A trio of women staged their own version of girl power by topping each of the three years on The PGA’s foundation degree.
It’s the first time this has happened and reflects increasing numbers of women carving out careers as PGA Professionals in golf.
Taking pride of place was Lancastrian Sarah Walton who reaped instant dividends after being crowned the Titleist PGA Assistant of the Year at the annual PGA graduation ceremony with a new head professional job.
Jersey-based Alex Mollin from Les Mielles Golf Club celebrated top spot in the second year, with former Curtis Cup player Louise Davis from North Wales Golf Club in Llandudno winning the Rookie of the Year title.
For Lytham Green Drive assistant Walton, graduation will be followed by her first head pro post at Kington in Herefordshire and she believes her success in being top student in the third year had everything to do with clinching the role.
“I am 100 per cent certain being able to add PGA Assistant of the Year to my CV made it sparkle and help get an interview,” said the 36-year-old, who began her career as an assistant at Accrington Golf Club.
“Winning this award has already helped my career without question. I start in May and have been down there three times already and I am looking forward to taking the role on.”
This is the second successive year that Walton has come ahead of her peers having finished top of the second year assistants on the three-year PGA Foundation Degree in Professional Golf.
Walton’s success was recognised in a ceremony at the University of Birmingham, where she collected the prestigious Whitcombe Cox Trophy and a cheque for £3,500 from BBC TV newsreader and golf enthusiast Naga Munchetty, who was the guest of honour.
In addition, Walton was presented with golf equipment from sponsors Titleist, while she also received the Ladies European Tour-backed Beverly Lewis Trophy – named in honour of the PGA’s first female captain – and a cheque for £1,750. She also picked up a prize from GASP Systems having finished joint third in the coaching modules.
Walton, a former driving instructor until deciding to pursue a career in golf, reflected on the three major awards being won for the first time by women.
“When I started the course I was told that just five per cent of the membership is female so for three women to top each year shows how strong women’s golf is and how it is developing,” she said.
“It also shows the calibre of women coming through the system and also already out there which can only be excellent for growing the game of golf.”
Sandy Jones, chief executive of The PGA, said: “This year the PGATrainingAcademy is celebrating a unique and historic achievement as the leading students in each year are women. This is something the Association is very proud of as it will clearly assist in the future growth of the game and resonate with young girls and women.
“Graduation is really just the beginning of a career that will take these young men and women across the globe to wherever the game of golf is played. I wish them all good luck and enormous success wherever their journey may take them.”
Jonathan Dowdell, Titleist European marketing manager, said: “We are pleased to continue our support of the Titleist PGA Assistant of the Year award, recognising this as a starting point of The PGA’s commitment to provide its members with a framework for lifelong learning.
“PGA Professionals play a key role in the development and growth of the game across all levels, and we are delighted to support the next generation of qualified professionals and to wish them well with their future careers.”
Ivan Peter Khodabakhsh, chief executive officer of the Ladies European Tour, said: “This is a unique and special year for The PGA with each of the three year standings being topped by women and we would like to congratulate all of the winners, particularly Sarah, for winning the Ladies European Tour’s Assistant of the Year Award.
“This recognition is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the trainees throughout their courses. At this time, we would also like to acknowledge the inspirational work of the PGA Professionals who provide an invaluable service developing talent from grass roots level, coaching junior golfers through to the elite professional game.”
The PGA training programme, which was founded more than 50 years ago, concentrates on all aspects of golf including coaching, business, equipment technology and repairs, rules and tournament organisation, sports science, sports psychology and playing.
Training and education remains an integral part of The PGA which also runs an honours degree in association with the University of Birmingham.
Once qualified, PGA members also undergo a process of continual professional development to keep them up to speed with all the latest developments in the sport.
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