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Golf just the job in Women and Girls Week

GOLF is increasingly becoming a career opportunity for women, with Welsh golf leading the way as Women and Girls Week tees off today (Monday).

Women and Girls Week is a chance to celebrate the inclusivity of golf as a sport, along with the contribution of member clubs, as the numbers of women and girls joining clubs in Wales is rising above targets.

There are also increasing numbers of women working in golf, including more than half the Wales Golf workforce while two of the three senior management roles are held by women.

Gillian O’Leary is the first female director of performance in UK golf and one of the first in Europe, working alongside director of development Hannah McAllister.

Natasha Gobey, the Wales Golf PGA Professional of the Year, is one of the many female club pros in Wales, while the likes of Kim Ellis and Zoe Thacker are some of the women in the Wales Golf development team out in the field helping clubs as well as providing opportunities for young and old to try the sport for life.

“I have not found a downside to be a female club pro, it didn’t feel different to me, but I find there is a big impact for ladies coming into the game who feel more comfortable with a female coaching them,” said Gobey, based at Bryn Meadows Golf Hotel and Resort in Gwent.

“I started playing when I was 11 and just loved the game, I was always sporty and was able to improve as a player.

“Training as a PGA professional was really good, you learn a lot. My advice for anyone looking for a career in golf coaching would be to go through the PGA route.

“It is important to get that qualification and get as much experience as you can because you never stop learning.”

Ellis comes from a golfing family with sister Amy Boulden on the Ladies European Tour and father Simon the former club professional at Maesdu. Ellis was the first female pro in Abu Dhabi before returning to North Wales to work for Wales Golf.

“I was working at Maesdu in the pro shop and decided to go down the route of training to be a PGA pro,” she said.

“There were hardly any ladies going through the training at that time, things like going to the PGA tournaments were a bit daunting as I would be the only girl playing – but that just made me more determined.

“It was a club member who suggested I look abroad after qualifying, but taking the job in Abu Dhabi was a leap in the dark. I went for an initial six months and ended up staying four years at the club where they play the Abu Dhabi Championship on the European Tour.

“I was in charge of the junior coaching and did a lot of work with families, but I was then pleased to have the opportunity to come home and work for Wales Golf.

“There are more and more girls coming into the game now. I was often the only girl at events when I was growing up, but now it is great to see 40-50 girls at some of the clinics.”

O’Leary was a Ireland international at junior and ladies levels, before following the academic route into elite sports management via the Golf Union of Ireland as a part time job while in university and then onto a full time career with the Irish Ladies Golf Union and now Wales Golf.

“Early on I did not see golf as a long term career, but I love the role, working really hard to try to add value,” she said.

“I think anyone who is passionate about golf should consider it as a possible career. Young girls should not be put off by what the situation would have been in the past. If you work hard at it then you can make a career in golf.”