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Showcase Your Sport: Q&A with Confederation of Golf’s Anne McCormack

Golf

In our new series, ‘Showcase your Sport’, in association with the Federation of Irish Sport, we will be giving you a thorough insight into some of the most fascinating sports we have in Ireland.

This week our focus is on golf and answering our questions is Anne McCormack who is the Club Support & Participation Manager with the Confederation of Golf in Ireland.

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When did you first get involved with the Confederation of Golf in Ireland? 

I was involved from the start of CGI which was 2014, I previously worked for the ILGU on the design and pilot phase of the Get into Golf initiative. 

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What are the main roles of the CGI?

The main roles are:

1. Supporting Golf Clubs across the country in a range of services, the main ones being: Recruitment and Retention initiatives, Safeguarding, Club Planning, Governance, Financial Benchmarking, Membership Development and Delivering community-based awareness days.

More recently we have created a Disability Golf action plan and this is an area we plan on expanding as we move into Golf Ireland. 

In addition, CGI are the administrators of Team Ireland Grants and the Olympic Games. 

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How have clubs been coping with adapting to life after lockdown? 

Golf has been in a fortunate position being one of the first sports back and this is recognised by both the Governing Bodies and clubs themselves. Golf clubs have responded really well to the protocols issued by the GUI and ILGU.

Both staff and volunteers within clubs have worked tirelessly to ensure that everything is done to ensure golf is a safe activity for people to participate in and the feedback from golfers have been exceptionally positive in terms of how safe they feel on the golf course. 

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Have clubs noted any major areas of concern?

All clubs have lost a significant amount of revenue this year. Even when golf returned there were a number of weeks where there was no revenue coming into clubs, other than membership as there were no competitions or visitors permitted.

Even with the return of competition and visitors, there has been a significant loss in revenue due to the lack of green fees and overseas visitors, which continues to be a major concern for clubs.

It is hoped a number of grants will be available to clubs which will hopefully alleviate some of the losses. 

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Have you noticed a rise or decline in membership numbers in 2020? 

90% of clubs have welcomed new members which is extremely positive, particularly the number of young people that have joined clubs.

While it is positive, it is also only part of the story. The rise in membership in most cases is due to temporary membership packages of three to six months being offered by clubs.

I feel a more realistic picture on membership will not be established until October initially when the number of temporary members that convert into full membership is clear. And then again next March/April when the Golf Ireland annual subscriptions will be due. 

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Can you explain the aims of the Women In Golf Charter? 

The Women in Golf Charter aims to:

1. Strengthen the focus on gender balance and provide a united position for the golf industry.

Golf

2. Commit national federations and organisations to support measures targeted at increasing participation of women, girls and families in golf.

3. Call upon signatories to take positive action to support the recruitment, retention and progression of women working at all levels of the sport.

4. Set individual targets for national associations for participation and membership and reporting progress annually

5. Develop an inclusive environment for women and girls within golf.

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How can clubs adopt the charter? 

We have created a really simple guide for clubs to follow which can be found here. 

Within this guide, Golf Ireland have provided sample commitments for Golf Clubs that are classified as Bronze, Silver and Gold standard. Clubs are encouraged to choose a minimum of two commitments under each category as a first step and can also choose to create their own commitments under each category.

In addition, clubs can avail of free support from their local Development Officers to help them create an implementation plan to achieve their pledged commitments. 

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What brought about the introduction of the Level Par programme?

The Level Par programme was heavily inspired by the launch of the Sport Ireland Women in Sport Policy which covered the four pillars with the LevelPar programme: Governance, Coaching & Officiating, Participation and Visability.

Golf

This policy influenced us to take a closer look at the numbers involved under each of the pillars. It highlighted the need for us to take genuine action in creating an initiative that would drive golf forward. 

In coaching, there are less than 20 female PGA Professionals out of a workforce of 640. Only two female coaches conducted Regional coaching and one at National level both within the ILGU structure.

Girls make up two percent of overall membership, while boys make up nine percent. The average number of girls per club is nine while the average number of boys is 41.

Only 55 clubs have 30 percent or better female membership with 82 clubs having 15 percent or less female members. 

Meanwhile, in Leadership & Governance, only four percent of clubs have had a female President, Chair, Club Secretary or Treasurer.

19,200 women are full members compared to 102,200 men. That is a ratio of 5:1. 

In regards to Visibility, there are only 30 articles per quarter (mainly performance-related posts). There have only been two front-page features of women in a leading golf magazine in an 18 month period

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Have more female coaches been established since the Level Par initiative? 

In 2019, we piloted an activator programme which was designed to support PGA Professionals by delivering non-technical instruction at grassroots level.  The aim of the activator programme was to increase the coaching workforce and in particular the number of females.

Golf

This pilot was made up of 50 percent females and is currently being expanded to be delivered across GB&I, an initiative that is supported by the R&A. 

Obviously, we have not been able to deliver any training this year, which has affected our targets to increase the number of activators and female activators in particular.  However, there has been a great deal of interest from females, with a few outlining their interest in becoming a qualified PGA Professional. That’s really exciting news as the statistics show that where a club has access to a female PGA Professional, the number of junior girl members doubles the national average. 

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What is the best part of your role within CGI? 

At 16 years of age I saw Sinead Heraty speak for the first time who was the CEO of the Irish Ladies Golf Union, from that day on my greatest ambition was to work in golf and help remove some of the barriers that existed in clubs so that more people could enjoy the sport I loved. 

I am very fortunate that 16 years on I am now in a position to influence genuine change through initiatives I am part of designing with our team and discussions that I am involved with at a strategic level.  Being able to see initiatives come to life and see the positive effects they have on clubs and those involved is a fantastic feeling and something I really treasure in my role. 

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Author: Marisa Kennedy

Marisa is a Digital Journalist with Pundit Arena. You can contact her at marisa@punditarena.com or on Twitter