Zoe Thacker has gone from being part of the Ryder Cup Legacy to becoming the new Director of Development at Wales Golf.
Keen hockey player and footballer Thacker joined Wales Golf 12 years ago, having previously worked for Sport Cardiff, and has since gone through the golf development schemes she will now be running.
While Thacker’s focus will remain building the relationships with Welsh golf clubs which have grown stronger through the Covid crisis, with equality and diversity as key drivers moving forward, there will also be more emphasis on sustainability.
“We will continue to focus on working with the clubs, helping them to be as strong as possible, with a focus on equality and diversity,” said Thacker. “But the other big thing on the horizon is sustainability and the responsibility for golf to play its part for future generations.
“Golf positively contributes to the financial, environmental and social well-being of the communities in which it is played. The R&A strongly advocates sustainability across the nature, communities and resources agenda, and with support from organisations such as the GEO Foundation, Wales Golf will support the growing sustainable golf community and its ambitions.
“There is a lot of amazing work already going on at golf clubs around Wales to make their courses as eco-friendly as possible, but we can share that good practice and we can always do more.”
Thacker, from Dorset but with family from Abergavenny, went to the Royal Ballet School as a child, was a keen hockey player and co-founder of Hafod Ladies football club in Trehafod, Rhondda.
She started at Golf Development Wales as part of the Ryder Cup Legacy just before the 2010 event at Celtic Manor, helping to develop the golfing facilities which are working well around Wales long after the Ryder Cup has finished.
As a non-golfer back then she went through Wales Golf New2Golf schemes, including one in Llantrisant golf club, giving her a greater understanding of the pathway into golf.
“I don’t profess to be a golf expert, but I can get around a course and enjoy it,” she said. “I went through a New2Golf scheme and loved it – it was good to look at golf through a different lens.”
Golf and society are beginning to move on from the Coronavirus pandemic, looking at some of the changes that have taken place and aiming to build on the positive elements.
“Wales Golf has a strategy in place through to 2022, so now is a good time to re-assess and start looking beyond that,” said Thacker. “We are lucky in that we have such a strong team, following such a strange year when our staff have been there for the clubs and key stakeholders and given so much effort.
“It has been an amazing year with the challenge of Covid, there have been some positives such as membership rising. There has been a 10-11% increase, but that is mostly males whereas the levels of women and girls has stayed roughly level.
“So we need to push our New2Golf schemes. We know women are interested in golf, but we have only recently returned to group coaching and mentoring so we have an opportunity there.
“We will continue to encourage and support clubs to be as open to as many people as possible. Some have had financial hardship with the impact on tourism, as well as the hospitality side, so we will be helping clubs get through the winter.
“We need to help clubs retain those new golfers, ensuring that club membership is still a valuable part of someone’s lifestyle going forward.
“The relationship with the clubs is key to us and I am pleased to say we have a really good relationship with 99% of our clubs now. For many clubs, the development team are part of their extended team!
“We have been able to support the clubs accessing grants and funding. We have seen clubs working with community groups, schools and local authorities going above and beyond their usual remit.
“We have seen clubs providing meals on wheels to members and also to people in their communities during the pandemic.”
“I feel honoured to be part of such a forward thinking, passionate and skilled team at Wales Golf, and can’t wait to get started in my new role.”