LPGA member and teaching professional Sara Detlefsen has been around golf her whole life. But the teaching part — which she does now with the Sanford POWER Golf Academy team — was new to her when she started on the path that led her to this career.
As a 17-year-old she decided to volunteer with the First Tee program in St. Paul, Minnesota, not because she thought she would someday do it for a living, but because she wanted to give back. The director of the program was also Detlefsen’s first golf coach, so it made sense.
Detlefsen looked forward to the chance to get involved but was apprehensive at the same time. Many of these first-time golfers she’d be spending time with had special needs. She wondered whether this was something she should have special training for. All Detlefsen knew was how to golf, she thought.
“The guy running the clinic that day said ‘Sara, just hop in there. You know what you’re doing,’” Detlefsen said. “Something I took for granted my entire life was being able to make contact with a golf ball. Seeing how these kids lit up when they made contact was unbelievable. I thought it was the coolest thing ever.”
The joy of seeing a student give the ball a solid smack has never left her. Regardless of the playing level of her students, there are going to be those times where it all comes together. Helping golfers find those memories is an ongoing quest.
“All of a sudden someone will have a light-bulb moment,” Detlefsen said. “It’s that moment where it’s like ‘Oh, I finally understand that.’ You see that in golf in a variety of different situations with people who are at different stages with their golf games. Seeing that spark in the eye makes me so happy.”
Joining the POWER Golf Academy
Detlefsen grew up in a family of golfers — both her older brother and sister were NCAA Division I players — and fell into line with her siblings quickly. It’s a passion she maintains as she takes on this new role at the Sanford POWER Golf Academy, where she joins Todd Kolb, Sam Vosler, Matt Stricker, Cindy Rarick and Josh Baldus.
“As an LPGA member, Sara will bring new programming to the Sanford POWER Golf Academy emphasizing girls golf and LPGA initiatives,” said Kolb, director of the Sanford POWER Golf Academy. “She has a passion for teaching the game of golf to others and will be a wonderful complement to our team and academy.”
She arrives at Sanford as a Class A member of the LPGA Teaching and Club Professionals division.
She played Division I golf at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Florida, graduating in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and receiving her master’s degree in public administration in 2016.
Highlights to this point in her career include being invited to teach with the LPGA’s Leadership Academy (2018-2019), Girls Golf Academy (2018-2020) and the ANNIKA Foundation’s Share My Passion Clinic (2018).
Woven into just about every line of Detlefsen’s resume is helping women and girls enjoy playing golf. That goes for those just being introduced to the sport as well as those who want to make it a regular part of their lives.
Making golf more accessible
As the only LPGA teaching pro in the Dakotas, Detlefsen and the Sanford POWER Golf Academy will be the first to be able to introduce LPGA initiatives in the region.
The core philosophy is pretty simple: Let’s have some fun out here and enjoy the benefits that come with playing golf.
“There is a lot of research that shows that girls become more engaged with a sport when they have a female coach,” Detlefsen said. “Research also tells us girls tend to drop out of sports when they reach their preteen and teenage years. That can be accompanied by a huge decline of self-worth and self-confidence.”
Detlefsen has been part of several efforts via clinics and academies to make golf more accessible. It’s an attempt to fundamentally change how girls get to know the game.
“We’re trying to take the foundations of golf — where it’s probably a little more of a stuffy, country-club, good-old-boys club environment — and turn it on its head,” Detlefsen said. “We want to take a little bit of a different approach to the game.”
Getting more women in the game
With Sanford, she will be part of several programs in partnership with the LPGA and USGA to promote and emphasize getting more women and girls involved in the sport.
There are as many different ways to teach golf as there are golfers. That might make the task more difficult for some, but Detlefsen sees it as part of the fun.
“I really like trying to figure people out,” she said. “Some people are a little more analytical. Others might do better with a visual representation. It’s all about finding out the best way to present information and then fitting it all together.”
Detlefsen will also be helping girls in Sanford programs with college placement, whether they want to continue to play golf or pursue a career in the golf industry.
“I’m really excited to be here,” she said. “I mean, just look around. Who wouldn’t be? I tell my friends I know who work in this business what is going on at Sanford and they cannot believe it. I’m working with some great people here. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be part of this team.”
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