Twenty-five years after completing her PGA traineeship, Michelle Becroft is calling for an even greater focus on bringing more women into the PGA Membership Pathway Program.
I grew up an hour the other side of Horsham in a tiny little town called Goroke. Only 300 people live in Goroke and my mum was such a good golfer. My mum’s mum passed away when my mum was only four and she was raised by her aunty and uncle in a little town called Harrow. Aunty Nellie played golf and Mum wanted to take up golf. My uncle Charlie went out to a tree, found a branch that looked like a golf club, cleaned it up and gave her that and a tennis ball. That’s how she learned to play golf and she still has that branch. Still has that golf stick, her original golf stick.
My mum and dad were legends in the area. They went around to all the tournaments, they won all the mixed and my dad won a lot of club championships, as did my mum. I grew up playing tennis and really loved it but I went and played in this tournament got absolutely wiped by this girl in the final. I think I was 12. This girl was younger than me and I said to my dad, “There’s no way I’m ever going to be that good. I’m going to start playing golf.”
When I was 10 there was no golf course in Goroke but my dad had a bulldozer on our farm and he and two mates went to the local council and said, “We want to build a golf course in Goroke.” They gave them a plot of land just outside of town and my dad drove his bulldozer all the way from our farm out to this plot of land and built a golf course.
I started playing there and I played at Edenhope and then when I was nearly 15, Dad sold the farm and we moved down to Warrnambool. I played at Warrnambool for a couple of years and then I moved to Melbourne. That was how I started playing golf.
I played a lot with Karrie Webb growing up and when you play with someone like Karrie, you soon realise that you’re not good enough to make a career out of playing. But from a very young age I loved teaching. I actually wanted to be a schoolteacher and I got to a stage with my golf where I thought, You know what? I’m not good enough to be a player but I want to teach.
My best friend Jodie Hawkins – she was Jodie Adams at the time – was playing at Kooringal and David Wren was on the trainee committee at the time. He asked Jodie whether she was interested in doing a traineeship and then she rang me and said, “If I do it, will you do it too?”
We researched it and at the time you could do a 12-week course with the ALPG and become a fully qualified coach or you could do the three-year PGA Membership Pathway (Program). Obviously we thought it’d be much easier to do the 12 weeks but I just felt like there was so much more to it and so much more education. I came out with a Diploma in Business and I wanted to be well respected by my peers.
I went to Royal Melbourne, did my playing test and was accepted into the PGA but I couldn’t get a job. In the end, Wayne Rogers, who was at Werribee Park at the time and chairman of the trainee committee, rang and said, “I need a trainee, come and work for me.” That’s how I started my traineeship.
Girls didn’t work in pro shops back then. It was a very male dominated area in golf, and now I can’t tell you the amount of people who ring me and say, “I need a female pro. Do you know of anyone looking for a job?” Females are really sought after now.
I think women are more approachable in a pro shop. We tend to be more active in the pro shop as far as the shop being tidy, displays well presented. I think our phone manner is better. And I think clubs are now beginning to understand that they need to look after the women coming into their golf club better. This is where we need to embrace female membership a little bit more and embrace the women who walk into the pro shop. It’ll be interesting to see in the next 5-10 years how that’s going to shift as far as how women are represented in the pro shop environment.
Golf is the time to get away from everything in your life and go out there and be in beautiful surrounds and enjoy that time that you’re outside with friends. There’s no reason not to play golf and I think that that’s one of the things that we’ve got to get across to women. There’s no reason not to play golf, except the fact that it has been a male dominated sport in the past. That’s a perception that we need to change.
There are currently around 150 female PGA Professionals throughout Australia. For information on how you can become a PGA Professional and unlock a myriad of career opportunities in the industry, head to www.pga.org.au/education/academy/membership-pathway-program/