Debbie Waitkus, keynote speaker at Teeing it up for Success. Photo courtesy Golf for a Cause.

Debbie Waitkus, keynote speaker at Teeing it up for Success. Photo courtesy Golf for a Cause.

When Debbie Waitkus went golfing for the first time in 1990 with a group of coworkers, she was pregnant and had no expectations regarding the game. To her surprise, her main concern was not making the ball fly through the air, but rather if should could tee the ball over her pregnant belly. Turned out, she loved the game.

“I had zero expectations because I didn’t think golf was a sport, it wasn’t on my radar screen at all,” Waitkus says. “I’m adventurous enough that I said yes, I would go, and I have to tell you honestly that I had a ball. I had such a good time with the people that I played with who were my coworkers, actually I was their boss, that immediately things in our office changed because we were able to connect with each other as humans instead of as ‘Debbie the Boss.’”

Waitkus will be the keynote speaker March 26 at the Hope Heart Institute’s Teeing it up for Business Success, to be held at the Glendale Country Club in Bellevue. The seminar will include breakout sessions for different levels of golfers, a panel discussion, and a networking happy hour.

Since Waitkus’ first experience with golf more than 20 years ago, she founded Golf for a Cause in Scottsdale, Arizona, authored of  Get Your Golf On! Your Guide to Getting in the Game, and contributedto the book Teeing Up for Success. Golf for a Cause organizes business-networking events, including a golf mentoring program for women called Nine and Wine that includes a facilitated discussion about lessons learned on the green and in business.

Hope Heart Institute Executive Director Cherie Skager says it became obvious Waitkus was a natural fit to be keynote speaker when the organization started putting together the networking and business development seminar for Eastside business women.

“Golf is such an amazing opportunity for business development, and so many women have been iced out of conversations because they don’t play golf, they don’t attend tournaments, and they don’t understand the culture around it,” Skager says. “There’s so many opportunities in the business world with tournaments, charity tournaments, and the upcoming U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in just attending the tournament. It’s important to know how to take advantage of those opportunities and use them to your benefit. We want to give women those tools.”

Waitkus says attendees will not only learn about the game of golf, but come away from the event with actionable steps to further business development and networking opportunities.

“One of the things that keeps women away in the business scenario as in a golf scenario is the invitation,” Waitkus says. “We very often want to be invited in and this is the opportunity for everyone to be invited.”