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Meet the women of Orca Golf, creators of the International Crown team bags, and learn about the special touch on each one

SAN FRANCISCO – Six weeks before the start of the Hanwha Lifeplus International Crown, the women of Orca Golf got a phone call. The request from LPGA officials: Ladies, we need bags.

Co-founders Deborah Bennett and Erica Bennett called in favors and got to work, scrambling to produce unique, well-crafted bags for 32 players from eight different countries. The last of the panels arrived at TPC Harding Park one day before the competition started. Deborah admittedly isn’t an emotional person, but she knew seeing their custom bags on a global stage would carry a lot of meaning.

“Knowing what happened to get them in their hands,” said Deborah, “the care that was taken, the thoughtfulness that was taken and wanting so badly for them to be proud to carry that bag. It’s what the bag represents.”

Team USA poses with their 2023 Crown golf bags, made by Orca. (LPGA photo)

Deborah and Erica launched their golf business 4 ½ years ago, after an apprenticeship on bag-making with a gentleman from Scotland. Deborah’s background includes a career in D.C. politics, NGO’s and education. There was a point when she managed 300 engineers – all men – in nine countries.

“If you think technology is tough,” said Deborah, “try taking on the golf industry.”

Erica is the artist and storyteller, and her special touch on the bags this week came from her Jamaican roots and the rose garden the couple kept in D.C.

“I wanted to do something special for each country but that would also be personal and special for the individual players,” Erica said.

“When I grew up in Jamaica, I loved flowers. When I would run to my grandmother’s home, there were always lots of flowers along the way. So, as I was thinking about the designs of these bags, I thought that I would go back to my 10-year-old self and ask myself, what would that little girl put on there? The answer was flowers.”

Each team has the flower of their respective countries on their bags. Team USA, for example, has a rose. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation to make the rose the floral emblem of the U.S.

Other national flowers include: Korea (Mungunghwa), Japan (Cherry Blossom), Sweden (Harebell), England (Tudor Rose), Thailand (Ratchaphruek), Australia (Golden Wattle) and China (Plum Blossom).

Everything Deborah and Erica work toward has a purpose beyond the bags. The Orca brand and its founders, for example, support LPGA*USGA Girls Golf and the First Tee. They take every custom order personally, with Erica sending hand-written thank-you notes. She still remembers every story behind each custom design.

Last fall the brand enjoyed a massive boost after designing a special yellow staff bag for Jack and Barbara Nicklaus and their Play Yellow campaign that benefits Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Deb reports that Jack was shocked to learn that two women created the bag.

“I wish we had a picture of his face,” said Deborah, smiling through the phone.

The Orca brand launched shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, which meant 2021 was a rebuild year. So far in 2023, Orca has done more business in one quarter than all of 2022.

“The best thing about golf is the conversations,” said Deborah.

Why not carry around something that gets people talking?

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek