In her boots Maddie Putnam's life as a Golden Girl

Just over two years ago, Maddie got the call from Golden Girls head coach Shannon Fry. She was woken up by her phone on a summer morning before her freshman year at MU.

“I was actually asleep, and I woke up to my phone going off, a phone call from a random number from Columbia,” Putnam said. At the moment, Putnam did not think much of it and let it go to voicemail.

It was in the spring of Putnam’s senior year of high school that she tried out for the Golden Girls team. Tryouts consist of two days, the first being any new girls wanting to try out for the team and the second including all of the returning Girls as well, with each night having cuts.

When it came time for tryouts, Putnam had made it through the first night's round of cuts but was cut during the second day. “I was devastated because I always wanted to do that,” Putnam said. “[Golden Girls] is what I was planning on doing.”

Seeing that a voicemail was left from the unknown caller, Putnam decided to see who it was from. Fry did not give a reason for her call in the voicemail, only a request for Putnam to call her back.

“So I run downstairs and I tell my parents and I have no idea what she was going to say, but I was freaking out,” Maddie Putman

She called back, and Fry asked if she wanted to be on the team. Putnam still remembers her father’s tears of joy when he found out that his daughter made the team.

The Golden Girl History

Before every home football game, the Golden Girls will stand in a circle, holding their pom poms in the center, and have a private moment to themselves. “GG’s for life,” they’ll shout as they raise their pom poms to the sky, ending the moment and heading onto the field for the pregame show.

“I think it’s pretty monumental because every Golden Girl prior is so important to the whole team and the atmosphere of being a Golden Girl,” Maddie Putnam

The Golden Girls were started by Charles Emmons, director of bands, in 1957 when he brought together a twirling line featuring two twirlers and six to eight majorettes. He created the team as a part of Marching Mizzou.

In 1965, the Girls first debuted their gold sequined leotards. The following year, Dr. Alex Pickard took over as director of bands and the Golden Girls made their first transition towards the dance team it is now.

Maddie Putnam and her teammates wait in the parking lot of the Hearnes Center for the pregame parade to the stadium to start before the football game against Vanderbilt.

Dr. Pickard wanted to see the team be more active during games. He had them put down their batons and the first dance they performed was the charleston. In the years to come, the Girls would continue to incorporate more dancing into their routines.

In 1968, the first Golden Girls coach, Patty Kespohl, was hired for the fall semester. Kespohl moved the Girls completely away from the batons in her first two years and, in 1971, debuted the Girls in their, now, iconic white boots.

Raising A Golden Girl

Putnam started dancing when she was three or four years old. It was not always a priority for her as she also played other sports including softball, soccer and basketball.

Around the age of eight, Putnam moved to the Priscilla and Dana's School of Dance in Kansas City, Missouri, a prestigious dancing studio. She decided that dance was her passion and decided to focus her time on that. She started practicing four to five days a week and began dancing competitively. She continued this throughout high school.

Putnam grew up in a MU loving family, with both sides of her family having attended the university. Often her and her family would come to Columbia for games when she was a little girl. Coming to games soon became even more exciting when her mom told her about the Golden Girls that were on the sidelines of each game.

The Golden Girls kick line during the Missouri Waltz performed at the end of the third quarter of each home football game.

“I remember when I was little, my mom, before my first game, she told me ‘you’re going to love the Golden Girl dancers.’ And I just couldn’t wait to see them,” Putnam said. “And then ever since then I almost wanted to go to the games to watch them instead of the actual games.”

Balancing school and the team

Maddie Putnam works on her online class in the MU student center in between classes. She decided to take an online class to provide herself more time during the day.

The time commitment that is required of a Golden Girl does not always allow the Girls time for certain programs; mainly ones that require residencies. Putnam’s desire is to become a pediatric nurse after school.

Putnam understands the time commitment demands and chose to major in health sciences during her time at MU. This allows her the time to be a Golden Girl while pursuing her education in nursing. She plans on going to the University of Missouri-Kansas City to join their accelerated nursing program once she has finished her four years with the Golden Girls and has graduated from MU.

Putnam is taking 13 credit hours this semester, including an online class. Having a lightened course load allows Putnam to get her credit hours that she needs to graduate as well as have the time required by the team. Her online class alleviates even more of those time requirements, giving her more time for both school work and team work.

Maddie walks across campus after class to meet with her academic advisor and plan her spring semester class schedule.

Golden Girls Practice

Practice with the Band

At least once a week during football season, the Golden Girls join Marching Mizzou for practice. They spend practice rehearsing the movements for the upcoming halftime show performance. These practices usually go until after the sun has already set.

The Fitness Company

The Fitness Company is a gym that specializes in movement and strength training. Jeff Carr and Stephen Shinn started FitCo when they realized proper movement within fitness training was being neglected across the industry. The Golden Girls use FitCo to balance the work done in practice as well as work done on the field. They began working with the program in the spring of 2013 after Fry tried their program out herself. The goal of FitCo is to teach the Girls proper movement with their bodies, proper strength training and proper understanding of their bodies.

"I think it is an overlooked sport. I think they do an immense amount. But from being a student athlete, and college alone is hard enough, that with practice and travel and dance … I think they have so much going on," Jeff Carr
Maddie Putnam and Caroline Sundvold put away their foam rolls as the Girls prepare to start their FitCo training for the day.

Another goal of Carr and Shinn is to provide a fun and safe environment for the Girls. They understand the amount of stress that school, practice and social life can cause and they hope to make the Girls feel comfortable in the space. "I feel like they're always kind of on show constantly, so [at FitCo] they can have an area where they don't have to have a wall up," Carr said.


Shae Persico, Edan Wensel and Maggie Pyle, left to right, line up on the field with Marching Mizzou for the pregame show of the homecoming football game.
The Golden Girls excite MU fans during the annual homecoming pep rally at Traditions Plaza.
Sarah Klein, foreground, and Bailee Day, background, finish their final touches before leaving the Golden Girl facility before the last football game of the season. The Golden Girls typically have to be at the facility three hours before the game.
Four Golden Girls meet a young fan on the walk up to the pregame parade from the Hearnse Center to the football stadium. Fans will often stop the Girls to say hi and get pictures with them.
Maddie Putnam dances during the pregame show of the the Vanderbilt game.

Why be a Golden Girl

"Representing the university is so important to me, and I think the Golden Girls portray such a positive aspect of the university. It's a very well-known dance team … and I always wanted to be a part of that." Maddie Putnam
Created By
Jordan Kodner


Photos by Jordan Kodner

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