Top former female amateur golfer Julie Otto has made her mark after switching to the professional ranks by winning the Titleist PGA Assistant of the Year award.
Otto, based at Elie Sports Centre in Fife, achieved it while also juggling work at the club and being a mum to three young children.
The 48-year-old, who had a glittering amateur career including five Curtis Cup appearances, captaining England at the World Amateur Team Championships in 2008 and winning the Ladies British Open Amateur Championship in 1990 and 1995, said she was ‘chuffed’ at her latest honour.
Otto was recognised at the PGA’s Annual Graduation ceremony at the University of Birmingham on Wednesday 15 April.
She was presented with the prestigious Whitcombe Cox trophy and a cheque for £3,500 by Titleist brand director Matthew Johnson and guest of honour Richard Hills, Ryder Cup director.
In addition, she also claimed the LET-sponsored Beverly Lewis Trophy and £1,750 for being the top female assistant, while she was the best performer in the golf coaching exams, securing a state-of-the-art package from PGA Official Supplier GASP Systems, and also topped the Golf Pride sponsored equipment technology module.
Otto said: “I feel a huge sense of achievement as I’m not the youngest at 48 and have done it as a mother of children aged 10, eight and six.
“I’m at a very different stage of my life and maybe it was an odd thing to do. It was about four years ago when the thought struck what will I do when the kids go to school and so I took the decision to be a professional and teach golf.
“I played for a long time and I didn’t do it earlier because I was quite a big fish in the amateur game and that always was too much to give up.
“It has been hard, don’t get me wrong. Retaining information is certainly not the same. There were times during the three years when you think about just walking away, but then I’m driven and it was about getting through it.”
Otto, whose husband Steve is the director of Research & Testing for the R & A, now intends to focus on coaching.
“I really enjoy coaching, particularly the average golfer, and this will give me the opportunity to continue coaching,” she added. “I really get a kick out of working with the older golfer. Golf is a game for all ages, not just the youngsters, and that’s something I want to focus on. Nothing beats being with my Wednesday ladies group.”
Dutchman Hiddo Uhlenbeck, head professional at Kennemer Golf Club was second with Chart Hills’ Nicholas Olson third. Middlesbrough Mun’s Sean Kay was top of Year Two while reigning PGA Assistants’ Champion Gareth Davies won the Rookie Award.
The PGA training programme, encompassing the three year Foundation Degree, was founded more than 50 years ago and covers all aspects of golf including business, equipment technology and repairs, rules and tournament organisation, sports science and sports psychology.
PGA chief executive Sandy Jones added: “PGA graduation day is certainly one of the highlights of our golfing calendar.
“Each year at graduation I always wonder what the future holds for the graduates and where life will take them now that they have the PGA qualification. Certainly for these graduates, the world is their oyster as they become a great asset to golf with their invaluable ability to assist us in growing the game across the globe.
“The success of these graduates will also be an inspiration to new golfers. I congratulate Julie, who after a very successful amateur career is showing the same aptitude and determination as a PGA Professional and is a shining ambassador for the game of golf.”
Titleist’s Johnson commented: “Titleist has had a long standing commitment to PGA Professionals, we realise and endorse that they 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, we look forward to working with them and wish them well with their future careers.”
Ivan Khodabakhsh, Chief Executive Officer of the Ladies European Tour, also praised Otto adding, “Congratulations to Julie on her double achievement. We are delighted that she has received the Ladies European Tour’s Beverly Lewis Trophy as well as the Titleist PGA Assistant of the Year Award.
“This is the third year that women have finished top of the class on the PGA Foundation Degree which demonstrates the calibre of the female PGA Professionals coming through the system.
“This is fantastic news as not only will it help to diversify the industry, but their work will undoubtedly attract more women and girls into the game.”
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