The increasingly influential roles female PGA Professional are playing in growing golf and improving its standards is reflected by the inclusion of five WPGA Members in a leading magazine’s list of the UK’s top coaches.
The quintet, comprising PGA Captain-elect Sarah Bennett, Lysa Jones, Adrienne Engleman, Katie Dawkins and Joanne Taylor, accounts for 10% of the 50-strong list published in the latest issue of Golf Monthly.
The list was first published 15 years ago and featured 25 Top Coaches. However, the latest has doubled that number and a magazine spokesman explained: “We have extended the group to 50 to both recognise new talent and better reflect the diversity of our audience and content.
“All coaches were first nominated by their students and then answered a questionnaire that was put together by Dr Paul Schempp from the University of Georgia, who was behind Golf Magazine’s Top 100 US Coaches.
“In this year’s list we have added five female coaches, all from different backgrounds and with different experience, but all with an extensive knowledge of teaching the game. There is also a younger look to our list which again reflects our audience, either in print, online or through social media.
“In the coming years, we’re looking forward to showcasing a wider variety of talented coaches and their incredible game-changing advice.”
Commenting on the high-profile recognition of her coaching skills, Bennett, who is attached to Three Rivers Golf and Country Club, Essex, said: “I never set out to win prizes so obviously I’m delighted and proud to be included in such an elite group. But I’m even more excited and pleased by the bigger picture. The fact there are five WPGA Members on the list is massive for women’s golf. It’s testament to the important roles women are playing in promoting and growing the game.”
Jones, a senior coach at PGA Master Professional Graham Walker’s golf academy in Yorkshire, is widely recognised as the leading female coaching elite golf in the UK and Ireland.
That reputation has resulted in UK Sport including her in the 19-strong group of women as having the potential to coach at the 2024 Olympics and beyond.
As a player, Jones won the WPGA Championship in 2005, finishing ahead of Engelman whose inclusion in the Top 50 is a fitting reward for a catalogue of innovative efforts to get her name recognised and grow the game. Not least giving pop-up lessons in Bedford High Street.
“I’ve worked my socks off over the last few years trying to get my name out there,” said Engleman, a PGA Fellow Professional attached to Colmworth Golf Club, Bedfordshire. “I’ve erected an inflatable practice net in Bedford High Street and given free lessons. And I’ve spent weekends year after year, often in the pouring rain, doing the same thing at the Bedford River Festival.I’ve also done lots of schools and inclusive disability work and it’s paid off. I’m gobsmacked to have made the list but at the same time and, without sounding arrogant, I feel I’ve deserved it.”
Meanwhile, Dawkins is likely to concur with Engleman’s choice of unconventional locations for dispensing golf tuition.
Dawkins, an Advanced PGA Professional and a regular contributor to Golf Monthly, utilises the land adjacent to a friend’s coffee shop in the Hampshire village of West Wellow.
“I also visit clients’ homes to give lessons,” she said. “I decided to coach on a freelance basis rather than at a club when I returned to work following the birth of my son.So being included in the list of the top 50 coaches is really rewarding, especially as I don’t have a fixed base. I’m delighted.
Elaborating on her coaching modus operandum, Dawkins added: “I feel golfers, especially women who are beginners, are more relaxed in familiar surroundings.
They’re far less intimidating than conventional golf clubs where, for example, they might be told off for wearing the wrong clothes!
“I also find that getting to know how someone lives and their circumstances makes it easier to teach them.”
By contrast, there are few more traditional golfing venues than Walton Heath, the club in Surrey which staged the 1981 Ryder Cup and where Taylor has been working for close on a year-and-a-half.
The club has also hosted the British Masters and is the venue for the 2023 AIG Women’s Open. Which gives Taylor an ideal vehicle to help her mission to get more women and youngsters playing golf.
“Everyone is really excited about this,” said Taylor who, at 32, is the youngest of the WPGA Members named in the Top 50.
“There’s lots going on at the moment as we’re trying to create a real legacy at the club. Part of that is trying to encourage lots more women and juniors to play the game.
“There are a few things I’d be doing anyway because that’s where my interest lies. I’m starting to reach out to local schools and the golf club is being very supportive, which is really good. My motivation was there to do that but it’s great to have the support of the club as well.”
Being involved in an Open Championship, however, will not be a new experience for Taylor. She has been a member of the PGA team of coaches giving free lessons in the R&A Swingzone for the past four Open Championships and will be at St Andrews this year.
In doing so she will be one of seven WPGA Members coaching at what will be the 150th Open Championship.
“It’s something I really enjoy doing,” she added. “As for being named in the Top 50, it was quite a surprise when they first spoke to me about it and I’ve had to keep it secret for a while, which was quite hard. But, yes, I’m delighted.”