Years before Janine Barney obtained her qualifications as a PGA Professional, she was helping to bring women into golf.
A representative hockey player for Queensland and Australia, an ACL injury and motherhood sent Barney looking for a new competitive outlet.
She found it in golf, and soon found friends eager to join her.
The big appeal for her friends was that they had someone other than their partners to guide their initial entry into the game.
“A lot of my friends and former hockey teammates would say to me, ‘Can you teach me to play golf because when I go with my husband we fight’,” Barney recalls.
“That was a common thread, so I started teaching a few of my friends.”
That interaction encouraged Barney to lower her handicap to the point where she could complete the PGA’s Membership Pathway Program, a feat she achieved under Jared Love at Windaroo Lakes Golf Club south of Brisbane in 2017.
She has been a fixture there ever since, creating the ‘Golf Fore Women’ program with the sole purpose of creating a welcoming environment within golf for women to come into.
“I think it’s really important to make them feel welcome,” says Barney.
“I can see them pull up in the car park and I can tell that a lot of the time the poor things just want to get back in the car and go home.
“I make sure that I greet them, I send out an e-mail the night before to confirm that they are booked in and that it is going to be fun.
“You’ve got some women who are confident of doing things by themselves but I think 90 per cent of them are very nervous about turning up for the first time.”
One of those was Janelle Spence, a long-time employee of the PGA who had to overcome her own insecurities to attend one of Barney’s clinics.
Admitting to that sense of fear of embarrassing herself in front of other beginners, Spence is now a regular at Barney’s clinics having connected at a recent Women’s Golf Network event on the Gold Coast.
“Janine had been trying for a number of years to get me along to one of her clinics but I just couldn’t get past that fear of failure,” Spence reveals.
“All of the ladies at the Women’s Golf Network clinic were like me, new to the game and just wanted to whack the ball to get it somewhere.
“Once I saw how nervous they were and how Janine interacted with them to make them feel welcome, I knew my time had come.”
Such is the impact that Barney has had on women through golf, she was recently recognised as one of 2023’s 50 Most Inspiring Women in South-East Queensland by the Courier-Mail.
Yet those who nominated her did so as much for what she had given them away from the golf course as much as their interactions on the golf course.
“The nicest thing that anyone can say to you is that you have changed their lives. And these three ladies said to me that I’d changed their lives,” Barney says of her unexpected recognition.
“They may be new to the area, they didn’t have any friends, they wanted to meet some people, they were feeling lonely, all that sort of thing.
“We started a Messenger group from the clinics and now they go to the driving range together, they go out to dinner together, they go on holidays together, it’s that connection.
“When I started golf I thought it was all about the golf, but it’s not. The golf’s a small part of it. It’s that social connection and making friends.”