By Marc Hardin
The GCWGA has appointed to new positions four executive board members who will be working to continue the association’s longstanding service to the community.
Chief among the new appointees is 2017 President Tracey Capuano, last year’s Fall Team Play chair. Capuano grew up near the par-3 Green Hills Golf Course and often played the nine-hole venue on Enfield Street in Cincinnati. Her enthusiasm for the sport, especially as it pertains to women, never waned.
“I am so excited to be heading the GCWGA this year,” said Capuano, “and work with an enthusiastic group of Board members to make Greater Cincinnati women’s golf fun and competitive for all who participate.”
For Capuano, participation is the name of the game. While attending now-defunct Greenhills High School and as she studied at Ohio State University, Capuano was rarely far from golf even though she was never a member of a varsity team. That little technicality, however, didn’t stop her from playing the Scarlet and Gray Courses at Ohio State.
While Capuano was there, students were afforded the opportunity to play on the Scarlet and Gray for a fee. She couldn’t pass that up and played a lot of golf in Columbus in 1984. Not only did she rekindle her love for the game at OSU, she found love, meeting her future husband.
“I waited until I met my husband to start playing a lot. He used to work at a golf club,” said Capuano. She currently works as a radon protection specialist. “We’ve based our social life around golf.”
Her participation will see no let-up. She’ll be golfing at Four Bridges Country Club during the season. The former flight winner at the Greater Cincinnati Women’s Metropolitan plans to tee it up again at this summer’s 102nd Met. She’s a veteran of the Fall Team circuit. As leader of the association, she hopes to build a trend of greater participation at all GCWGA events.
“I would love to see participation in our tournaments increase and make our golfers realize that many of the tournaments, including the MET, are flighted and you will be paired and playing against those who scored similarly in stroke play,” Capuano said. “By participating in Spring and Fall team play and our tournaments, we have the opportunity to play some of the best courses around.”
Melanie Stewart is the new secretary. Originally from Michigan, she is a volunteer and retired professional with experience at Proctor & Gamble Company and the publishing industry. She has newsletter writing experience and has seen her work appear in hometown newspapers and at Cincinnati.com.
“It’s definitely fun,” Stewart said of her GCWGA duties. “I was very honored to be asked if I was interested in the board. I was pretty excited.”
Stewart is a member at Terrace Park, site of this year’s Women’s Met, but she thinks she’s still a few years away from trying to tackle the area’s best. “I hope to play some day,” she said. “I’m working on slowly bringing my handicap down.”
Renee Obial is the new Fall Team Chair. The former Summit Country Day tennis player and Cincinnati Marlins swimmer eventually turned her attention to the golf courses, where she has flashed her skills on the GCWGA’s Spring Team and Fall Team circuits, the Kent Tournament and the Crystal Bowl. While Obial has a busy career, she also competes at club championships and mixed couples events at her home club at Hyde Park.
Learning is a love for Obial. Her board position will ensure that she learns a lot more about golf. The gaining of new knowledge already is underway. “I’m learning more about what goes on behind the scenes in the fall,” said Obial, a cardiothoracic clinical nurse specialist at Jewish Hospital.
Karen Hjelm, a retired computer programmer who moved to the area from California, is the new assistant tournament director. A Cincinnati resident for 11 years, she spent last week getting up to speed on rules at the USGA-PGA Rules of Golf Workshop in Florence, Ky. In college she was up to speed as a rower at Loyola Marymount, where she is a member of the athletics hall of fame. One of the founders of the Marymount women’s crew team, she helped circulate a petition and presented it to the Provost to include women’s crew as a sport.
According to her bio at LMU, she had an unparalleled six years of success in the late 1970s and early ’80s. In 1977, she won the school’s first ever United States National Medal in crew. In 1978, she won a bronze medal in crew at the U.S. Nationals and ran on the LMU men’s cross country team. In 1979, she won a silver medal in crew at the U.S. Nationals. In 1981, she captured a gold medal, the first for an LMU graduate. In 1982, she was hired as the school’s first women’s crew coach.
“That’s my biggest claim to fame,” said Hjelm, the namesake for LMU’s annual Karen Hock-Hjelm Cup. “You can’t get me talking about rowing.”
She eventually married a high school golfer. Now she is involved with the game down to the junior level. She plays at Kenwood and signs up for several GCWGA events.
“There was a rumor that they like me because I have computer skills,” Hjelm joked. “It should be a lot of fun.”