Shorty after the end of World War II, a time when women were working in predominantly male fields out of necessity for a skilled labour force, returning American men wanted to take back the jobs they had left behind. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was also a time when women were starting to rise in the sporting world. Although they still weren’t taken very seriously by the patriarchy-at-large and most men would admit to being intimidated or turned off by athletic women, female sports stars were starting to creep into public consciousness. Documentarians Charlene Fisk and Carrie Schrader look at one of the biggest leaps forward in women’s sports with their engaging film, The Founders.

In 1950 at the Rolling Hills Country Club in Wichita, Kansas, the first formal incarnation of the LPGA golf tour was founded by thirteen women united in their love of the links and following the dissolution of several other underfunded and hard to manage organizations. It was one of the first professional sports leagues for women, and while it wasn’t a huge struggle to set up, it was a player run organization with no above-the-line staff to help run it. They were constantly scrambling for sponsorship money, and would often be brought in by promoters as an added attraction for bigger events. They rarely got much press, and often had to deal with the criticism that competing for money was unladylike. They were constantly running afoul of dress codes, sexism, and the sexualisation of the sport, but they endured and created what’s now a nearly billion dollar a year organization.

The Founders hits the ground running a little too fast for its own good out of the gate. Fisk and Schrader are in such a hurry to list of the names of the most prominent LPGA founders that a sense of a timeline gets lost at first. There’s a lot of set-up, and initially it’s hard to see where things are going. Once the introductions are out of the way, however, Fisk and Schrader settle into an enjoyable, more pointed groove.

There’s only one male perspective among Fisk and Schrader’s interview subjects, and he only appears briefly about forty minutes into the film. The majority of The Founders is told by female journalists, historians, modern day players, and the four surviving members of the original thirteen. It’s a narrow group of subjects to talk to, but Fisk and Schrader have stripped the story of the formation of the LPGA down to those who know it best, something that helps to focus the film after its rocky start.

There’s also a delightful amount of candor on display between surviving golfers Shirley Spork, Marilynn Smith, Louise Suggs, and Marlene Bauer Vossler. Their recollections in separate interviews, and those of the journalists and historians, don’t always line-up and exact agreement is almost impossible to come by regardless of the topic at hand. It runs wonderfully counter to normal documentary conventions that state all inspirational stories about triumphing in the face of adversity have to have neatly constructed, mythologized narratives.

This is a by-product of how these women were, at one time and in some ways still are, highly competitive rivals in a solitary sport. They might have founded and run the LPGA together, but some were better self-promoters than organizational masterminds. Some had bigger egos than others. Some professional rivalries on the course translated to acrimonious relationships off it. All of these sometimes contradictory and warring recollections are relayed to the audience by the interview subjects without a filter, and Fisk and Schrader largely stay out of the way of the story no matter how messy it gets. All sides of an argument are presented here, and the history of the organization becomes a lot richer for it.

The Founders is a solid oral history of a ground-breaking sports league, but for those who just want some visceral sporting anecdotes, there are plenty of those to be found. Archival footage of the charismatic Patty Berg is a lot of fun to behold. The inspirational story of Babe Zacharias – one of the tour’s biggest draws in the group’s infancy – is one of the first widely documented cases of someone ever battling back from near fatal cancer to win a major sporting event. Late in the film there’s even a section devoted to Althea Gibson, a two time Wimbledon champion, who made the leap to the LPGA to become the first African-American female professional golfer. All of these stories could be their own films, but they’re integrated wonderfully here.