When she was a child and her father would take her to her junior golf events, Denise Desilet would pay close attention to the women in uniform.
Dressed impeccably, they would roam the course offering instruction and encouragement to the girls.
“I always dreamed of one day being able to do that,” Desilet said. “Since I retired (from work) in 2000, I’ve been able to do that every year. I really enjoy giving back to a game that has given me so much.”
Desilet will take advantage of another opportunity afforded to her via golf this weekend, as the 57-year-old Wichita resident competes in her fourth U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur. Stroke play is Saturday and Sunday at the Hershey (Pa.) Country Club before the field is consolidated to 64 for match play on Monday.
For the last four decades, there hasn’t been a tournament that Desilet hasn’t conquered in Kansas. Since her retirement, Desilet’s life has expanded because of the game of golf.
“That’s why I feel the need to give back to the game of golf,” she said. “For all of the great things I’ve gotten to enjoy, all the wonderful people I’ve met from all over the world, and the opportunities to play on some great courses.”
As the wins have piled up, Desilet has instead used her platform to encourage younger girls to pick up golf. In many ways, she has become the face of women’s golf for Kansas.
“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to be president was because of people like Denise,” Kansas Women’s Golf Association president Julie McKinnis said. “She’s an icon for golf in the state of Kansas and you couldn’t ask for a nicer, more modest person than Denise.”
Over the years, Desilet’s time on a golf course has fluctuated, but the last few years have seen a spike.
Known for her consistency, Desilet has built a foundation of winning through straight shots and feel around greens.
“Since I wasn’t able to hit the ball as long as some of the other gals, I had to find ways to be able to stay competitive,” Desilet said. “So I worked really hard on my short game and that’s how I’ve been able to stay competitive.”
Being her fourth time playing in the Senior Amateur, the allure of the event has dulled some for Desilet. In its place, Desilet hopes to continue raising awareness for the game of golf for young ladies.
“The world’s changed quite a bit since I was in college,” she said. “There are more and more opportunities for girls and college girls to play and we need to continue that. Golf is a great way to build self-esteem and teach things like integrity and honesty.”