Story by Ian Guerin
PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. | There was a time when Christa Bodensteiner was so wrapped up in her work, so convinced she could do the job, that she failed realize her place in local golf history.
Now, she’s found too much of a work-life balance to really care.
Bodensteiner, the lone female head golf professional at any of the 90 courses along South Carolina’s Grand Strand golfing mecca, has sustained a successful and notable career at Litchfield Country Club and River Club, a pair of south end courses where she has served as the head golf professional since 2001 and the general manager since 2013. Those titles put her not only in an elite category because she’s a woman, but also because of her longevity.
However, while the former leads the talking points, she has long since distanced herself from the distinction.
“It’s not all of my identity,” she said. “I absolutely have a love for being a golf professional. But it’s what I do, it’s not who I am.”
FINDING THAT BALANCE
Certainly, Bodensteiner has played a significant role in the continued popularity of Litchfield and River Club, which opened in 1966 and 1985, respectively. She’s carved out her niche as a tireless golf shop worker, respected boss and knowledgeable instructor.
“There is no person that I’ve worked with in my 20-plus years in the golf industry that provides better customer service than Christa,” said Nate DeWitt, Founders Group International’s marketing manager and former River Club Head Golf Professional. “She is always positive and upbeat and can handle any situation that may arise. She leads by example.”
Bodensteiner earned her way up through the parent company, currently known as Founders Group International. She spent time at multiple courses within the conglomerate before getting her first head golf professional nod. When she got it, there was significantly more chatter about her then-newfound label as a female head golf professional.
“I think at the very, very beginning, it was a bigger deal,” she said. “I probably paid more attention to it than I do now. I guess I’ve gotten used to it.”
Everyone else in the area has, too, despite the fact that her status as a woman in golf started to stand out more via a subtraction around her.
The Grand Strand once had as many as four females in similar positions. One left for a role in academia; another took on a prestigious merchandising position; the last went into the family business. So while there are other female PGA members in and around Myrtle Beach, Bodensteiner is the only one who can still be seen as the face of a course.
Paige Cribb has seen what Bodensteiner has accomplished from up close, and in many regards, she’s lived part of it. Before joining the staff of Coastal Carolina University’s Professional Golf Management program, Cribb was the head golf professional at Wachesaw Plantation East. And in 2018, she’ll be inaugurated as the first female president of the Carolinas PGA, the largest chapter of the national organization.
Her hopes of increasing membership align with those of her long-time friend and former playing partner.
“If you go with different reports that are out there, you have the demographics. To be blunt, we already have the white guy playing,” Cribb said. “We’re looking at diversity inclusion. We’re looking at women and people of color - not that traditional person you would think is already playing. It’s not ‘women, women, women.’ That’s just part of our target market. We have people of different races and ethnicities we want to play. If you come in with an agenda, you get sniffed out.”
Bodensteiner freely admits that she is constantly working toward more representation from younger women and minorities. When given the opportunity she speaks to junior golfers, encouraging them to get involved in more than simply teeing it up.
The motives aren’t purely altruistic; broadening the range of young golfers not only increases future management opportunities down the line, it also potentially opens up the golf industry to more golfers and more rounds.
Still, she understands that the money early in a golf career can be a cumbersome leap to overcome, and it isn’t for everyone, men or women alike. It was for her, although she points out that while her place in the local golf scene increased, it was only one part of her livelihood.
Not long after she was given her position at Litchfield and began to establish herself yet again, something away from the course tugged at her. And within a few years, she had found a way to contribute more than a golf label to the Grand Strand.
She began volunteering with Celebrate Recovery, a program that helps people overcome life’s hurts, habits, and hang-ups - including drug and alcohol addiction. And within the past three years, she’s added a second ministry project to her regular routine. Martha’s House helps formerly incarcerated women from both Horry and Georgetown counties find a place in society post-release.
Bodensteiner spends an average of three nights and one weekend day per week with the two ministries, and it is in those roles that golf is a distant priority.
“I’m not trying to do the next big thing career-wise. It’s all been a byproduct of doing what I’m supposed to do and doing the best at what I do at that time,” Bodensteiner said. “It speaks more to the fact that I don’t believe God created us to climb ladders and just have career success. I don’t want to say it’s not a big priority to get advancements. I want to do well. It’s just not my driving force.”
It would be naive to think Bodensteiner’s work and volunteer relationships haven’t benefitted from each other. Knowing what she may have helped accomplish the night before at Celebrate Recovery or Martha’s House allows for more enjoyment from her work at River Club or Litchfield. The ebbs and flows off of a business model that has plenty of both don’t seem quite so extreme.
THE INADVERTENT TORCH BEARER
Cribb raves about her friend’s success, but maybe not how many would think.
Bodensteiner’s status is a cool factoid to those who know she’s the lone local female head golf professional at a course and provides an inspiration to those who seek to further change the numbers disparity between men and women in that job. But the key for Cribb is that Bodensteiner found exactly where she was supposed to be within the industry, not just what.
“That, to me, is a very eye-opening thing,” Cribb said. “There may be people who want to work in a golf course but want to go in a different area. What that says is you’re not going to be pigeon-holed to work in a golf shop if that’s not what you want to do. You just have less to choose from. But the women who are out in the world are making a difference.”
Bodensteiner is an indication of exactly that.
Toward the end of August, she was wrapping up a work day at River Club. She walked the property, telling her employees goodbye for the afternoon.
Two working the counter and one at the snack bar. Another at the bag drop. A starter. A handful of marshals.
Virtually all men.
Yet, here was Bodensteiner, long since having forgotten about that. More importantly, so had they.
Respect was all that mattered.
“I don’t think I need to be set apart,” she said. “That doesn’t make me a better golf professional than any of the guys around me. It just means I’m the only woman.”