Growing up in a family of athletes in Ridgewood, it’s no wonder that sports have always been a major part of Debbie O’Connell’s life. Whether she was playing basketball or softball with her two sisters, or on a team coached by her mom, she had a talent for all types of sports. “My mom was instrumental in my high school success,” says Debbie, who was inducted into the inaugural Ridgewood High School Athletic Hall of Fame for basketball and softball. Her mom, who had spent time as a professional bowler, developed competitive softball and basketball team for girls resulting in solid feeder programs for Ridgewood sports. Debbie’s dad had played minor league baseball and she had an uncle in the major leagues.
Debbie played collegiate basketball for Western Kentucky University where she had the opportunity to play in the Final Four as a freshman. “When I was a junior, the college golf coach invited me to play golf with her. She worked with me every day. When she invited me to be in a tournament after playing for only three weeks, I said, ‘Sure!’ I didn’t know the rules, but I did well for a golfer who played for less than a month! That’s how I got started and I found that I really liked the game.”
After graduation, Debbie went to Florida to work on her golf game, becoming an LPGA Club Professional. Over the years she played in core professional events and worked at several golf clubs throughout Florida. She started a business called “Ladies Links for Golf,” presenting golf events and clinics. It has been proven that women who play golf elevate their careers quicker and Debbie believes golf is especially impactful for a woman in business. “A great example is a woman I met who was a manager in a large company. She found out that ideas were being discussed outside of work during golf games, so she decided she needed to play. Two weeks later, she accompanied her co-workers on the course, and that put her in the loop. Women have the choice--they have to put themselves in there. Developing relationships is the key.”
Debbie moved back to New Jersey and started Golf Positive, focusing on teaching positive mindsets and mental playing strategies for players of all abilities. She offers individual group lessons and clinics as well as corporate and women’s outings.
She moved on to create Live Positive, which focuses on positive mindsets outside of the sport of golf. “I enjoy helping people unleash from what’s holding them back which allows them to create a positive mindset to achieve their goals,” says Debbie.
Debbie’s programs for young women also emphasize confidence and positivity. She has a little fun with the superhero component she brings into her presentations and likes to appear in full Wonder Woman apparel--complete with cape and tiara--when she reminds girls to “be your own superhero!” Her programs build leadership, power and confidence using golf skills and imagery. Through the process, Debbie has seen girls overcome shyness, bullying and anxiety. “I believe that you get what you focus on, so we encourage the girls to get excited and emotional about the good things, not the negative things. Consider the negative things a learning experience and move on.”
“Golf Positive Live Positive” is Debbie’s book which includes golf tips related to life. She is currently working on her next book focused on women executives.
When asked about her own sense of inspiration and motivation, Debbie replies, “I practice what I teach and I wake up thankful every day. I am committed to using all of my God-given gifts to the fullest.”