For someone who feared everything as a little girl, Brigite Babine certainly hasn’t lived her life like it. Whether it was working at an auto shop in high school or enrolling in the Keiser University College of Golf at age 58, Babine has made the most of every opportunity, many of which were outside of her comfort zone and in environments with few women.
“Until this interview, I didn’t think my life was all that impressive,” Babine said. “But looking back, I’ve pushed myself in ways I didn’t realize. Despite being scared of most things, I’ve learned over the years to ‘Do it afraid!’”
Babine grew up in Lewiston, Maine, where she was taught to work hard for everything she wanted. For example, Babine needed to earn money to afford softball equipment and driver’s ed, so she took a paid position as a bass player in an all-girls rock band. The only catch? Babine didn’t even know what a bass was. For her, this was something she could figure out along the way. Well, it turned out Babine was pretty good, and she ended up playing with the band through graduation and beyond.
Babine later applied to work as an auto mechanic in a local garage after school. Even though she wasn’t old enough to drive the cars in and out of the garage, Babine got the job thanks to her knowledge of tools, which she gained from her dad. Despite some reservations about working in the male-dominated industry, Babine jumped right in.
“Everything about working in the shop was intimidating,” Babine said. “I had so much to prove. I was barely 100 pounds, so I not only had to keep up with the physical challenges of the job, but I had to change the impression of customers who didn’t think a woman could work on their vehicles. As scary as it was, it was the work ethic I was raised with that drove me to do this job as a woman and to do anything I put my mind to.”
After working at multiple garages and an auto parts store for eight years, Babine pivoted to the corporate world. Even though her only knowledge of Accounts Payable and Receivable came from one high school class, she got a job as a clerk. She also picked up a job at L.L.Bean where she tallied up timecards four hours a night. That quickly turned into full-time roles in the budget department, IT and then admin support. Again, Babine found herself in environments with few women, and though she may have lacked the experience of her male counterparts, she quickly found that she outperformed them.
“The drive within me doesn’t think about ‘who’ this position is most suited for, but instead how I can do the very best to succeed,” Babine said. “It’s not always easy and self-doubt can creep in, but I’ve learned that success requires hard work, a willingness to be vulnerable and a drive to be better than the day before.”
After 10 years at L.L.Bean, Babine accepted a job with her current company, Avaya. She got the job because she knew the company’s technology better than the salespeople did. Babine has now been at Avaya for more than 20 years, where she works in the demo program as a Sr. Operations Manager, overseeing a global team.
During her time at Avaya, Babine completed her Associate’s Degree in Information Technology, built her own house, which included teaching herself how to run electrical wiring, and moved to Florida where she made new friends through tennis. At this point in life, many would have settled in and cruised to retirement. Not Babine, she kept her options open and found a role in a sport she avoided throughout her life: golf.
“Prior to doing anything with golf, I frankly thought it was a silly game,” Babine said. “I thought it was silly to chase a little white ball around. It didn’t feel like I’d get exercise from it, like I did with tennis. I didn’t even watch it on tv.”
Despite this preconceived notion, in 2017 Babine agreed to assist one of her tennis friends who was bringing back the Executive Women’s Golf Association, now known as LPGA Amateurs. Even though she enjoyed assisting with communications and social media, Babine still wasn’t interested in playing the game. Well, that was until she experienced her first clinic.
“Since I didn’t have a golf set, the club let me borrow some left-handed clubs,” Babine said. “I remember hitting my first shot square on the face and the woman next to me being amazed. You’d think that was what hooked me, but it was actually the frustration that came after.
“I expected to learn it overnight because I’m an overachiever, but as I played more, I started to appreciate the strategy of it and the challenge of playing against myself. So over time, I really started to enjoy it. Though it lacked the activity level of tennis, it still presented the mental, physical, and social aspects that make someone whole in a sense.”
Though Babine grew to enjoy the game, it was only in the past two years that she got serious about it. An avid learner, Babine stumbled upon the Keiser University College of Golf through a clinic held at the school. As the Global Education Provider for the LPGA, Keiser University offers a partnership tuition rate to all members of the LPGA Tour and LPGA Professionals, as well as LPGA Amateur Golf Association sectors and their family members. Intrigued by the accelerated program with a degree in just two years, and motivated by the tuition rate for being an LPGA Amateurs member, Babine took the leap of faith and enrolled in the fall of 2021.
“Having the opportunity to go back to school was amazing,” Babine said. “It just feels good waking up each morning knowing I’m learning something so foreign to me. Coming in with less knowledge than others was a vulnerable feeling, but digging in and saying I can learn this has been very empowering.”
The knowledge she’s gaining in class is also helping in so many other areas. It’s pushed Babine to further come out of her shell.
“Going to Residency Week in July was something I never would have thought about seven years ago,” Babine said. “I was the first woman to go to the Residency Program, which was a vulnerable position because I had to share my handicap with guys who grew up playing the game.”
Even through her first year at Keiser, Babine still wasn’t sure a career in golf was possible. That changed when she met Donna White, an instructor at the Keiser University College of Golf and Director of the Golf Coaching Center.
“I didn’t understand at the time, all the different avenues that golf can provide,” Babine said. “People kept asking me what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know, so that added a lot of pressure. But then Donna was the one to point out that golf was an $80B industry, and that my passion can take me anywhere within the sport. She also assured me that getting into the game late could be an advantage, as I had a different perspective than other golf professionals.”
With a renewed sense of confidence in her decision, Babine is excited for the future.
“Attending Keiser initially was just a plan for my future,” Babine said. “It was a plan for my retirement, to still be involved in something where I could add value. I wasn’t thinking much of anything after retirement, maybe I’ll play more tennis or do volunteer stuff, but the program has changed everything. It’s provided a new sense of purpose.”
Even though Babine is still unsure of what she wants to do in the golf industry, she knows that just like everything else she’s done in life, she’ll figure it out as she goes.