Paul Sliwka, on left, and Amy Powell, members of Lambda Links. (Photos courtesy the subjects)
Golf takes the spotlight this week in the ongoing Washington Blade All Star series. Two LGBT players from Lambda Links share their path to the sport of golf.
Paul Sliwka had a golf course near his home in upstate New York as a youth and he occasionally snuck in with his brother to hit golf balls. Organized sports came in the way of little league baseball and peewee football.
As a high schooler, he was a school record holder in the pole vault. Originally from Washington, he returned to the area to attend Georgetown University.
Sliwka started his own business in 2011, Central Properties, and made sure he left room in his schedule for outside activities. He began with golf lessons at Langston Golf Course and eventually signed up with Lambda Links.
“It’s nice to have a regular golf date with folks that are nonjudgmental and interesting. It forced me to become a better golfer,” Sliwka says. “The Links offered a way of playing golf that I hadn’t experienced before. They are extremely welcoming of beginners and they worked with me. It was a soft landing.”
Now an avid golfer who is competing in tournaments, Sliwka weaves in his other hobbies, skiing and art collecting, on his travels. He calls it “traveling with a purpose.”
“In life as in golf, if you keep your head down and keep grinding, good things will happen,” Sliwka says. “I love to compete and it is necessary to be patient in this sport. The first putt and the last putt are both important.”
Sliwka also competes in tournaments with the Maryland State Golf Association and played earlier this year with Stonewall Golfers in Palm Springs. Last month he won a bronze medal at the Gay Games in Paris. Coming up for him this month are the Lambda Links club championships at Twin Lakes Golf Course.
“Lambda Links is a great mix of people, men and women of all ages,” Sliwka says. “Competing in your sport makes you understand what you need. Golf for me is relaxing, lifts my spirits and makes me happy.”
Amy Powell needed a gym credit while attending William & Mary and chose golf. She didn’t think about the sport again until years later when a friend needed a golf partner. She found herself hooked.
Born in Roanoke, Va., Powell grew up a tennis player. She played on her high school team and was a walk-on at William & Mary. After completing grad school at the University of Vermont, she moved to D.C. in 1999. She bowled with the Capital Area Rainbowlers Association and the following year signed up with Lambda Links.
“Lambda Links has players of all levels and the league is a good way to get started in the sport,” Powell says. “I like having a built in social event along with a guaranteed tee time.”
Powell, who works at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, refers to herself as an achiever type and likes that there are multiple levels of challenges in golf.
“Golf is the hardest sport I have ever tried,” Powell says. “You can measure yourself in different ways; against the course, against your last round.”
Working her way through the sport, Powell played in a few Pro-Ams until a back injury knocked her out two years ago. This year marked her return to Lambda Links.
“It’s been great to see folks again and reconnect. That two-year period was like an extended winter,” she says. “Lambda Links is a healthy balance between people who want to compete and people who want to learn the sport.”