In March 2017, a report outlining the value of golf to the economy was published highlighting that over 9,000 people are employed in the golf sector on the island of Ireland. While golf clubs are the most significant employers in the sector (34%), golf services, equipment and sportswear, tourism and accommodation, management and administration, construction and real estate were further areas of employment.
As the first theme of Women & Girls’ Golf Week is “Careers in Golf” we look to some female employees of the Golf Industry who are inspiring further women and girls to not only play the game, but consider it as a career opportunity.
Careers in Golf: The Manager
For the General Manager at Portstewart Golf Club, Judith Hutton, golf has and continues to be engrained in her since as far back as she can remember.
“Golf was a big part of my family life and our local golf club was the centre of our small town. When I began looking for a part-time job, my first stop was to begin waitressing at the club – I quickly learned about how the Food and Beverage industry operated and having completed my studies in England, I returned home to work in a number of Golf Clubs again, working in the bar and restaurant side of things.”
Although she always enjoyed her golf, she knew that she did not possess the competitive edge of that of her older brother and sister, who had both represented Ireland and Ulster. However, this didn’t mean that she had to completely disengage from the game.
“I continued working in the golf industry and have worked now in a number of clubs. Gaining experience and the understanding that each club has its own character and personality has been important. It is vital to understand and fit into the culture of a club and this has been key for me in becoming a Manager.”
One wouldn’t think that Judith’s degree in American History and Politics would lead her to a career in Golf Club Management, but an understanding of people is what she attributes to her enjoyment of the role.
“The ability to read and communicate with people at different levels is one of the major things. You become part of people’s lives as a Golf Club Manager – we have 1500 members at Portstewart and a lot of these people have become my friends. It is humbling when the members feel that they can confide and talk to you – there is that very nice human aspect to the role.”
Anyone who works in the golf industry will admit that finding the time to play their own game can be difficult, as the dramatics of hosting the 2017 Irish Open at Portstewart subsided, Judith promised to give herself more time on the links.
“I play when I get the chance, it is rare at the minute as I have a young boy to look after but when I do get back out on the course and take a deep breath, you realise ‘yes, this is why there are so many golf clubs in Ireland’ – it takes you back to your roots and reminds you of where it all began.”
Careers in Golf: The Participation Officer
Jennifer Hickey is a Participation Officer with the Confederation of Golf in Ireland (CGI) and has been involved in golf development for over 10 years. Her role involves working with golf clubs across Munster and parts of Leinster, assisting them in developing their club structures, particularly in the areas of recruitment and retention of members. Her work with more than 40 clubs resulted in over 1,200 women taking part in the 8 week Get into Golf Programme last year and she also introduced over 700 primary school students to golf in the same timeframe.
“I love building relationships with people in golf clubs. I like to think I can make them feel they can contact me about anything no matter how big or small. My favourite part of the working in golf is working with committees to set up the Get into Golf Programme. There are usually some doubts at the initial meeting – the common question being ‘what if nobody turns up?’ but ultimately the best bit for me is seeing the participants of the programme after their first session in the club – always big smiles and a huge sigh of relief.”
Over 3,000 women have joined Golf Clubs as introductory members through the Get into Golf initiative in the past four years and Jennifer Hickey has been one of the influencers in this achievement.
Careers in Golf: The PGA Professional
Zoe Allen began playing golf at the age of 12 and it didn’t take long for her to become hooked. Playing throughout her teenage years, she then studied Accountancy at Queens University but decided that it was not the career path she wanted to pursue – she wanted to become a Golf Professional.
“I became a qualified PGA Professional last year and I have loved every minute of my journey so far,” explained the 29-year-old who is currently running programmes for adults and juniors at Lurgan Golf Club.
“My aspirations now are to have my own Academy someday. I thoroughly enjoy coaching both one to one and group lessons with adults and kids. I enjoy spending time teaching players of all abilities and I love watching players grow in confidence, making golf fun is my motto so I love to see kids enjoying themselves and wanting to come back the next week.”
Allen was named a US Kids Golf Top 50 Kids Teacher in January 2018 at the PGA Show in Orlando. Zoe is also the Tournament Director of the US Kids Golf North of Ireland Local Tour, running tournaments for kids aged 5-14 years old. She is qualified as a Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) Coach, as well a Little Golf Train Instructor. A Golf Professional, yes – but also a Businesswoman in her own right.
As we celebrate Women & Girls’ Golf Week, it would be easy to conclude that the only way to stay involved in the game is on the fairways, but for those considering a career in the game Allen has some advice;
“Go for it! If you have the passion for golf and working with people, you’ll not regret it! Working everyday doing something that I love in life is amazing. I am very lucky to do what I love.”