Lee Birdsong is the director of digital media for Southern Company, one of America’s largest energy companies serving more than 4.5 million customers. In this role, she oversees digital communications including Web, social media and digital advertising. She also leads Southern Company’s PGA Tour sponsorship efforts and manages a 20-member communications team. Lee has been with Southern Company for 25 years and is a board member of the First Tee of Atlanta at East Lake, Athletes for a Better World and is a member of the Advisory Board of the Judson Collegiate Legends Pro–Am).

Lee and her husband Bob have three sons. She enjoys travel, golf and spending time with her family.

Let’s dive right into it and see why Lee is one of our 100 Women in Golf.

Not Letting Your Emotions Get in the Way with Lee Birdsong 

100 Women in Golf – Hosted by Jenn Harris – Episode 1, featuring Lee Birdsong

Jenn – “Welcome to the show Lee.”

Lee – “Thank you. It’s great to be here Jenn.”

J – “[yeah]… So excited to have you! [Um] So, let’s… Let’s just get… Let’s dive right into it. [uh] When did you first start golfing, and did you have any hesitancy getting into the game?”

L – “Well, like you, I grew up around it, and took a few lessons as a young girl, but it never really caught on. Too bad! It would’ve been smarter to start earlier. And, then later in my life,…  my husband is a big golfer, and my children really… three sons, really enjoyed playing golf, in junior golf, so I was paying attention to it. And then the paths really crossed with my work, where I had the opportunity to help develop the sports strategy for Southern Company, and landing on PGA Tour as our [you know] main [uh] partner.”

J – “Nice. And, as a business woman, do you think golf has contributed to your successes so far; and how so?”

L – “I think being knowledgeable about golf has helped me, and I do play the game. Not all that great, but I play frequently. I [um] have really, through my role representing Southern Company with the PGA Tour, have seen how impressive, and how much opportunity there is on the golf course. And off the golf course. The whole golf community is really amazing… And embracing women more and more.[um] And it, [I mean] it’s a great opportunity to conduct business. Spending four hours with someone on a course, [is] you can learn a lot about a person during that time. So it’s…[uh] The business of golf is amazing, and being able to participate in it, and be able to talk the talk, [is] has definitely helped me in my role.”

J – “Now you were saying that you [kind of] got… you had the family element that got you into golf, but you also got the opportunity to start this PGA [kind of] sports side, of A Southern Company. Were you excited?… hesitant?… to jump into that role? Especially since, at that time, [um] had you played a lot of golf?”

L – “I hadn’t played so much.[uh] Southern Company has been the official energy company of the PGA Tour for at least fifteen years. So… But, at that time, my boys were playing golf, and [you know] I could always ask a question at home… learn at home… and they [you know]… I think they thought “Wow! I get to hang out with some pretty neat people!” So it definitely was a nice opportunity for me, and I did really take advantage of it, and jumped right in, and really paid attention to the opportunities, and [you know] tried to study the game of golf. And then I began playing. And as you know Jenn, I found a couple girlfriends,…”

J – “mm hmm”

L – “[um] that I play with, and that has made a huge difference. They’re both working women, and I play with them frequently now. I mean, like every week! We travel together, we take girls golf trips together, [so] but I can still play with my husband and sons on a Sunday afternoon as well.”

J – “mm hmm… Now did you meet them through the… through the industry, and through business, or did you meet them at the golf course?”

L – “[uh] One worked for Golf Digest, and I met her originally through the industry and business, and our kids were at the same school. And the other one is the mother of one of my sons good junior golf buddies. But they both are members at the [at the] same golf club that we are, so… granted, that made it a lot easier to just be able to get out and play more frequently. We play nine holes after work, and we play eighteen holes on the weekend, and like I said, it’s the [you know]…  I really… I love golf for so many reasons, but the comradery, the exercise, the being outside, are all big draws for me.”

J – “[yeah]. That’s wonderful. [[yeah]] That seems to be [you know] one of the biggest things that I’m finding right now, is that women that are starting to get in the game, they’re asking “How do I… who do I play with? How can I find other ladies to play golf?” So it’s really nice that it just [kind of] fell into a place, [uh] your group, to play golf with, for sure.”

