“Dream it, wish it, do it!”
PGA Professional Zoe Allen lives this as a mantra.
Like many of us, her first memory of golf is of playing with her dad, her original role model. She remembers enjoying their time together hitting balls but highlights the treat from the shop on the way home as an added bonus.
Graduating from Queens University with a degree in Accountancy, it was clear that her chosen career path wasn’t for her – so she decided to make a change. Four years later Allen graduated once again, this time with her PGA Qualification and a newfound passion.
Allen has joined five other PGA Professionals on the Level Par Coaching programme where they will be mentored by ILGU High Performance Manager David Kearney and PGA Tutor Gillian Burrell, also gaining experience coaching in a number of different areas from beginner to High Performance level.
We wanted to find out more about the US Kids Master Coach.
What has your journey in golf been like to date?
I started golf when I was about 10 years old. My Dad brought me to taster lessons at Laganview with Professional Michael McGivern. The group lessons were great fun and I learned the basics of the game. Little did I know that later, in 2013, I would turn to Michael as a coach and work for him in Belvoir Park to start my PGA training.
I was originally a member of Edenmore Golf Club and still remember winning my first golf competition in 2003 playing off 36 handicap, this really gave me the bug for the game. I began to represent the club over the next few years and in 2009 helped Edenmore win two Ulster and two All-Ireland titles. At this time, I really only played golf during the summer as I played a lot of hockey both for school and in the Ulster Premier League for Lurgan until I graduated.
I knew Accountancy wasn’t for me and at this point I started to take golf more seriously and moved to Lurgan Golf Club. I started to improve with more competition and it wasn’t long after moving that I got my handicap down to single figures. I was coached by Ted Higgins, who helped me win the Connacht Junior Championship at Ballinrobe in 2010. I then worked for Ted for a summer in Mount Wolseley and really found myself improving, surrounding myself with golf.
After moving back up North I was offered a job in Belvoir Park Professional Shop. I enjoyed working in the golf industry and when I was working at Belvoir I really spent a lot of time on my game, my handicap came tumbling down. That year I won the Munster Junior title in Muskerry which was a great week as my sister Katie won the under 18 prize as well. That same year I held the course record at Lurgan Golf Club which, for me, was a great achievement.
Michael suggested I should consider doing my PGA qualification and ever since I haven’t looked back. It has opened numerous doors and created so many opportunities, I thoroughly enjoy working in golf. The first year of my PGA I spent at Belvoir Park, however I made the move to Lurgan for my year 2 and 3 just in time for the fantastic new Academy there which opened in February 2015. The Academy has been named one of the GUI Centres of Excellence so it’s amazing to be a part of a great facility.
I’ve been fully qualified now for almost 3 full years and it’s been great. Finishing my PGA training was really only the beginning of exciting things to come. Having not played on the ILGU competition circuit as much as maybe some girls did growing up, I feel that my golfing career has really taken off. Making a decision for a career in golf and working hard on my game to ensure the PGA was the right move was the best decision of my life so far!
What are your hopes for the Level Par coaching programme?
To be honest, at the beginning I was a little unsure of what exactly the programme was going to entail but so far the mentorship opportunities, sessions with a range of different coaches, professionals and specialists in different fields, it has been fantastic. I feel hungrier than ever to continue to grow and develop. I am always learning and trying to better myself as a coach, so the Level Par Programme is really helping me along the way.
Each coach has been given the opportunity to work on a ‘special project’. We can select a topic of interest so I’ve decided to research course set up and examine what impact shortened tees and courses would have for youth golfers.
Getting to spend time with five other amazing female PGA Professionals has been priceless!! I have loved the few days we all get to meet up and bounce ideas off one another, its not very often in this industry we get to spend time with female PGA Pros so it’s great fun.
Who was your role model growing up? Who do you look up to now?
My golfing role model growing up was definitely my Dad. He has such a passion and love for the game and is so calm natured that he would never get mad or upset if he played poorly or had a bad round. This was great to be around growing up, as it really taught me that it didn’t matter if you ever had a bad day, you could always be hopeful that, with some practice, the next day would be better.
In terms of who I look up to now, I have an amazing friend Michelle Holmes. She is definitely someone I look up to. Michelle runs her own golf school, The Michelle Holmes School of Golf, in the US. She formerly grew up playing in Enniscrone. Michelle has been a mentor to me over the past 5 years. Initially we made contact via social media and she invited me over to her golf school to help out during a busy summer period. Anytime we have a chat we are always bouncing ideas off one another, she’s a great friend and someone I look up to.
Do you have a favourite quote?
I have a few short and sweet quotes, that I do remind myself of on a regular basis:
“Make golf fun!”
“Give a kid golf and you give that kid a gift for life”
Three learnings you have taken from the programme to date:
Better never quits, always learn, sport is ever evolving, we need to keep on top of it.
You can always learn something from others – I love the fact we have a Whatsapp group for the Level Par Coaches and can constantly share thoughts
I feel we can really make a change to women and girls’ golf, many hands make light work!
Outside of golf (work), what are your hobbies?
I like training in the gym and try to train 5 days a week. I also recently started Yoga and love it! Other than that, I love spending time with friends and family and I love travelling. I’ve been very fortunate that through golf I get to travel quite a lot.
What does sport/golf mean to you?
It really is my way of life and I am so thankful for that. Golf has given me a job, a topic to never be finished researching, something in which I can learn from every day. I love being part of golfing journeys, especially new ones that are only beginning.
If you could wave a magic wand, what one thing (if anything) would you change about golf?
The teeing system we use!
I would love if there weren’t gender specific tees but in fact a teeing system that would make golf more enjoyable for those beginning to play. To me, it makes sense that golfers are able to play a shorter course until ready to progress further.
A system like this would also help people stay in the game for longer, making it more enjoyable, keeping scores lower and allowing people to feel like they can hit the ball far enough to continue playing at any age. It would also have an impact on junior golfers, as they would be able to shoot lower scores from a younger age and would only start moving back to the next tee once they are ready.
I hope you use my research project to explore this area further.