The Golf Leaders Network builds momentum

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Women in board executive positions at golf clubs nationwide are linking up to challenge, inspire and support one another.

They are doing so in the form of The Golf Leaders Network, a group born of The Brisbane Golf Club, Royal Queensland Golf Club and Indooroopilly Golf Club electing Deb Kember, Evelyn Foley and Lyndal Plant as their Vice Presidents within quick succession.

“The beginning of our vice-presidency was a good time to meet and get to know each other’,” Deb recalled.

“Over 18 months we met for lunch or golf and found the conversations extremely valuable. We discussed our roles and learnt how other clubs operate, providing us with a broad background for the roles we had taken on.”

“We talked about how we built up the courage to put our hand up for the vice-presidency and how we didn’t know of many women in club board executive roles. By sharing our stories, we realised that we weren’t on our own in the decision to take a lead role within our clubs.”

A theme that is also consistent among the initial trio of The Golf Leaders Network is excelling in other fields and bringing their wealth of knowledge and experience into golf.

Deb is a Director of the Queensland Department of Education, leads school improvement initiatives and has received state and national awards from the Australian Council for Educational Leaders.

Lyndal is a highly respected specialist in urban forest policy and strategy, while Evelyn is a retired general practitioner and was a founding director of the Royal Queensland Golf Club Foundation.

Earlier this month, Scottish-born Evelyn was appointed the first female president in the club’s 102-year history. Her young sons had become involved in junior golf, so when some friends suggested joining Royal Queensland in 2004 it was an easy decision.

“At the moment everyone is very excited saying you’re the first female president of the club, but we should get to the stage where gender isn’t being discussed,” Evelyn said.

“The leadership positions are quite demanding. There can still be an element of it’s unusual for women to take on these positions so the support and connection that we have as we move forward is really important. With the challenges ahead, it’s good to know that I’m not the only person in that situation.

One of the primary focuses of Evelyn’s presidency is leading the members towards hosting the golf competition at the 2032 Brisbane Olympic Games after staging the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship, which was won by club member Cameron Smith, last month.

“To see Royal Queensland displayed in all its glory, being shown worldwide was outstanding,” she said.

“The crowds that came were impressive too. It was so good to see that level of interest in golf, across a wide range of demographic groups. From a club perspective we couldn’t be happier with the way the tournament went.

“We’re also very mindful that 2032 isn’t that far away. We’re looking at everything that needs to be done between now and the Olympics and how it’s all going to fit into our schedule, and make sure the members are on board with what we’re doing. We want to have a club that is world standard and is going to be the best we can possibly make it.”

Another member of The Golf Leaders Network who has experienced similar opportunities in their club hosting big tournaments is Kingston Heath President Nikki McClure.

The Melbourne Sandbelt club hosted play in the opening two rounds of the historic mixed-gender ISPS HANDA Australian Open this month and she said it was a success for the club and members who had the chance to play for the tournament tees on the weekend.

At the event, Nikki and Nicolle Rantanen Reynolds, President of The Grange Golf Club in Adelaide, caught up with Midori Miyazaki the Executive Director of International Affairs for ISPS Handa. Miyazaki is passionate about supporting women in Board leadership positions and is delighted to be involved as one of the first advocates for the group as ISPS Handa is about inclusivity through sport.

Nikki first connected with the group when Deb got in touch after hearing her being interviewed on the Australian Golf Show podcast earlier this year.

Shortly after, Nikki, Deb Evelyn and Nicolle connected on a Zoom call with Abigail Gruzman, Vice President of Long Reef Golf Club and Imelda Lynch, Captain of Glenelg Golf Club. They made it their mission to find more women across the country who are leading the way at their golf clubs.

“We constantly hear about the women who aren’t in these roles, and we never talk about the women who are,” Nikki said.

Showcasing the women who are leading the way in golf clubs currently is one way that The Golf Leaders Network intends to reach their goal of at least a quarter of golf club boards across Australia having women in board executive positions by 2030.

Deb believes that tapping into the knowledge and experience amongst the group, and designing professional development opportunities, will also help foster the next generation of female golf club leaders.

“We’re getting so much benefit out of making the connection that we want to find other women in similar roles so that they can benefit from the network we’ve created,” she said.

The Golf Leaders Network is also committed to supporting Golf Australia’s Vision 2025 and the R&A’s Women in Golf Charter.

Vision 2025 aims to draw more women and girls to golf, while the Women in Golf Charter has clubs and facilities publicly commit to improving the sport for women and girls, and Australian Golf’s Head of Women and Girls Engagement, Tiffany Cherry is delighted to have The Golf Leaders Network add to the efforts being made to make golf more inclusive.

“Australian Golf’s greatest opportunity to grow the game is among women and girls but to do this, we must continue to evolve the game and diversify what a golf club offers and has traditionally looked like,” Tiffany said.

“Part of this evolution is supporting more women into senior leadership and decision-making roles within clubs, including our Presidents and Vice-Presidents, or Captains and Vice-Captains. Golf Australia fully supports the Golf Leaders Network and we look forward to more women, around the country, steering us into the exciting future of Australian Golf.” – DANE HEVERIN

(Published from the Golf Australian website)