Global Golf Post Feature: White Bear’s Farrell a ‘Wonder Woman’ in Golf Business
Global Golf Post contributor, John Steinbreder, shares his conversation with Abendroth Golf's founder, Emily Farrell, on how she launched Abendroth Golf. From her collegiate days in golf to her business career in the industry, John opens up her story as a PGA Professional, working mom and entrepreneur.
Not long after she and her husband, John, started a family, Emily Farrell thought it was also a good time to launch a business.
She was busy enough when she made that decision, working as an assistant golf professional at the White Bear Yacht Club just north of St. Paul, Minnesota, and raising her kids. But Farrell had an idea – to reinvent what she called the old-school golf uniform for women by creating apparel that was functional, feminine and stylish enough to be worn on and off the course.
So, in the spring of 2020, with the pandemic shutting down much of the world and Farrell pregnant with what turned out to be a daughter, she founded Abendroth Golf. At its inception, the company offered only one product, the Peggy Pant, a professional jogger-style golf pant made of a technical fabric that boasted a tapered end, an ankle zip and five-pocket system.
“I did not even have order forms when I started,” said the 33-year-old Farrell, who used her middle name (which is also her grandmother’s last name) as the appellation for the apparel maker and her sister’s name for the pants. “But we sold through that first run of 300 units in about five weeks that spring. And that gave us enough money to fund a second run in the fall, which also sold out.”
Some three years later, Farrell not only has a third child on the way but also three products at Abendroth – the Peggy Cropped Trouser and the Ruth Cropped Trouser to go with the Peggy Pant – and close to 100 accounts with green-grass golf professionals. And she expects to sell as many as 7,000 units in 2023.
“I called her Wonder Woman when she was here as an assistant,” said Brendan Walsh, the director of golf at The Country Club. “She was very capable and a very hard worker.”
Now, Walsh is also a fan of Abendroth Golf. “Her pants have a really good universal fit, which is not easy to find with women’s wear,” he said. “And they can be worn both on and off the course. We’ve done well with them at Brookline, and her pants were part of our U.S. Open uniform for women volunteers last summer.”
Hectic as things may be, Farrell says she is having a lot of fun. But it has been that way for her with golf ever since she started playing the game when she was a little girl.
“I grew up across the street from a small club outside St. Paul,” said Farrell, the oldest of three children. “It’s a small, quiet place with a Seth Raynor design golf course and no tee times. I spent my summers there as a kid, playing and practicing. I was the only girl junior golfer, and I fell in love with the game.
“I went to an all-girls high school and played on the team there. And I took lessons from Brad James, who coached golf at the University of Minnesota, and later with another professional, Gerald McCullagh. Brad was the one who pushed me to think about a PGM (Professional Golf Management) school when I graduated. And that’s what led me to enroll in Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
“I played on the golf team at Methodist as I also went through the PGM program, and it was the perfect setup. The team was very good and very competitive. There were 20 girls, and we were always battling to see who would get one of the five travel-team spots.
“I always was a No. 3 or 4 player, and I generally shot from 78 to 82, which was decent for college golf but not good enough to make money as a tour professional. So I started to think about getting into golf on the corporate side. That was different from most of the folks in the PGM program at Methodist. They all wanted to become golf professionals.”
Farrell graduated from Methodist in 2011, having majored in business management and minored in marketing. She became a PGA professional that same year.
“As part of the PGM program, I had internships for all four years of college,” Farrell said. “I spent two summers at Interlachen Country Club in Minnesota and one at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts. And then for my last summer, I worked for Titleist.”
She stayed at the Massachusetts-based equipment maker for five years after that internship ended, starting in customer service and then moving to advertising and marketing.
“I loved it there, and some of my fondest memories were going on location shoots associated with the advertising and marketing campaigns we were doing,” she said. “It really expanded my knowledge about building and sustaining a brand.”
But then an opportunity opened on the agency side. “It was Studio 6, which was part of Havas Media, and I managed the creative team for anything Titleist,” Farrell explained. “It gave me another perspective of the business.”
Though she enjoyed her work there, Farrell found that she missed being around golfers, and golf. So, she got back into the game.
“I went to work for Brendan for a season at The Country Club,” Farrell said. “That was a great experience. But then, I became pregnant with our second child. My husband and I started thinking about where we were going to live long-term. At the time, we were in Massachusetts, where he was from. And we had met at Titleist when he was working there as a golf ball engineer. In the end, however, we decided to move to Minnesota.”
Farrell says that when her family agreed to take that step, Walsh reached out on her behalf to Chris Nathlich, the director of golf and general manager at White Bear, which is where F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, lived for a spell in the summer of 1921 before having to leave the club because of their “rambunctious” behavior. That call eventually led Nathlich to offer Farrell a job as an assistant golf professional. And she holds that position to this day.
“The first year, I was doing all those things you would expect an assistant to do,” she said. “Then, in 2021, I took on more of a teaching role as I also did a lot of the buying for the shop.”
By that time, Farrell already had been thinking about the business that would become Abendroth Golf.
“The idea came from my years at Titleist, being on those shoots and feeling like I wanted to look professional but the golf clothes I normally wore on the course were not professional enough for a work situation, at least for a woman,” Farrell said. “And if we did try to wear more corporate clothes on the course, they did not hold up. Guys could wear slacks and golf shirts and be fine. But it was different for a woman. Our options were limited.”
They are less so now, thanks to what Farrell is offering at Abendroth.
“It’s pretty much just me right now,” she said. “Everything ships out of my house, and I have a neighbor who has three boys help with fulfillment. My husband also lends a hand behind the scenes. I continue to work at the club, even teaching through the winter on the TrackMan simulators they have at White Bear. But I have cut down a bit on my hours at the club, so I can balance all that is going on. Fortunately, the team there lets me lean on them a lot for help.”
With the initial success of the pants – and plans to introduce a top in the not-too-distance future – things likely will get busier. And let’s not forget about baby No. 3.
But as Farrell has proved time and time again, she can handle whatever is put on her plate.