From Colin Farquharson, Cal Carson Golf Agency.
Former British and Welsh women’s open amateur stroke-play champion Heather Macrae from Dunblane and Marian Riordan from Tipperary, winner of the 2007 Irish women’s amateur Order of Merit have both been international-class amateur golfers.
They also both failed to gain pass marks at the Ladies European Tour Qualifying School late last year.
Heather and Marian have one more thing in common. They have both decided their immediate futures lie being trained to Professional Golf Association standards.
Heather will start work later this month as a trainee assistant professional in Alasdair Good’s shop at Gullane Golf Club in East Lothian.
Marian, who has spent the last two years as a teacher in a class room – not at golf club or driving range, has already taken the plunge. She has started training as a PGA assistant professional at Greystones Golf Club in County Wicklow.
When front-rank female amateurs talk these days about turning professional, they mean tournament-playing professionals. Very few of them, like Heather and Marian, opt to take the route that will see them – if they pass the tests along the way – become PGA qualified professionals at the end of their training.
As Gullane head professional Good – he’s the man behind the Wee Wonders scheme, by the way, says:
“Heather can still decide to pursue a career as a tournament-playing professional after she has completed her PGA training but the big bonus will be that she then has some qualifications on her CV she can fall back on.”
In Scotland, the number of girls/women in the club professional or coaching side of golf hardly makes it into double figures.
There’s Muriel Thomson and Karyn Dallas who are established as head club professionals in their own right at Portlethen and Kirriemuir golf clubs respectively.
Then there are coaches such as Karyn Burns (Mearns Castle Golf Academy), Lesley Mackay (World of Golf ), Jane Connachan (Kingsfield) and Inverness-based Gillian Stewart.
Undergoing PGA training at Aspire Golf Centre, near Aberdeen is former Aberdeenshire county champion Katy Thomson.
Heather MacRae, now 24, spent four years at college in the United States and was a regular member of the Scotland international team. She was a shade unlucky to be given reserve status instead of a place in the Great Britain & Ireland team for the Curtis Cup match of 2004 at Formby.
She failed to make the grade at the Ladies European Tour Qualifying School late last year but is optimistic about the future.
“By starting the PGA training now, it will give me a good foundation and a lore more options at the end of the three years when I can then decide if I want to pursue the playing or coaching route – or both,” she said.
“I will be able to compete in the assistants’ events, which I am very much looking forward to.
“Being attached to Gullane with its great reputation, and getting a sound PGA training from Alasdair Good will no doubt stand me in good stead for the future. I will be starting at Gullane later this morning as soon as I get my accommodation sorted out and I am very excited about it.”
Gullane pro Good believes that the Macrae move has the potential to be beneficial all round.
“Heather joining my staff this month is not only good for her it is good for me!
“Gullane has one of the biggest lady memberships in the country and it is obviously in our interests to cater for their needs. With that in mind, Heather will fit in very well here,” he said.
“PGA training stretches the window of opportunity for her. I want Heather to keep up the playing side of her career and there will be opportunities for her to play in WPGA events and, of course, the Tartan Tour assistant events.”
Beaten in the final of last year’s Irish women’s amateur championship, Marian Riordan has an education CV that could have opened doors for her right, left and centre – a BA in Business Studies and Recreation Leisure from the Waterford Institute of Technology and a Higher Diploma (with honours) in Education at University College, Dublin.
Yet, Marian’s love of golf is such that she has followed her heart – and is in her first year of training as an assistant professional at Greystones Golf Club.
“Joining the PGA training programme was something I had rolling around in my head for a few years and I feel now is the best time for me to make that move,” she said.
“The amateur game has been great to me, a lot of great times along with a few not so good but that is sport. I suppose after teaching full-time in a secondary school for two years, I felt it was now or never. No better time for me to make the move into PGA training than now.
“Joining the PGA is a very important aspect in my plan. It provides some great opportunities along with the chance of doing what I love. I'm delighted to have my qualifications and work experience and it gives me a cushion to do what I want. If it all goes pear shaped well it won't be the end of the world! Hopefully that won't be the case.
Heather and Marian are demonstrating that there is more than one career to be enjoyed in golf. Perhaps failing to gain an LET players’ card at the first attempt will prove a blessing in disguise for both.
Fearless Women in Sport