Leading Ladies: Jenny San Filippo
In this series, we’ll be taking a look at women’s disc golfers around the world who run leagues, tournaments, clubs, and more. These powerhouse ladies will walk you through their challenges, struggles, and successes—and prepare you for your own. If you would like us to feature a standout woman in your community, share your stories with us at [email protected].
In 2007, you’d be more likely to find Jenny San Filippo in a garden than on a disc golf course. These days, though, the horticulture graduate spends much of her time with her vinyl cutter, packaging orders, running tournaments, and welcoming women to disc golf.
Her business, Ladies First Disc Golf, is celebrating four years of operation. Its mission—to look out for the needs of female disc golfers—is reflected in its elegant fox logo, made to represent the whimsical and free-spiritedness of women disc golfing in the woods.
San Filippo’s origins begin in the upper Midwest. When she first got involved in women’s disc golf, it was to help create the Milwaukee branch of the Disc on Ladies Leagues (DoLLS) of Wisconsin. In 2015 she saw women struggle to throw discs that didn’t cater to their arm speeds, so she decided to take the plunge and become a business owner.
“I was kind of thinking, it’s really confusing buying new discs as a woman,” San Filippo said. “I was searching for discs that were appropriate for me, and I would see women throwing discs that are not appropriate for them. I felt there needed to be a company that caters to that.”
It didn’t take her long to tackle what she saw as a huge hole in the market.
“That year for my birthday,” San Filippo said, “I told my husband I wanted a domain name, and that was LadiesFirstDiscGolf.com.”
San Filippo’s goal was to do what she felt like bigger manufacturers weren’t doing. “I wanted to create this online presence that is dedicated to women’s disc golf and the products that we use,” she said.
The spirit she brings to her business harkens back to her beginnings as a disc golfer. At her first tournament, she showed up with a fanny pack and without a mini. Despite how little she knew of competition at the time, it was there that she got hooked, drawn in by friendly faces. It is this kind of welcoming attitude that she emulates now when trying to draw other women to the sport.
“Making people feel like they belong [is key],” San Filippo said. “Once they start improving, it kind of takes care of itself.”
It’s more than just an attitude, though: San Filippo also contributes to the game with her earnings, as Ladies First sponsors around 25 female disc golfers she has named the Sparkle Sisters.
“All the ladies on the team are world champions or great ambassadors to the sport,” San Filippo said. “The kind, welcoming ladies you want to encounter at a tournament or at a league.”
That’s not the only way she gives back. San Filippo will often donate items like Disc Golf Survival Kits (which include a mini lip balm, a pencil, a button, and other essentials) to various women’s leagues and clubs across the country that are in need of prizes. She has helped run the Wisco Disco tournament outside of Madison for the past five years and has spent the last four seasons running The Sparkle Open in Milwaukee.
San Filippo says one of her next goals is to run a mixed doubles event, which she believes is a great tool for helping women feel at ease when coming out to play. “Just having the comfort of a friend, a brother, or a significant other—having another person to play that tournament with—eases the nerves,” she explained. “Sometimes they surprise themselves with being better than they think they are. And they get the chance to meet other disc golfers, too.”
Four years of perseverance has helped her transition from needing to sell out of inventory in order to buy more to offering an almost full line of apparel. Shoppers can find skorts, polos, travel bags, and visors; the shirts are specifically meant to be comfortable and attractive, unlike the big and boxy ones she says she often gets at tournaments.
Still, San Filippo is still not quite where she’d like to be. The end game is to go full-time with the store, but getting the brand name out there has been one of Ladies First’s biggest challenges. There’s no denying, though, how far she’s come and the passion behind her desire to get the right discs and tools into women’s hands. Hesitation doesn’t seem to have ever been part of her journey.
Indeed, San Filippo said that, no matter what you’re looking for in the sport, it’s important to just go for it.
“The disc golf family and community is so welcoming and everyone wants everyone to play,” she said. “Don’t hold back, no matter what you want to do in disc golf. It’s different for everyone. Everyone has a different meaning behind it. Just put you best effort forward and everyone will support you.”
“Don’t miss the opportunities you could have by holding yourself back.”
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