District Golf Admin Wins National Award
Posted on: 2 February
Golf Australia recently introduced an Australia wide Visionary of the Year Award which is seeking to spread the news of innovative activity that encourages and enhances the participation of women in golf. Late Monday (1 February) Golf Australia announced the January and first winner of the monthly Innovation Award is the Goulburn Murray Golf Association.
President of the Goulburn Murray Golf Association (GMGA) David Roberts has welcomed the award and is both joyous and humbled how an idea of the local Committee is now having national ramifications as Districts from all around the Country seek further information and request “how did you do it?” GMGA Captain Shane Halloran summed up the feeling of the Committee by stating “isn’t it great to be awarded and recognised for having a go.”
The following is an edited version of how Golf Australia reported GMGA’s approach to administrating golf. More details about the Award can be found on the Golf Australia website.
This is the story of how a district committee (renowned for its innovative approach to managing golf) challenged tradition to ensure “inter club pennant” golf remained accessible to women and girls throughout a global pandemic.
It is a shining example of how the golf community can introduce and retain more women and girls in all aspects of golf through innovative, inspiring, needs based and age and gender appropriate programs and pathways.
“If you could ever call a committee meeting exciting, this may have been it!” joked David Roberts, President of GMGA. “That is, when we realised, we were on to something pretty exciting.”
After having to cancel nearly all district events in 2020 due to COVID-19, this group of dedicated volunteers wanted to do something to keep people connected, engaged, and enjoying pennant golf.
COVID-19 restrictions at the time meant people were not able to travel further than 50km, cross the border, nor gather in large groups. In normal times in this rural district where people travel up to 100km and cross the Victorian/ NSW border to play pennant, the 2020 early summer Women’s Fourball Pennant competition was deemed impossible. However, where there is a will there is a way, and after brainstorming, the play at home virtual pennant format was developed.
After some initial design work, the committee sort opinion from Golf Australia Regional Development Officer, Dylan Grandell, to help write competition conditions to ensure that the concept would be successful.
“The format was really easy to implement,” said Mandy Faram, GMGA Women’s Captain who managed the program. We invited clubs to enter as many teams as they could field. Team members were to play at their own home course and submit scores to compete against other clubs also playing at home.”
“The format was a 4BBB stableford competition with 5 pairs in a team. This created a fantastic team atmosphere. We also allowed flexibility for the day’s pairs in each team played, mainly Sunday and Monday, so this enabled working women to play in their respective teams”
“Team Captains would submit the team scores sometimes via phone, and I would allocate them a win or loss based on what their opposing pair scored. It made it fun and unpredictable – some pairs would win with 32 points and some would lose with 40!”
The format proved to be extremely popular with double the number of women playing the early summer pennant competition. “Some smaller clubs that usually struggle to submit one team in traditional pennant were entering two teams!” said Roberts.
The committee saw this as a great opportunity to make pennant more inclusive. The ability for the competition to be played on a Sunday or Monday, plus no travel requirements resulted in:
More working women and schoolgirls than ever before participating.
- Older women, who were beyond travel returning to pennant
- An increase in participation by higher handicappers.
- In total 250 women (including regulars and one day) participated in the play at home virtual pennant over an eight week period. In the previous year 110 participated in the traditional match play competition.
“Up until now, pennant for some women with higher handicaps has been intimidating,” said Faram. “These women have felt more comfortable playing in familiar surroundings and have not been overwhelmed having to master match play”.
From the total District perspective President Roberts added; “The women embraced the play at home virtual pennant so much they voted for our later (January-February) summer Sunday Fourball pennant to remain virtual so that they can tee off early and get rounds in before the heat of the day. This has taken away another barrier to participation as travel would not enable such early tee-off times. Flexibility to our administration has been the key, because at the same time the Men are participating in traditional head to head match play Fourball pennant”
“Looking ahead, I believe we will continue to run our traditional match play. There is, however, obviously an appetite for virtual so we might end up offering both”.
“It is important that our district committee now demonstrates good leadership and works closely and collaboratively with our clubs and their captains to determine what women and girls want” said Farram.
“Our job as leaders is to be agents of change and always question and challenge what has been done,” said Roberts. “Just because something has always been done a particular way and is tradition, does not mean it is the right fit, especially in our current climate. I always remind people resistant to change that 50 years ago we were using wooden clubs!”
The GMGA will receive $500 Drummond Golf Voucher and Roberts is determined that it will be spent on trophies for women’s golf so it goes back to those who supported our innovation. “All the women of the District who participated should be congratulated and feel proud of being part of this amazing step”.