Our own Aubrey McCormick, Green America’s member services coordinator, rediscovered her passion for professional golf this spring as a contestant on the Golf Channel’s Big Break: Atlantis, where she was very outspoken about bringing her green values to her favorite sport. This reality competition pitted female professional golfers against each other in innovative golf challenges, as each competed for cash and other prizes, including a coveted spot in the 2012 LPGA KingsMill Championship.
In the opening credits for each show, viewers got a glimpse of McCormick walking into the Green America offices, and she often mentioned her work with us.
Aubrey talked with Green America editor-in-chief about her plans for the future and about being the sport’s first professional “green golfer.”
TRACY: What does it mean to you to be a green golfer?
AUBREY: In simplest form, being the first green golfer is the intersection between my passion and my profession. It allows me to professionally play the sport of golf, while carrying and advocating a concept that defines me to my very core: love and appreciation for the environment in which we live, work, and play.
Being a green golfer is a way of life—it’s about finding balance in every facet of my life, both on and off of the golf course.
I believe that each of us can practice conservation and encourage sustainability in our everyday lives, by making small tweaks in our routine, which over a longer timeline, will create a big impact. There is a gross misperception that in order to be green, you have to turn your current lifestyle on its ear and adhere to an unpleasant, stringent routine. This couldn't be any farther from the truth—a green life is a joyful life. I want to be the walking, talking, living example of just how easy it is to have a positive impact on the environment.
TRACY: It takes a lot of water and a lot of herbicides and a lot of carbon-spewing lawn equipment to make golf courses as green and smooth as today’s golfers expect. How can all of us who enjoy the sport be green golfers?
AUBREY: There are some simple steps to move toward being a "green golfer":
- Bring your own water bottle, filled up at home, instead of using plastic bottles or cans. Encourage golf course owners to put out recycling containers for bottles and cans that others use. They can contact their local recycling company to start a recycling program.
- Stay out of natural areas near the course, both on foot and in a golf cart, to keep from trampling sensitive areas.
- Repair ball marks and replace divots to keep grass healthy.
- Purchase environmentally friendly products for your game. [Editor’s note: For example, lostgolfballs.com sells gently used name-brand golf balls.]
- Encourage your favorite golf courses to start the certification process with Audubon International's Golf & the Environment Initiative. This certification process has helped 15 percent of the world’s golf courses and is allowing golf courses cut overhead costs while creating a more sustainable environment for the courses and players.
For example, the Golf and Environment Initiative helps golf course owners find and use nontoxic chemicals to maintain the grass. The run off into ponds, streams, and lakes are harmful and deadly to wildlife. The Initiative also helps golf courses owners find sustainable ways to water golf courses, such as by installing irrigation systems that use reclaimed water sources, or by limiting water usage. On average, one golf course uses an average of 312,000 gallons of water a day. Now multiply that times to over 16,000 golf courses just in the United States alone!
It’s amazing how making a course sustainable will not only cut costs, but will also help the planet thrive.
TRACY: You had taken a year-long hiatus from professional golf before being on Big Break: Atlantis. What led you to do so?
AUBREY: There is a very big difference in the game of golf, and the business of golf. As a young golfer, you don’t have the deep sponsorship base that frees you up financially to focus solely on practicing and playing. So you’re dividing your time between cold calls and eventually office work, to create enough liquidity to be able to do the consistent level of course and range time, that’s required to play at this top, elite level. If you don’t have the money, you can’t stay on the tour, but if you work to get the money, it’s time you’ve spent away from your game so when you do step back on the course, your skills have suffered in the process.
I took a mental break from golf, moved to Washington, DC, and got my job at Green America that allowed me to explore my other driving passion: environmental conservation.
I have, and always will, love the game of golf, but at the time, I was getting burned out on the business side of the sport. I never left golf; I simply needed to step onto the sidelines for a moment. As it turned out, this was the best thing that could have happened, on multiple levels.
TRACY: Now that your time on Big Break: Atlantis is over, what are your plans for the future?
AUBREY: Being on the Big Break allowed me to find my love for the game of golf again. It never left, but somewhere along the way, it got buried.
In a sense, when it comes to golf, I almost went underground for a year, and when I came back up, I did so as a new person, and to a degree, I did so with a new purpose: to play to my true talent and potential, which means to ultimately return to full-time professional golf, and to carry with me the message, ideals, concepts, and techniques that I have learned while working at Green America.
Not many people know this, but there are an estimated 27 million people in the United States who regularly play a round of golf, and of those, nearly 50% are between 18-39 years of age, and an amazing 22% are women. Those are key, decision-making demographics.
In terms of my golf program, I will be playing some Pro-Ams through the summer in conjunction with some regional tournaments and a few Symetra Tour events. Later this year, I will pursue qualification for the European Tour, with an eye toward the LPGA in 2013. My agency and I are working together on an exciting and diverse sponsorship portfolio.
Great things are happening for me, and I am thankful, motivated, and ready to go!