L – “[yeah]… [you know] I think [I mean] even at the golf club we belong, or through Executive Women Association, which I believe is the national association with different chapters, you can meet women to play. If you’re not a member of a club, [you know] that shouldn’t be a barrier. There are other organizations you can join, and meet women who have a common interest in golf, and then you just have to find the right… [you know] those that you enjoy, and schedules work.”

J – “Perfect! Now, you had said you just [kind of] dove right into your position at A Southern Company, with the PGA Tour. [and] I think a lot of women my age… we’re getting into an industry, [um] what would you say was how you did that; how you just “jumped right in”? Was there anything specific, or you just always had that ability to dive into things, and not really have a fear of risk taking, and things like that?”

L – “Right… At the time our, the business strategy of the company was growing on a more national scale, and [we] I, at the time, was advertising manager, and we were getting tons of solicitations… “Do you want to sponsor this, or that?”, and [so] I really had the opportunity to say “We really should take a strategic look at what is right for the company.”

J – “mm hmm”

L – “And after a pretty thorough analysis, we ended up with PGA Tour. The first year that we were sponsors, was the year that Payne Stewart, the well-known golfer, his plane went down. And in fact, he was in the air, on his way to the tour championship, which Southern Company sponsored at the time. And that was a devastating day for everybody, but it really connected Southern Company [and] to golf, and to creating an award called “The Payne Stewart Award”, that to this day has been… [um] there has been a winner from the PGA Tour selected each year as the recipient. And this year, it’s Ernie Els, who was just announced.”

J – “I saw that.”

L – “They’re selected based on character, charity, and sportsmanship; three of the characteristics of Payne Stewart. Another thing of note, and everybody’s career takes little zigs and zags at times,… there was a time in my career where I moved into another role that was… had a more internal focus than an external, and I found that I missed some of that involvement. So, I began volunteering for the First Tee of East Lake, which I had already been exposed to through some of the work I had done, and I had an active role in serving on that board, and now on the advisory board. And that has [kind of, you know] again, crossed paths with my career, as I came back to manage the PGA Tour relationship, a second time in my career. So, volunteering in the golf community is a great way to meet like-minded people,…”

J – “mm hmm”

L – “and you have, you share a common passion, and a good way to get out as well.”

J – “[yeah], especially we have Pro Kids, and First Tee, out here in San Diego, and a great way for the ladies that I know to get out there, is to actually play with the kids. Because you can go out there, and that’s a piece of volunteering and mentoring, is going out there and just playing at the golf courses with them. They have a couple [you know] par 3 courses that are attached to out facilities. [um]”

L – “[yeah]”

J – “And that’s a great way for them to get into the game, while giving back.”

L – “Huge opportunity, and [you know] the young girls who are coming up, they look up to the women they play with, and it’s… Sometimes you don’t realize the role models you do play, just by being yourself. So…”

J – “[yeah]”

L – “I highly recommend people, women, who want to get more involved in golf, look for the First Tee opportunities, to go volunteer and play. They need you.”

J – “mm  hmm… Perfect! Can you tell me about your favorite round of golf? Was it… and was it because of the ladies you played with, or because of the course, or both?”

L – “So… I had a couple of favorite rounds, but one of them definitely had to be Bandon Dunes, and it was a girls golf trip. My two friends were there, and one of their sons was caddying, along with another caddy we already knew from Atlanta. [and] So, we had these two local caddies, local to us, [and] that knew the course. We went out for three days, played eighteen, thirty-six, and eighteen, and the whole experience was just amazing! I think we were practically the only women there, at Bandon Dunes, but it was great fun. And [you know] it was an effort to get there, but so worth it. So, that definitely is one of my favorite golf experiences.”

J – “[yeah], it’s always interesting to find out you’re basically the only women at a golf course,”

L – “Yep, it is. It is.”

J – “for the whole day.”

