In an historic break with tradition, Gillian Burrell, has taken over the reins as PGA in Ireland captain. The 55-year-old, born in Athy, Co Kildare succeeded Joe Frawley at the recent AGM, becoming the first woman to hold the post.
“I never had any aspirations to pull on the captain’s blazer. It never dawned on me and I nearly crashed the car when Joe Frawley rung me to ask me last year,” said Gillian, who was recently awarded the status of Advanced Fellow professional.
A keen sportswoman in her youth, Gillian played her amateur golf at Athy GC and Senior Cup at Royal Curragh GC, going on to represent Ireland as a junior.
Bitten by the golfing bug, she decided early on that she wanted to be a golf professional and remembers making contact with the PGA six months after hitting her first shots on a golf course.
“I really wanted to be a coach. I was fascinated with golf and I was fascinated with learning,” said Gillian.
“The performance aspect of the game was also important to me. I was very lucky to be around at the same time as Mary McKenna, Lillian Behan and Isabella Robertson. I spent a lot of time with those elite players and I guess I was curious about what made a winner.”
Currently based at the Carr Golf Centre at Spawell, Gillian actually started her career as an assistant working for Ciaran Monaghan at the same venue some 27 years ago.
From there she progressed to Newlands GC with Paul Heeney and went with him when he moved to Charlesland GC in Greystones.
Having finished her apprenticeship with Paul, Gillian worked at a driving range for a number of years, later moving to Stepaside Driving Range in 2000. In 2012 she returned to Spawell, partnering with Carr Golf to run a golf coaching company called Play2learngolf operating at each of their venues.
She continued; “At the very start of my coaching career John Jacobs was a huge influence and he remains so even to this day. It was remarkable how quickly he could affect ball flight.
“When I think back, Phil Lawlor, the PGA Professional at The Curragh also had a very positive impact. I spent hours in the pro shop with him. Effectively, I was engaged in a learning environment from early on.”
Unfortunately, a wrist injury will curtail Gillian’s playing opportunities in 2018, but that won’t stop her attending events and visiting clubs across Ireland during her term of office.
“I want to promote the work of PGA professionals as I go around the country,” she said.
“I will be trying to push the PGA brand because we have to look at the bigger picture and the many PGA professionals that are succeeding in all sectors of the golf industry.”