Today’s Wednesday’s Woman is author, trumpet player, and music historian Susan Fleet. She is the author of the Detective Frank Renzi Series, two books on serial killers, and WOMEN WHO DARED: Trailblazing 20th Century Musicians. You can listen to a sample track from her Baroque Treasures for Trumpet and Organ CD here. Visit Susan’s website.
Amazon and Bookbub is offering Jackpot, Book 4 in Susan’s Renzi Series, for a limited time only. Here’s Susan…
How about that Mo’en Davis! This 13-year-old girl with the blazing fastball is an inspiration to us. During the recent Little League World Series, she tossed a 2-hitter to lead the Philadelphia Taney Dragons to a 4-0 victory. She pitched the complete game, the first female pitcher to throw a shutout in Little League World Series history. Using her 70mph fastball, the five-foot-four dynamo struck out 8 batters and allowed only two hits.
Accolades from other sports women
When fitness blogger Stephanie Tuck grew up in Newton, MA, she was the only girl on her Little League team, the only girl in the league. “[Mo’en] will not only inspire other girls to play,” Stephanie says, “but she is helping to remove the ‘specialness’ of girls playing at that level. Over time people won’t be amazed that a girl is so good. They will simply be amazed that a particular [player] is so good. Gender won’t matter.”
But gender mattered at the 1999 Little League World Series. Alicia Humbolt started at second base for a team from Ramstein Air Base in Germany, but Alicia says, “One opposing coach refused to let his team play against me.”
Donna Orender, a former president of the WNBA, believes Mo’en will help to dispel the “biases we’re taught as kids about the boys’ roles and the girls’ roles.” She tells girls to pursue their dreams no matter what. “Do what you think you want to do, and do your best.” Donna helped to found Generation W, an organization that supports inspiring women and girls.
Throw like a girl?
These days that phrase takes on a whole new meaning. One woman said her 10-year-old nephew started to make a crack about “someone throws like a girl” but stopped. Not because he knew she would disapprove. He had seen Mo’en pitch in the LL World Series on television. “He thought about Davis,” the woman said, “and actually said her name.”
I wish this story ended with Mo’en and her team winning the Little League World Series. But the Taney Dragons lost their second game. Mo’en was the starting pitcher but did not finish. However, the game drew the largest TV audience for a Little League World Series game in network history, largely due to the interest in Mo’en Davis.
Mo’en is the first Little League player ever to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, but she’s modest about her success. “I never thought I would be a role model at this age, so I just have to be myself.” It’s unlikely that Mo’en will make it to the major leagues, and there are no professional women’s baseball teams. But she does have a dream. Her first goal is to play point guard for the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team. Then she wants to play in the WNBA. Stay tuned!
A Dynamite Golfer
Imagine winning the triple crown of golf; the US Open, the Masters and the world championship. That’s what Olivia Prokopova did this year in the hyper-competitive game of professional miniature golf. Most of her competitors are middle-aged men, but that doesn’t bother her. “At a tournament, it feels like we are one big family,” Olivia says. “We see each other regularly and [they] are very supportive.” Asked if they mind being beaten by a girl, Olivia said, “I have once beaten the same player in sudden-death playoff three times in a row. He was a little upset and walked away briskly, but even then, he later came back and offered his congratulations.”
A Mini-golf Professional
Most people don’t even know there are professional mini-golf players. But 19-year old Olivia is a celebrity in her native Czech Republic. The subject of a book and a documentary, she has corporate sponsors and her own website. People all over the world play mini-golf for fun, but professional courses are far more difficult. They feature a series of AstroTurf putting greens, with variations in elevation and pitch. Skill is more important than luck. Players must sink their shots in one or two strokes per hole.
This is where Olivia excels. She won the 2013 World Crazy Golf Championship in Hastings, Scotland, by a margin of 21 strokes. “There’s no fear in her,” says Rick Alessi, 57, who will compete against Olivia in the 2014 US Open Miniature Golf Tournament. “She just loves the game.”
Olivia began playing mini-golf at the age of three. “My dad worked as a sports reporter and he took me with him to an interview he did with a mini-golf trainer. I tried to play and really liked it. I kept asking when we could go back to play more.” She was seven when she played her first US tournament.
“It was amazing,” she said. “All the other players would stand around me and cheer, some of them screaming and jumping in the air.”
She travels with her parents, her brother, and Ales Vik, an employee of her father’s miniature golf course-building company in the Czech Republic. Olivia speaks only basic English. Her father, Jan Prokop, speaks no English at all, so an interpreter translates for her at press interviews. But sometimes it gets lonely. “Because I play all the time, I don’t have many friends, but I like the players here. They are like my second family.”
Prizes in miniature golf are nothing like those in the “big” golf world. Adam Scott took home $1.4 million for winning the Masters. The Minigolf Masters has a total prize fund of $12,000. Although the entry fees are not high, Olivia and her family have large travel expenses. Fees from exhibitions and corporate sponsors help to pay them.
For Olivia, mini-golf is a full-time job. Six days a week she practices 8 to 12 hours a day, and has already undergone operations on one wrist and both knees. On Wednesdays, she does schoolwork from 3 to 8PM.
Despite her celebrity, Olivia is modest. “I haven’t got any talent, I just practice every day.” To explain, she punches words into Google Translate, then reads aloud what appears on her cellphone. “Diligence.” Asked if she has a dream, she says, “We have challenged Tiger Woods on several occasions, mainly through the media, but he never responded. Maybe he is afraid?” she joked.
Two other girls dared to follow their dream
Trumpeter Edna White and violinist Maud Powell thrilled millions of listeners at a time when most women stayed home to raise a family. Read more about them in WOMEN WHO DARED: Trailblazing 20th Century Musicians.