More and more women are taking up golf but the drive to increase the number of female participants is non-stop.
An event at the Buckinghamshire Golf Club, the home of the Ladies European Tour, was a case point. Steven Carpenter caught up with three PGA Professionals involved – each of whom took a different route into the sport.
As a former European Tour player, Joanne Oliver, knows all about the benefits of playing golf.
The 43-year-old spent 16 years at the top level competing in golf tournaments across the world and regularly representing England.
But after her career was curtailed because of injury, Oliver is now firmly focussed on helping others improve their game.
“I feel incredibly fortunate to have travelled the world and been part of different tours,” said who Oliver, who turned professional in 1997 when she joined The PGA.
“But I didn’t meet my potential on the tour. It went down to eight tournaments and that affected me badly. I found it tough to get any momentum going.
“Going full circle was important to me and I re-did my coaching degree in my late 30s because I really wanted to attack it like I did as a player and get as high as possible.”
Despite female participation being on the rise, Oliver, who is linked to Chesfield Downs Golf Club, still feels golf is very much a male dominated sport.
“When I was playing in WPGA events along with lots of other English players we knew the importance of having our own tournaments. In proportion to men we needed to have our presence.
“We have to do that as a small minority and make sure we encourage other young players coming through.
“Yes it’s difficult to fight through a male dominated environment, but as coaches and players we have an awful lot to offer.”
Oliver feels that having current Tour players like Charlotte Thompson and Nicole Garcia getting involved in events like the one held at Buckinghamshire earlier this year is one way to encourage more youngsters to pick up a golf club.
“It’s great for them to see these Tour players because they can see where they can go with their potential and it inspires the youngsters.
“They may not have even known that female professionals players existed. It’s about showing them that it is about having fun and building confidence, but there’s also a chance to progress your career too by engaging with current players.
“That way young girls can learn from the experience, build up their confidence and who knows what their future may hold.
“We need to get into schools as well. It’s not part of the curriculum so sometimes young people aren’t exposed to the sport.”
Victoria Harris got into golf after taking lessons with her father when she was 12 and, with an eye on moving into a general manager role in the future, opted to go down the coaching route.
Harris, 29, who coaches at Buckinghamshire Golf Club, has coached at many events in the area and her connections at the club allowed her to work alongside some of the top Ladies European Tour players.
She said: “For me even just showing somebody just one little thing about golf just gives them an insight into what it’s like playing.
“I think these events are really crucial to just give somebody a snippet of what is also going on. Also, it shows them that there is a lot more women in golf than people think and there’s a lot more women who want to start golf.
“So it’s great to just show the women that it’s not just a man’s sport.
“That’s why I get involved in these kind of events, to give somebody a snippet of why I love the game.”
Harris spent two years in Florida on a scholarship at Daytona Beach College. There she learned and played golf every day, entered tournaments all while working towards a degree at the same time.
But she opted to return home to continue her development with The PGA.
“I was going to do the USPGA qualification but the one over here had a lot more to offer,” she explained. “I got a lot more out of it and the whole qualification was much better, so that’s why I came back.
“I really wanted to progress with my golf and actually be able to teach people what I know. I especially wanted to teach young girls what I wish I had been taught when I was younger.
“It was the junior and women side of coaching that I wanted to do because a lot of females start playing and then they give up and they don’t carry on.
“Showing them that you can get to another level and giving them a taste of what it’s like to play in the women’s game, that’s what I really enjoyed about it.
“That spurred me on so I came back and got into The PGA and I haven’t stopped since then.”
Evie Carter found her way into coaching after graduating as the only female on the Applied Golf Management Studies (AGMS) course two years ago.
Since then she has gone on to work at The Golf Centre in Coalville, Leicestershire.
She has also coached Leicestershire and Derbyshire county juniors, is a member of England Golf’s Women and Girls Advisory Group and the Youth Panel, and was keen to help out at The Buckinghamshire.
She said: “I do teach a lot of other people as well but I do thoroughly enjoying teaching younger people.
“I spoke to a few young players. We spoke about their ambitions and I passed on some encouragement to give them some believe to carry on with the game.
“It was a really nice environment to be in, progressing golf for everyone.”
Carter, 23, firmly believes that there has been a sharp increase in more girls taking up the sport, and she is keen to keep that momentum going.
“I think I’ve seen more people take up golf and it’s great to see. When I do my county coaching there’s more or less an even split between the groups, rather than just being completely young and male dominated.
“There’s a nice split now so we have a nice rivalry with the girls against the girls on the county coaching sessions.”
The event was also a chance for Carter to explain more about the different career options available to young women taking up the sport.
She continued: “It’s useful to show that there are other career opportunities other than having that Tour ambition.
“With the likes of AGMS and the foundation degree and talking to us pros as well as Tour pros, there are endless opportunities in what you want to go in to.
“You’ve got the Tour side but you can also go into the coaching side, the management side, or anything along those lines.
“When you’re in the industry, you do forget what a big impact you have on young girls. To them you are ranked as that professional golfer and you are role model to them.
“It makes us feel quite special because of the impact we’re having on them.
As for her future, Carter added: “Junior coaching has always been at the forefront for me because without juniors you’re not going to have a young membership at any golf club.
“Eventually I’d like to have my own academy so that I can increase my pool of people as much as possible. I’m thoroughly enjoying what I’m doing at the moment and I’ll keep hoping it continues.”
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