‘An exciting and progressive evolution for club golf’ is how The Brisbane Golf Club Vice-President Deb Kember described the inaugural conference of the Golf Leaders Network (GLN), held recently in Melbourne.
Deb, who first developed the concept of forming a network of women office bearers of Australian golf clubs in 2022, chaired the conference attended by 35 delegates, with a further 12 participating on-line. Helping her to stage the conference was Club Presidents Nikki McClure (Kingston Heath), Nicolle Rantanen (The Grange), Evelyn Foley (Royal Queensland) and Lyndal Plant (Indooroopilly), as well as Tiffany Cherry, who is Head of Women and Girls Engagement at Golf Australia.
The prime purpose of the conference was to develop actions to advance women’s leadership and participation in club boards. A variety of topics and common issues were discussed, and the consensus among the delegates was that women with board and professional expertise should have a stronger presence in golf club administration.
“We discussed how best to foster and inspire the next generation of women golf club leaders, and how we can promote and support women to become office bearers, and hold positions of chair,” Deb explained.
“And importantly, the first phase of our plan to support women to take up those board roles, has been actioned.”
As partners in the initiative, Golf Australia hosted the conference at the Australian Golf Centre based at Sandy Golf Links, in Cheltenham, over two days at the end of March.
Among the attendees were 15 Presidents or Captains of their respective clubs, six Vice Presidents, three Past Presidents and 23 general board members. Also participating in the conference were GLN Ambassadors Bonnie Bozeman AO, who is Director at the Australian Golf Foundation, and Midori Miyazaki, Executive Director of International Affairs at ISPS HANDA.
CEO of Golf Australia, James Sutherland, and PGA CEO Gavin Kirkman also attended, while Karen Lunn, CEO of the WPGA Tour of Australasia, spent time with the GLN during the conference. And a surprise and welcome guest was swimming Golden Girl and golf fanatic, Dawn Fraser, as was Skye Lampton from Darwin Golf Club, who joined the conference to deliver the acknowledgement of country.
According to Nicolle Rantanen, President of The Grange Golf Club in South Australia, the conference was a perfect opportunity to share pathways to board membership and develop lasting relationships.
“We celebrated the diversity of our backgrounds and experiences and challenged each other to think of ways to encourage future women leaders,” she said.
“And we agreed that offering care, encouragement and information, would support women aspiring to move from board member to chair.”
Nicolle claimed the GLN was a ‘fantastic’ source of information on various governance models, ways to develop and enhance club culture and considerations when communicating with the membership.
“It was very evident that ‘one size does not fit all’, and the ability to be agile and adapt to changing needs to benefit golf, is paramount. We now have a network to test ideas, and inspire us.”
President of Rosebud Country Club, Sue McMillan, was similarly impressed by the conference.
“I enjoyed the information and experience-sharing that resulted from the discussion among the group of women,” she said.
“Those attending came with a variety and depth of experience, yet all were like-minded and focused on supporting and encouraging women in leadership roles across the golf industry.
“As someone relatively new to golf, I appreciated the insights and experiences openly shared by those participating at the conference.”
Sue said she had made several ‘great connections’ with the participants at the conference, and could foresee good friendships resulting, as well as ongoing involvement with the GLN.
“But further to the connections I established, I also took away a number of very good suggestions around board governance, communication and improving the member experience,” she explained.
Deb Kember highlighted that one of the aims of the conference was to create strong connections between clubs and pool ideas about supporting the next generation of women office bearers in collaboration with active allies of all genders.
“And I am confident we did that,” she said. – TONY DURKIN
Deb also emphasised that everyone is welcome to follow the GLN journey via the LinkedIn group and let us know about women office bearers we haven’t met yet. Contact the GLN via email@example.com”.