by Karen Kloske
Shelly Stouffer has been winning championships in both Canada and the U.S. over the past 18 months at a fast rate, so it’s time to gather some personal insights into the woman behind the trophies.
Many will have heard of Stouffer, who makes her home in Nanoose Bay, B.C. In 2022 alone, she racked up accolades and titles such as the 2022 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, Canadian Women’s Mid-Amateur, and for a second consecutive year, the Canadian Women’s Senior Championship. She was named the 2022 PNGA Senior Women’s Player of the Year.
She joined World Golf Hall-of-Famer Marlene Streit as only the second woman ever to win both the Canadian Women’s Senior Championship and U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur in the same year.
At 52, Stouffer is a force to be reckoned with on the course but off the course, she is all that and much more.
Kloske sat down with Stouffer to get to know the woman behind the wins.
Who is Shelly Stouffer when she is not playing golf?
First and foremost, I am a mother, regularly wrangling teenage boys.
Professionally, I work as a kinesiologist. I do TPI (Titleist Performance Institute golf fitness program) level 1 and 2 fitness assessments. I work with golfers, but I also work doing rehab for people who get into car accidents and other similar injuries.
In my spare time, I like to go hiking, sometimes with my mom. Typically, we like to do an intense but shorter hike for an hour or less.
I got into curling [in 2021]. I also like to spend time with friends in my downtime when I can.
What is something people would never guess about you just by knowing your golf history?
I know how to work a sewing machine. I don’t create anything in particular with it, but I fix things with it, mending or hemming or fixing holes, that kind of thing.
The other thing is I know my way around power tools. I can pretty much fix anything, it seems. I will figure out how to do it or get my kids to help. I can do electrical. I can build stairs, and fences, speaking from experience.
A final interesting fact is that I basically changed my swing on my own through video. I don’t use a coach, but I do have a few people to talk to about my game: Norm Jackson, Jody Jackson, and my sister Sandra Comadina.
How has your perspective on golf changed over time?
I don’t necessarily think my overall perspective has changed, though my journey certainly has.
When I first started with my friends, I would keep track of my score by fives… if I was one over five or if I was even with fives… for 90.
When I was a professional, there was a lot of pressure because I was trying to earn money. Golfing professionally to earn money is difficult if you don’t have money to begin with. If you didn’t make a cut, you didn’t get paid. It was really hard. I was away from home, not having any fun. People often think it is glamorous to be on tour but for most, it is not. It is a grind. It’s brutal. That’s why I came home.
After I came home from playing professionally, we decided to start a family. I didn’t golf for a few years during this time. To get back into golf, my (late) husband Ward bought me a driver. I thought, “What are you doing buying me a driver?” I returned it and got a blender instead. Our kids were probably about two and four then. I was very involved with my kids and that made it hard to get out and play golf.
Eventually, I did get back into golfing because I love it.
I got my amateur status back. I am naturally competitive and love a good challenge. Over time, competing for me changed from competing for money to competing for prizes. I love the latter more so. It’s funny because you don’t get a prize when you win a National Championship — you get a trophy and attention. It’s different.
Now when I go out there, I’m just trying to hit shots, stay in the present, and not really worry about it. I’m not putting any pressure on myself to do well. When I swing, I’m just letting it take care of itself. I try to be as relaxed as I can.
Who has influenced you or supported you in your golf pursuits?
There are many to name here:
In my early days, Ben Colk made a big impact on me. He has passed away now. He was a retired golf pro when I met him. He basically took me under his wing. We would go to the driving range at Fairwinds Golf Club and he’d help me with my game. I never had to pay for golf lessons.
In my life now, some of my biggest supporters are my family and friends. My (late) husband Ward and my kids. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without my kids wanting me to do it. My son, Brett, was a huge help to me in Alaska, even though he wasn’t thrilled to go at first. In the end, he loved the experience and had a great time being my caddie.
