Q. How did your journey to become a PGA Pro start?
A. Like a lot of people, I started playing when I was around 10 years old through a junior programme at my parents’ golf club. I was a really good player, but not good enough, so decided that this was the best way to stay in the game. As a PGA Professional I have worked in 5 different countries, so it was the best decision I have made.
Q. What part of your job do you enjoy the most?
A. I have held a lot of different positions in Golf Clubs, including management roles, but I get much more job satisfaction from coaching people than I do from running a business. It’s much easier to keep one person happy! I love every day and i love helping people, primarily juniors to have fun and get better at playing golf.
Q. Are there the same issues with female participation in Canada as elsewhere?
A. There are fewer women and girls playing golf than there are men, but what is really striking is the lack of 20-something women who play. This is a small community, of around 20 thousand people, but as no one targeted them when they were girls they have never been part of the Golf Club environment. I’m hoping to change that and instil a lifelong love of the game in a fun, friendly environment so girls can start young and play the game for the rest of their lives.
Q. How are you working to change things?
A. We are working backwards. We are targeting younger girls, who will hopefully bring their mums and older female siblings into the Golf Club. We take golf into local schools where the children play golf as part of their Physical Education classes. We have managed to get a golf club into the hand of pretty much every child aged between 5 and 16. Through golf we are able to teach many valuable life lessons along the way and create an environment that is enjoyable, fun and sociable while being active.
Q. What impact is this approach having?
A. We bring children along to the Golf Club on field trips as part of the Golf in Schools program, so they have a real golfing experience at the club as opposed to the school gym. Those who enjoy the sport stay on and join the various Junior Programmes we offer during the summer, it’s so important to enable children to try the game and establish a desire to play further. We now have 125 Juniors, 45 of whom are girls. At another Golf Club nearby, they have more girls than boys in the programme with a 59/39 split which is very encouraging.
Q. How have you structured the programme / sessions to keep girls interested?
A. Friendship is the key to everything that we offer here. The older girls love looking after the younger ones and they really look up to the older girls. We have created a support system, which is very much lead by them rather than us. The older girls aren’t obliged to offer support but encourage it and they certainly want to give back. Even the Elite female players want to take that responsibility on themselves.
It is great to see their commitment and the fact that they understand that they have the power to make a difference. This is even the case with LPGA players – we emailed The PGA and the LPGA recently asking for prizes for an event we were running for the children. We had one item from a PGA Player, but were inundated with signed golf memorabilia from LPGA players including the likes of Michelle Wie, Jesica Korda and Morgan Pressel!
Q. Is there anything else you do that is a little out of the ordinary?
We make sure that there are female coaches for the girls. The younger girls (5 / 6 years old) respond much better to coaching from women. Some of the coaches we use are girls who have been through the Clubs junior ranks and provincial development teams as well, which gives a sense of belonging. We also hold events specifically for the girls here. We had a Yoga party recently and a British Tea Party – complete with tea cups and bunting! It’s important to create activities that they want to be part of.
Q. Do you believe that there is any difference between the people you coach where you are based and beginners in the UK?
No. For kids golf is universal. I faced the same challenges in Egypt that I did in Trinidad and Tobago. Juniors especially are driven by the same things; fun, friends and playing better.
Q. What is the best advice you’ve had, or can give, about being a great coach?
A. Coach the individual. Everyone is different so as coaches we need to understand how people learn and what motivates them. Don’t overcoach, let kids be themselves, set up the learning environment with specific outcomes and watch them develop through their own methods with some critical thinking and guided discovery. Continuously improve your coaching knowledge and always strive to deliver better programmes.