USA Womens Rugby players practice on the field

Olympic-sized Commitment

Vintage Club Members have a vested interest in USA Women's Rugby team's quest at Rio Olympics

Judd Spicer Sports, Watch & Listen - Sports & Outdoors

USA Womens Rugby players practice on the field
Members of the USA Women's Rugby team participated in team drills earlier this year at The Vintage Club in Indian Wells. They open play in the Rio Olympics this weekend.

Members at The Vintage Club are used to going for the green.

Now, they’re going for the Gold.

While up at his Alaskan home last year, Vintage member Bob Penney learned that the USA Women’s Rugby team headed for the Summer Olympic Games was visiting the desert.

Not familiar with the game of women’s rugby? Well, neither is the Olympics.

This weekend in Rio de Janeiro (Aug. 5 – 21) marks the debut of women’s rugby in the Games; as for the men, their game is making its return to the Olympics for the first time in 92 years. The USA Women’s Rugby team opens play Aug. 6 in the morning against Fiji and faces Colombia in the afternoon.

The Olympics will present the ‘Rugby Sevens’ version of the sport, as opposed to the 15-on-15 version that viewers may be slightly more familiar.

“A friend of mine up in Alaska, he works in the governor’s office and told me they were bringing the first Women’s Olympic Rugby team up there where we live,” says Penney. “We ended up taking 15 of these young ladies fishing and then we all sat around the fire at night and they told us, in our opinion, how unfairly they’re being treated because they didn’t have any funding. They didin’t even have any money for uniforms.”

Penny gave the women’s challenge a Vintage treatment in March as the Indian Wells club hosted a fundraiser.

The day began with a member-attended team practice at the tee box on hole No. 6 of the Mountain Course, before an afternoon cocktail party and evening clubhouse dinner ensued.

“I told one of the girls: You did a pretty good job catching fish in Alaska; let’s see if we can catch you some dollars down in the desert,” Penney smiled.

Alan Boeckmann, Vintage member and the club’s President-elect, became a key part of a committee to help coordinate the donations. After winter meetings with the team, it was determined that the women were in need of about $140,000 in funds to help with everything from gear, to medical and training equipment, to additional team staffing to international travel.

“Almost every one of these girls has quit other pursuits professionally to be on this team,” says Boeckmann of the U.S. team ranked fourth in the world. “And they’re woefully under-funded; there are a lot of personal expenses they have to cover – travel expenses and even basic things like equipment. So Bob brought several of us together here at The Vintage, and had three or four of the girls here. After talking with them and understanding what they needed, we said, ‘We really need to do something to help here.'”

VIDEO: Hear from U.S. Olympic team member Alev Kelter during their stop at the Vintage Club in Indian Wells.