My mom is always supportive of me. She inspires me too. She is 82 now and hitting the ball a lot further than she has in a long time. She was ready to quit golf a couple of years ago and then we did TPI together.
My sister Sandra is also always there to support me. She had one big regret when she could not caddie for me in 2001 at the U.S. Women’s Open due to her work schedule at the time. She has caddied for me since and is quick to say yes when I ask. Sandra is great on the bag.
Jason Gilbert, one of (my late husband) Ward’s and my closest friends, is always promoting me and sometimes organizing my hotels for events. He also caddied for me when I was a professional golfer at the U.S. Women’s Open. We usually play in a mixed event at the beginning of every golf season, and it is a lot of fun.
At Fairwinds, Brian Evans in the pro shop has always encouraged me. Julie Hazelwood’s support and Fairwind’s sponsorship have also been an immense help.
Debbie Pyne at BC Golf. She has helped me since I turned 50 with Player Development and goal setting. Debbie first came to me after I won the 2020 BC Senior Women’s Amateur and said, “We want to win national championships and it starts with you.” Since then and with her support, I have won three national championships. She is so motivating.
Titleist Canada has also partnered with me and it has been great to have their support with my equipment needs.
What are the biggest challenges when it comes to juggling your job, your family and your competitive season?
The biggest challenge has been managing everything simultaneously, especially with having kids. Though I have been so fortunate to have my mom and sister assist with childcare over the years when my kids were younger. Everything has gotten increasingly easier now that they are older.
Another challenge is scheduling clients when I am away frequently for tournaments. Sometimes I am only home for a couple of days and I fit them in then. I have also pivoted to seeing clients virtually when I am away.
Travel logistics is another pain point. It was easier in 2022 because I did not have to go through qualifiers due to having exemptions. 2021 was particularly difficult because I made it into the USGA right after the Canadians.
What have your boys taught you?
They have also helped me to learn to focus on the course because they are very distracting. They can be challenging on the golf course. They are 15 and 16 and fighting. I have had to learn how to play when I am in the middle of all that. So, if you need to work on your focus, bring your kids on the course with you!
What do you hope they learn from you?
I hope they learn patience, too, on the golf course.
I also hope they learn to be fair and never cheat. I work to instill golf in their minds as a game of honor. I want to continue to teach them traditional golf values.
It was a big deal when they wanted to start keeping score. I told them if they wanted to keep score, they would have to play by the rules. When they asked if they could redo a shot, I said no. I said you can’t do that, that counts as a shot, and they would be in tears over it.
Sometimes we go out for fun and we don’t keep score, so we don’t necessarily play by the rules in those situations. That’s fine.
Like any parent, I just want them to grow up to be honest, good humans.
What life lessons have you learned from golf?
Honesty and punctuality.
Being on time for your tee time is the easiest form of etiquette. Being early is even better. Give yourself lots of time in case something happens that is unexpected.
What advice do you have for women considering trying tournament golf?
Try it. I know it can be intimidating but the experience is worth it.
If I were to give any advice, it would be to take the Level 1 Rules Course (available online) so you know the rules better before competing. The Level 1 Course is free and it is a great benefit for any golfer.
Secondly, try to play a two-person event with someone who has been in a tournament before if you can.
If you could snap your fingers and instantly make golf better for women, what would you do?
This is a tough one to answer.
Overall, I would like to make it easier for women to simply come out and play.
Having clinics at all courses that welcome women to teach the basics would be great. From experience, beginners want to know about grip, stance, and basic setup. They want to learn the full swing, chipping and putting, and etiquette. There are so many different aspects to the game. It can be really challenging when you are new to the game.
I was talking to someone at the range who knew about “Golf and Tacos” and one of the guys who was practicing simultaneously asked about it. He was thinking that golf isn’t intimidating for women to go to a pro shop and book a tee time. If you have no clue what you are doing or where you are going, of course, it can be intimidating.
(This article first appeared on the Women’s Golf Project. Used by permission.)