Growing up, Zoe Allen loved playing golf with her Dad but a career in the sport was never something she took seriously.
Upon leaving school, Allen entered college with the intention of building a career for herself.
For the love of golf
She obtained her degree in accountancy. However she never felt that was the right life for her. Golf was her passion. Despite not having played it seriously, Allen turned to the game at that crossroads in her life.
“My dad introduced golf to me at a young age.
“I probably started playing when I was about 10. Just being able to spend time with my dad is kind of how it started. I played golf growing up, but didn’t really play it too seriously.
“I went and studied and I have a degree in accountancy. Whenever I realised accountancy wasn’t for me, I fell in love with golf even more.
“So I suppose I really started playing more golf after I had studied. And then I decided that I was going to start playing golf a bit more seriously after realizing that I could potentially build a career from it. I think that’s whenever I started to really enjoy that wee bit more.”
Becoming a PGA professional wasn’t all her idea however as she freely admits.
“To be fair, it probably wasn’t through my own discovery.
“I enjoyed playing golf and I got a part-time job at Belvoir Park Golf Club in Belfast. Part of the reason I was there was because the pro there was my golf coach at the time.
“It was actually him that suggested becoming a PGA professional. I never thought I was going to be good enough, but once I got my handicap low enough, I was able to apply. So I thought I better do this now or I’m never going to do it.
“I was 23 or 24 and actually signed up thinking, I don’t really know if this is for me.
“Obviously once I got going, I haven’t looked back since, it’s given me so many different opportunities.”
Allen took the plunge and returned to college, undertaking the PGA’s foundation degree in Professional Golf Studies in conjunction with Birmingham University.
The course teaches aspiring professionals everything associated with a career in the game. From re-gripping clubs to coaching techniques to running a business and managing one’s finances as a PGA professional.
The course offers the whole package according to Allen, giving golfers the chance to decide which route is best suited to them.
Eventually, Allen found herself back in her native Lurgan Club Golf working alongside club pro Peter Hanna, now the PGA’s captain. It was here where she learned the tools of the trade. From running the club shop to coaching.
For Allen, it was always the latter that appealed to her.
“I started my training at Belvoir Park. Then I got offered the position at Lurgan Golf Club working alongside Peter Hanna. Peter is a fantastic retailer and he’s been a great mentor.
“He wouldn’t mind me saying this, but he took me on board to help him with the coaching side of things because he knew I wanted to focus more on that. He was happy, he needed a bit of a helping hand and is more into the retailer side of the golf industry.
“Peter let me do as much as I wanted and as many days as I wanted really. It got me to the point where I was coaching and working in the shop. But I needed more time to coach because people were looking for lessons, but I couldn’t physically do it while working in the shop as well.”
It was a bold move but Zoe Allen soon left Lurgan for America where an opportunity stateside set the wheels in motion for a career that is currently booming.
With the help of Mayo native Michelle Holmes, Allen was directed towards the US Kids Golf’s coaching program.
“Peter was very supportive when I went away a couple of years ago. Once I finished the course I knew I wanted to go into coaching full time.
“He sort of thought, will you be able to make a living out of it but If I didn’t try and do it I wouldn’t know.
“The US Kids Golf brand has a very good coaching program. I got involved with it through a great friend of mine, Michelle Holmes based over in Virginia, but she’s originally from Mayo. A real Irish girl at heart.
“She pointed me in the direction of their coaching program. It focuses on how kids learn through game-based learning.
“So I started to run my coaching in line with what they were doing. Don’t get me wrong, I offer lots of different programs, but it is one of them.”
It’s clear Zoe Allen is a natural at coaching.
Not only was she named among the top 50 kids coach worldwide for three years running but last year she was granted a Masters award. The highest honour an instructor can receive from US Kids Golf.
Today, Allen is one of the most respected and rapidly rising golf coaches in Ireland. Primarily a kids coach, she also offers adult coaching and has set up a yearly program centred around getting more women into golf.
It’s a total turnaround for the accountancy graduate who never really took golf seriously. As the old saying goes though, enjoy your job and you’ll never work a day in your life. It’s a statement that rings true for Zoe Allen.
“All of a sudden I’ve been teaching full time for nearly two and a half years.
“There’s some really long days and stuff like that, but it’s still enjoyable. I think that’s the best thing, work doesn’t really seem like work to me.
“Getting to do something that you enjoy doing every day. It doesn’t really seem like a job.”