L – “And you do have to get over that hump of feeling… I hate to use the word “intimidated”, but let’s face it… You’ve gotta just [kind of] say “I know the rules. I have confidence in that. [you know] I’m going to play fast… very important,”

J – “mm hmm”

L – “and [you know] that I’m going to have fun at it. And then people enjoy playing with you.”

J – ” [[yeah]] I always thought, [you know] the hardest thing for me was everyone’s staring at you. So, it’s not because [you know] you’re going to be a great golfer, or a horrible golfer, it’s just because you’re different. You’re a female, in this world of all these men. [um] But the more comfortable you get to it, do you think it [kind of] is a correlation to feeling more comfortable in the business world, in a space where maybe there is less women at the top? Or…”

L – “Well, I do think there are correlations, and I think you are more confident when you can talk the talk about golf.”

J – “[yeah]”

L – “I think that… I think that’s good. And Jenn, I don’t think… I think you probably intimidate the men you play with, with that strong, powerful drive you have.”

J – “I definitely do sometimes! < laughing>”

L – “Yep! [[yeah]]”

J – “It’s not… < laughing> It’s not good for dating, but that’s about it!”

L – “That could be a problem, I know. <laughing> But, [[yeah], you know] it is, when you’re playing with men, [I mean] generally it’s not so much about your game, it’s about their games, and you just keep going. Just play your own game, and keep moving.”

J – “Perfect! And this is getting a little bit more personal, but were there any roadblocks to your success along the way in business? And how would you say you overcame them?”

L – “[um] So… roadblocks? [I mean] I guess there are always roadblocks, [um] and all I can say is “you [kind of] have to tackle them as a hurdle, and figure out how you’re… identify the problem. Make sure you’re at the core of the problem, not the emotional part of the problem, and then either correct it or address it. And, take them one at a time. I can’t really think of golf roadblocks, but it’s [you know]… it is a fine line, as you enter into a little bit stronger, male dominated environment, you just have to [you know] be yourself, and be there, but just [kind of] fit in.”

J – “So, something I heard, that seemed pretty important, was not letting the emotional piece get in the way.”

L – “Right.”

J – “And I think a lot of younger women, or just women in general, tack that on in business, and would you say that it’s really important to separate the two?”

L – “I would. And just get to the core of what the problem is. Is it performance? Is it behavior? Is it… What is the issue that is the hurdle? And then address that element of the issue. Because we do, we get emotional, we get feelings hurt, we feel left out. That, [you know] so you look behind the curtain, and say “what is that? and why? and [so] how do i address that?”

J – “mm hmm… Perfect! I have one last question for you. I’m going to ask every single woman that comes onto this show, and it’s “How did you feel when Augusta National admitted their first two female members?”

L – “I felt that it was the right thing. It was good for them. I grew up in a very traditional club in Philadelphia, I respected the traditions of golf, but I think it was definitely the right thing. And I think the way they did it was also proper. They did their way, but they did it. [and] So I respect that as well.”

J – “Wonderful! Well, thank you so much! This has been amazing! And thank you so much for coming on to this show today, and I just hope we get to play golf again soon. Sometime when I’m back in Atlanta.”

L – “We will, we will! And I wish you the best with your other ninety-nine women. They’ll keep getting better and better, I promise you.”

J – “[yeah]! Thank you so much!”

L – “Alright, thanks Jenn!”

J – “So that is it! [uh] That’s our first interview for the 100 Women in Golf, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Now to keep the conversation alive, go on twitter, and let Lee Birdsong know that you heard her on our show. [uh] And until our next episode, please visit the 100 Women in Golf on our website… www.highheelgolfer.com… and follow us on twitter and Facebook. 


100 Women in Golf is a show that reveals the habits and inner battles between big name women who have influenced the game of golf and those who have benefitted from the game in their business.

Our mission is to give praise to and learn from the women who have shaped the game and the business world for all of the rising stars to come.

We know that everyone is unique and they have defined their own path to success. I’ve become obsessed with understanding how golf plays a role in the success of business men and women, but more specifically women. I want to reveal the  replicable things that successful women do on the golf course and to find the patterns, not so you can copy it exactly but so you can absorb it into what you do every day to make your own success and one day be part of the 100 Women in Golf.