When four women get together there is an unwritten guarantee that a good time is going to be had by all but when Vicki Switzer, Caroline McCullough, Sandy Bell and Margie Cauldwell get together there is more than just fellowship and friendship, this is a sisterhood.
The foursome is known as The Oak Ridge Girls and at Oak Ridge Golf Course where all of their early morning antics and golf games take place, they are infamous.
The Oak Ridge Girls started out with just Switzer and McCullough, two retired school teachers who had known each other for years. Years ago, Switzer heard of McCullough from her fiancee, John who told her about this wonder woman who could do it all. She milked cows, taught school, sang and fixed big meals. Switzer was jealous of this woman her fiancee spoke so much about until she met McCullough and realized what a sweetheart she is. Switzer began playing golf because she was a "golfer's widow" and wanted something that she and her husband could enjoy together. The two women had been playing golf for several years and decided after their retirement they would start playing more. In 1998 they shopped around for courses and didn't find any they really liked. McCullough's husband, Mack is one of the groundskeepers at the golf course so they decided to give it a try. McCullough says that she was drawn to the course because it was in her element in the woods. They quickly fell in love with the beautiful course and made it their home.
A year later, Cauldwell joined after her retirement from Gasway Insurance. She had overheard McCullough talk about the beautiful new golf course she frequented during church choir practices. Having golfed for 10 years, she was in awe of Switzer, McCullough and the new course. She called and asked if they would allow her to join the pair and the original two ladies gladly accepted her.
"This isn't really about golf. We are just bosom buddies. It is a sisterhood," Cauldwell says.
The group plays what they refer to as "Zen golf'. Tee time is early in the morning when there are not a lot of people on the course and no scores are kept. Both of these factors assure that the group does what they set out to do, relax and have fun. All of them had played with "real golfers" before and found that it was too much pressure. These "real golfers" also said that they were nuts not to keep score. The foursome jokes that whoever loses the most balls is the winner.
Bell, a golfer of 15 years was the final member to join and make the girls a dynamic foursome. The first time Bell heard of Switzer was when Bell's granddaughter saw Switzer at school and reported that she had found her grandmother's twin. She met Switzer and McCullough through the Step Ahead Council which worked hand in hand with her job as the Director of the Office of Family and Children. When she retired from the position, she said she fell into the arms of The Oak Ridge Girls. A group which she feels fortunate to belong to because she thinks it is more fun to play with friends. Switzer and McCullough invited Bell to play with their threesome. Bell says she was intimidated at first because she thought they were actually good. After a day out on the course with the group, she knew better.
"We might be fairly decent golfers if we settled down and kept score," Bell says.
The girls named their group The Oak Ridge Girls because the group of regulars was formed at the Oak Ridge Golf Course and they were the only women that played the course. The girls now have their group name on personalized memo pads and tee off with their own personalized tees which reads, "The Oak Ridge Girls 2003 EABPFAAOIA PPP". The first group of letters stands for Bell's signature saying for a sporadic good shot; even a blind pig finds an acorn once in awhile. The three P's stand for McCullough's two catch phrases. In case of a bad shot the P's stand for pitiful, pitiful, pitiful and in the event of a good shot they stand for pin point precision. Tees and memo pads are not the only custom-made items in their game. Switzer's husband custom assembles her clubs by putting together varieties of shafts, grips and heads.
McCullough had double knee replacement in February but it has not kept her away from the game.
Switzer says, "Her game has improved so much we are all thinking about getting it done."
McCullough is also known to give the group lessons in botany and biology while they play. This has made the group more aware and in tune with the surroundings of the picturesque course.
McCullough says, "This group is my salvation. We come early, play, get out early and I've still got my whole day ahead of me."
Bell agrees, "This relationship means everything to me."