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Gamecocks Take Advantage of Unique Opportunity at Augusta National
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Gamecocks Take Advantage of Unique Opportunity at Augusta National

by Brad Muller, Director of Content

Nine female South Carolina student-athletes recently took advantage of a big networking opportunity at Augusta National Golf Club. The Gamecocks, along with female student-athletes from from Georgia Tech, Georgia, and Emory, were invited to the inaugural IBM Augusta National Women’s Amateur Program.

“IBM hosted a world-class event for our female student-athletes,” said Executive Associate Athletics Director and Senior Women’s Administrator Judy Van Horn. “They were exposed to the core values and opportunities within IBM, a company that has chosen to intentionally reach out to these women because they’re smart and because of their work ethic, emotional intelligence and resiliency.” 

“All of my computer science classes are pretty male-dominated, so it was cool to be around females and female student-athletes from other schools interested in that field,” said sophomore swimmer and computer science major Jenna Pehowski. “They talked a lot about that at lunch in how they like student-athletes because they know they are hard-working and are good with time management and deadlines.”

While there, the student-athletes had the opportunity to meet with the IBM Chief Executive Officer Ginni Rometty, in addition to the top execs from IBM at a networking breakfast and lunch.

“It was a recruiting event for IBM, which is a sponsor for the Masters and was a driving force behind the women’s amateur tournament being played there last week,” said South Carolina Director of Student-Athlete Development Megan Stoltzfus. “They wanted an opportunity to have conversations about their company with local student-athletes. IBM has a huge hiring initiative to hire females. Diversity and inclusion are engrained in their culture. The wanted to create an opportunity on top of the historic event with women competing at Augusta National for the first time.”

“It’s leading to some opportunities!”
Jenna  Pehowski

A few students also had an opportunity to meet LPGA legend Annika Sorenstam and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

“Ginni Rometty stayed with us the entire day, and she really took an interest in us,” said women’s soccer sophomore Lauren Chang. “I didn’t just learn things about IBM, I learned a lot about great female leaders, how they can shape the future, and how they are leading today.

“Condoleezza Rice is one of my idols. Annika Sorenstam is a pioneer in women’s golf. She helped grow the game. Meeting them and thanking them for what they have done to pave the way for people of my generation was really awesome. To become a future female leader takes a lot of work, but it’s obviously possible because we’re seeing it right now!”

Any female student-athlete at South Carolina was able to apply for the opportunity through IBM, which included submitting a resume, and ten Gamecocks were chosen, although one could not attend due to her athletics competition. For some of the Gamecocks, being chosen also opened the door to other opportunities.

“Three days after I filled out the application for this event, someone contacted me about an internship,” Pehowski said. “I had a phone interview, but while that one didn’t work out, my application got forwarded to someone else, and I have another phone interview coming up. So, it’s leading to some opportunities!”

In addition to meeting three out of the five female members of the Augusta National Golf Club, the student-athletes received a behind-the-scenes tour of the technology powered by IBM that is used throughout Masters weekend, which was also used during the women’s amateur tournament.

When it was all over, the student-athletes were inspired for what opportunities are out there when their athletics days are over.

“After I pursue playing professional soccer, I want to pursue becoming a lawyer,” Chang said. “Meeting Condoleezza Rice, I was ‘fan-girling’ so hard! I was with a lot of golfers who were freaking out over Annika Sorentstam, but meeting Condoleezza Rice; that’s my Annika. I want to try to fix some things in the world and help people out.

“It was a day of empowerment and showed us what the future can be.”