Carly Booth has urged Scottish Golf’s new women and young people development manager to come up with something “short, fun and exciting” in her bid to deliver a membership boost for struggling clubs.
Formerly a regional development manager with Netball Scotland, Carol Harvey, pictured below, has been tasked with trying to increase participation in golf among women and juniors, with Scottish Golf chair Eleanor Cannon saying she’d like to see a 15,000 increase in that combined category over the next three years.
The new post has been partly funded by the R&A, which has given an initial three-year funding package of £75,000 per nation to Scotland, England, Ireland, Wales and Australia as part of a push to attract more women in particular into the sport.
That funding for the post in Scotland is being matched by the Scottish Government and VisitScotland as part of the 2019 Solheim Cup project, which is aimed at boosting female and junior participation in the sport’s birthplace in the build up to that event at Gleneagles.
Booth, who became the youngest ladies’ club champion in Britain at just 11 and went on to qualify for the Ladies European Tour six years later, is delighted to see such an effort being made, especially to get more young girls into golf.
“Clubs and local facilities need to have easy access for young girls,” said the Comrie woman, who has just been appointed along with Paul Lawrie as an ambassador for the inaugural European Golf Team Championships at Gleneagles in August.
“When you’re a kid you have opportunities in lots of sports. In golf, 18 holes is a long time after school. It needs to be short, fun and exciting. Five or six-hole events once or twice a week for boys and girls might be an idea. Hopefully that will be the start for them to build towards full rounds.”
At the last count, women and girls provided just 12 per cent of the total membership of Scottish golf clubs. That’s really quite pitiful, especially when the country has had such a wonderful ambassador in Catriona Matthew over the past 20 years, but Harvey is up for the challenge.
She spent almost four years working in Scottish Netball, increasing membership in her own region by 120 per cent, and was strongly defended by people from within that sport when the odd eyebrow was raised about her now taking on a role in golf.
“We had huge success in our recreational programmes and, since then, community impact programmes like Walking Netball and InstaNet have taken off,” said Harvey in an interview on scottishgolf.com. “As opposed to traditional thinking, we looked at new ways of bringing people into and back into the sport.
“I’m now trying to take these ideas into golf. It’s all about transferable skills, regardless of what sport you are talking to women and girls about. It’s about getting them excited about it, making it accessible for them, making it relevant and current for them. That is especially true around women and families, who want to spend time together at the weekends and enjoy a sport together.”
Harvey, who started in her role last month, added: “We can try new ideas, speak to the right clubs and speak with people who have a passion to make a difference. It’s about what we do together that can make a difference.
“The Solheim Cup is a hugely-exciting opportunity, to use as a hook almost for other people to become involved and get more women and girls inspired to take up the game. It’s a huge and fabulous event coming to this country in 2019 and we need to be using it as much as we can to get people involved, from playing the game to volunteering to spectating. There are wider opportunities for Scotland as a whole from the event.”
The volunteer programme for the biennial event has now been launched, with women and young people in particular being encouraged to be among more than 1,000 being sought.
“Volunteers are one of the most important parts of any golfing event we play in,” said Catriona Matthew, who will be captaining Europe in Perthshire. “The pride our Scottish volunteers will take in ensuring visitors and fans experience the very best of Scottish hospitality will be our secret weapon.”