Tricia Covel discovered the game of golf seven years ago, and, at the same time, realized that there was a complete lack of attractive women’s golf apparel. As her game improved (and it did, markedly, after playing at least 18 holes a day if not more at the Belmar Golf Course, the course in Norman, Okla. that she owns with country music star husband Toby Keith) so did her drive to look good on the green. Three years ago, after realizing that she could fill a huge void in the market, she enlisted the help of her daughters Krystal and Shelley, hired an Ohio-based creative team and set about creating SwingDish (the name of which is also a family effort thanks to Toby—read below to find out how and why). Tricia–”Trish” as she’s referred to lovingly by most—set about making her brand the very best it could be. The line of women’s golf shorts, skorts, accessories and jackets are created with hand- selected Italian fabrics incorporated with technological advancements, ensuring comfort and performance. The line is stylish, feminine and very different from anything else that’s currently on the market.
We caught up with Trish in Las Vegas last Tuesday when she launched SwingDish at—quite appropriately—the Las Vegas PGA Show. She celebrated the success of the launch—all online pieces sold out within mere hours—at a party in the brand’s honor at the Wynn Country Club, which was attended by Covel, Keith, their daughters and executives from golf courses around the country.
Here, Covel discusses her new line, where she wants to take it in the future and why the game of golf needs more girl power than ever.
Why did you decide to launch SwingDish?
We’ve been working on it for about three years now…I’ve wanted to do it. My husband and I talked about and it and he was like, ‘If you want to do it, do it’—one of of those kind of things. The fear of failing or not knowing what to do was [there]; this was out of my expertise. I’ve been a mother for all of these years, a stay-at-home mom while my husband worked. My last kid graduated from high school this past year and went away to college. I’m one of these people that likes to stay busy. We do own a golf course, and I’m the general manager of that also. I’ve been involved with golf since I took over the golf course. I started playing about seven years ago, which is why I started looking at the lack of fashion. I thought there was a niche that I could fill; a little void that was there. I think we started something that we’re going to be real proud of. I wear [the line] all the time. My daughters say, ‘You wear two outfits a day.’ I want to be able to go and travel and explore new courses. I’m highly competitive and I want to be able to go and travel, and my husband works and travels and the courses are magnificent across the United States and you want to look good on those. I just didn’t want to feel like I was wearing cut-down menswear.
How did you decide what fabrics you wanted to use?
We did work with a design team. We wanted a performance fabric that had wicking and SPF, but still felt luxurious and had a good fit. That’s the direction we were going. It took longer than I thought it was going to. It’s been a work in progress for about three years. We wanted to get it right.
Where do you see the brand going?
We’ve got some international exposure that we’re looking for. Women’s lines are just neglected. I’m working to promote women’s golf. I’ve got some great friends that are out on tour and mini-tours, and I do a college tournament on my golf course. I want to be able to promote the look of women instead of being so masculine on the golf course.
Are you going to custom-make pieces?
Not yet; we want to be able to build the brand first. We’re looking at doing things at resort clubs. We’re going to look at different prints and things like that to be able to work with different markets in terms of exclusivity.
Where did the name come from?
My husband and his band and crew would always call me ‘Trish the Dish.’ It was a pet name! When I started playing golf, I was very timid with it, especially when other people were around. I would even make the maintenance people turn their heads! I was that bad. Toby would say, ‘Just get up there and swing it, Dish!’ When I started looking for a name, he was really adamant and said, ‘Trish, I want you to play off of that.’ My golf tournament is called the Dish. He said, ‘I love SwingDish. You can broaden the brand if you don’t make it so girly in the name.’
Is a great part of the experience working with your daughters?
I started off by myself and I got kind of scared. I’ve always had my family around to do stuff. My daughters are grown and gone, my son is leaving, my husband travels. I wasn’t confident doing this by myself. I brought my oldest daughter in first—she has a great idea for fabrics and colors and design—she’s an interior decorator—and as we started moving along, my other daughter took a break from her career and started with social media on that side of it. It’s kind of been a great bonding things as well for us.
What are your favorite pieces?
I like the cut-out top and lace details. The skirts are great.
What was your motivation for starting the line?
I got tired of being the one driving the golf cart or staying at home! When we go on family trips, my husband and the guys would take off and leave the girls. I was like, ‘We want to go!’ At first I couldn’t possibly understand what could take so long. How could it take four hours to hit a tiny golf ball? Now I understand it. My husband is now the one who has to ask, ‘Are we going to go in and eat?’ I’ll stay and play all day; sometimes twice a day, but at least 18 holes a day!
What advice would you give to all the potential female golfers out there?
Play. It’s a lifetime thing you’ll be able to do with your husband. It’s a great thing to do with your family. Business deals are made on the golf course every day. You’re outside; your kids are not on a video screen. It’s a sport of discipline and patience. It teaches you all of that. I’m as competitive as anybody, but I do it for fun. I’m not getting paid to do it, so I don’t let it stress me out. If it gets to the point where I start using four-letter words, I’m going to stop playing for a while because I don’t want it to stress me out. It’s so much more fun if you can get out there and participate. It’s also a good social thing. I play with a big group of my girlfriends. It’s a hard sport to play, but it’s rewarding. When you hit that great shot or birdie a hole, it’s a great feeling. Right now I’m giving my husband a run for his money. He’s still beating me, but sometimes it comes right down to the 18th hole! You can compete with your husbands—that’s what the handicap system is for. Women get major advantages!