THERE are so many interesting and rewarding professions in the world and the golf industry is a special place to work. My father is now retired but worked as an obstetrician and gynaecologist for more than 30 years and loved every minute of his career; not many people get to assist with the gift of life and to help babies come into the world.
Over the years, his patients would ask about his four children. He would tell them: Tom, the eldest, is a doctor who followed in his father’s footsteps, Louise is a nurse and a very gifted artist, Jack is a journalist and photographer and my youngest daughter, Annabel, is a golf pro…
“Wow! A golf pro! Really?”
It was as if they didn’t register the other three professions. With great respect to my successful siblings, golf has always caught people’s interest and prompted discussion. Golf has given me some amazing stories and life experiences and I fully anticipate more on the horizon.
How does a young girl find her way into the golf industry? Hopefully my story inspires others to play golf at any level and also gives young golfers insight into the best programs and pathways in Australia and abroad, should they wish to pursue golf as a career.
I was always a natural with bat and ball sports and played tennis for Queensland as a junior. My parents started playing golf and were both hooked. They introduced me to the game and although my interest was quite low to begin with, that rapidly changed once I started winning and taking home trophies. I started to play the game seriously when I was 17, although I had played sporadically before that.
The best thing I ever did was to join a golf club and my first membership was at Nudgee Golf Club in Brisbane. It has 36 holes with good practice facilities. I played a tremendous amount of competition golf and honed my skills morning and afternoon, seeking rapid improvement. I got down to a 4 handicap quickly, in about a year. This meant I could apply for a scholarship at the Queensland Academy of Sport. I was offered a place in the program with four other elite girls and I played amateur tournaments across the country, improving my game playing under tournament conditions. It was a full-time program and I played and practised five days a week with the team at Brookwater Golf Club. The program included strength and conditioning training, psychology for elite athletes and nutritional classes with a dietician. This was a wonderful chapter for me and my game developed further during this time.
By the end of my time with the QAS I was down to a handicap of 1. I also played pennant golf for Indooroopilly and Royal Queensland golf clubs, with a membership at both. As you can glean, I was living and breathing golf every day and loving it.
As an undergraduate, at Griffith University on the Gold Coast, I applied for a sporting scholarship, which took me to the University of Tulsa in the USA. Here I was able to play Division One college golf, rubbing shoulders with golfers from America’s top universities. Division One college golf is for the best amateurs in the world and the college tournaments are run like LPGA events.
The golf program involved a lot of travel so juggling the academic component was a true test of my time management. On campus we did weights training in the gym and practised and played at Southern Hills Golf Club during the week. As an Aussie, it was a bit of a shock to the system to play in the extreme high and low temperatures at different times of the year. I can recall playing in such cold weather I could barely close my hands while gripping the club, not to mention the five layers of clothing! I value my college experience as one of the most important chapters of my golf career. This acts as a wonderful stepping-stone for those who are going on to join the tour.
After completing university with a Bachelor of Business majoring in Sports Management from Griffith University and a Diploma of Golf Management from the PGA International Golf Institute, I entered the PGA of Australia trainee system. I completed a professional year at Royal Sydney Golf Club, after which I was equipped to either play on tour should I wish to go to qualifying school or to teach as a professional golfer.
The PGA of Australia is regarded worldwide as the highest standard of training in terms of competency in both teaching and playing, and demands a very high academic standard from trainees. I regard my time as a PGA trainee professional as one of the best years of my life. I relished the work at Royal Sydney, mainly because the staff and members are so nice and the course and facilities are second to none. It was during this time that I discovered I had a strong interest in golf theory, particularly technical aspects and biomechanics. I also was tremendously excited about Monday trainee tournaments and the four major 72-hole tournaments throughout the year. Playing with the men and the ladies, I learnt so much and I met many people who are still great friends today.
Once I had my professional qualification, it was time to put it to work. I worked as a teaching professional at Trump National in New York, Ridgewood Country Club, the Leadbetter Academy and Royal Melbourne Golf Club. While I was teaching I felt a strong pull towards the golf media and pursued this in Australia and later in the United States. I enrolled to do a course at NIDA in Sydney for presenters and I discovered I had a natural affinity for presenting and this opened the door for me to enter the world of television. I contributed to “The Golf Show” on Fox Sports in Australia and was then offered a position on NBC’s Golf Channel to host my own show. I have also commentated as an on-course reporter for the US PGA Tour for CBS and Turner Sports. I am very proud of what I have achieved in the golf media world, but it was a 10-year journey prior to those offers that allowed me to gain the necessary skills and qualifications to be offered such wonderful opportunities.
When I reflect on why Dad’s patients and others are so fascinated by golf as a profession, I think it comes down to the novelty factor of the job. The reality is, being a golf professional is hard work and no more special or rewarding than any other job. But what makes it so special to me is that I am passionate about it. I have a true love for the game of golf and if you have that in whatever job you do, you will have a happy and rewarding career. My journey has had its trials and tribulations but I wouldn’t change anything I have done to this point. Although golf is my career, underneath it all I am just a golf tragic like so many others. Golf is a true gift and I will always encourage people to take up the game, whether as a hobby or a profession.
• Annabel Rolley is an Australian golf professional and host of Australian Golf Digest TV www.annabelrolley.com