I asked for a meeting,” Kuong says. “The better I got, the more invitations I got, so I continued to play and take lessons.”
In 2004, Kuong began working with Skip Guss, a former PGA tour player, and he helped take her playing to the next level. A few years later, she joined a country club and women members told her about a tournament to be held at the famous The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. Wanting to play the course, Kuong signed up, only then realizing it was the Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts (WGAM) Amateur Championship. “I really didn’t know what I was doing,” she says. Yet she made it to the quarterfinals and was a co-medalist for stroke play.
After that showing, Guss told Kuong that he believed she could win the WGAM Amateur. The next year, she fulfilled his prediction. She won it again in 2010 and took the New England Amateur Championship in 2011. She also won the New England Senior Amateur Championship in 2011, taking the title again in 2012 and 2013. She was chosen the WGAM Player of the Year in 2012, and she advanced to the round of 16 in the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur Championship in 2013.
Kuong’s opinion of golf obviously has changed, and she wants to help young women in business get the message that golf is great. Babson Professor Candida Brush invited Kuong to teach a seminar on golf skills to a class for female entrepreneurs and to share the story of how golf has helped her career. In a field populated mainly by men, Kuong says golf has been “a great equalizer” for her. Being a December class, the seminar was held indoors at the Webster Center. “We taught the students how to hold the club, basic golf etiquette, and how to putt,” Kuong says. They formed teams and competed on a three-hole putting course that Kuong set up with mats. The students had fun and expressed surprise at how challenging golf can be.
Golf’s challenges no longer surprise Kuong. Each spring, she grows increasingly excited as the weather improves. She admits that she “lives on weather .com” to plan which days she’ll hit the links, although wet weather doesn’t sway her. “I’m a mudder,” she says. “I don’t mind playing in the rain.” She also loves golf season for the time it gives her with clients, friends, and even her fellow competitors. “Playing golf is very social for me,” she says. “I definitely get excited because so many of the people that I see each year are now friends.”
Ask Kuong for her ideal conditions, and she’ll respond sun, temperatures in the upper 70s to low 80s, a group of fun clients and friends, and a golf course where she can test her skills. “Every time you tee it up, you’re challenging yourself,” she says. “You’re just trying to see, can I get better?”—Erin O’Donnell