Annabel Rolley has difficulty naming the highlight of her golf career so far. Call it a three-way tie for first place. The first memory in the playoff would be following Jason Day during the final round of his 2015 US PGA Championship victory from inside the ropes with David Feherty.
Giving Bill and Hillary Clinton a full day of golf lessons on the course would have to be in there. Oh, and she can’t omit the time she was asked for architectural input into Trump National Golf Club – by Donald Trump himself.
“I really feel very blessed,” says Rolley. “I often tell people that looking back 10 years, I wouldn’t have dreamed of the position I’m in today. “I really feel my PGA of Australia membership is one of my greatest assets.”
The host of Australian Golf Digest TV, set to launch in the coming weeks, started her dream run as a Trainee Professional at the prestigious Royal Sydney Golf Club in 2009. But it quickly took off to the Big Apple when Rolley accepted a Teaching Professional role at Trump National Golf Club in New York.
“I decided I wanted to pursue a teaching career in the US; that’s where the golf industry really thrives,” says Rolley. “And I was fortunate that Trump National wanted a female Pro. It was a dream – when I arrived, it was the most beautiful facility and the clubhouse was ornate with fancy chandeliers. The members were literally billionaires and millionaires.”
After personally looking at the Queenslander’s resume, the hotel billionaire handpicked Rolley for his exclusive Westchester golf club. What she didn’t expect, though, was to be re-designing the layout on her first visit. “On my very first day of work, Trump wanted to meet me so we had lunch,” recalls Rolley. “But he also wanted my thoughts on the course after taking me on a tour. On one particular hole, I said the tee box was in an awkward spot and a tree was in the way. I felt it would be better if the tee box was moved back so the tree wasn’t obstructing the ballflight, especially for Pros. Sure enough, the very next day there was a Trump bulldozer there carrying out the work.”
The surprises kept coming for Rolley – the opportunity to play more golf than most Club Pros, and the American golfers treated instructors. “A perk of working for Trump was he wanted his teachers to play well, so he’d pay for me to play in 36-hole ladies events across the US. I’d also take some of the female members on tours to other Trump facilities. “Working at the club in New York, I was really taken aback by how much they put golf teachers on a pedestal and treated us so well.”
Naturally, the 27-year-old settled into New York City life quickly, soaking up the sites of the Empire City when she wasn’t showing the rich and famous how to swing a golf club.
“New York being on my doorstep was really exciting,” says Rolley. “I got to explore Manhattan and it was a very special time in my life.”
Though Rolley is now back in Australia, basing herself in Sydney, she can’t escape the global topic of Trump running for the US Presidential candidacy. In fact, Rolley says Trump ran the idea by his golf staff years before it became a reality. “As early as 2011 when I worked at Trump National, he was considering running for US President,” she recalls. “I was at a dinner with the members and he asked everybody whether he should run for President.
“I’d seen him operate as a businessman and it was very impressive. Naturally, as employees we answered ‘yes’. But being the leader of the most powerful nation in the world is a different story.” Yet Trump wasn’t the only occupational interaction Rolley had with former US Presidents – or current candidates – while working in New York. “I’ve met Bill and Hilary Clinton and I even gave Bill some golf lessons,” says Rolley. “In August 2011, it was Bill’s birthday and he decided to play golf at Trump National with his daughter Chelsea and her husband. “It was surreal to play with them and teach them how to play golf. Especially with six members of the secret service following us around.”
The land of the free and home of the brave continued to deliver opportunities for Rolley. Following a coaching stint at Royal Melbourne, Rolley returned to the US when she landed a gig as lead instructor at the David Leadbetter academy. When her teaching credentials prompted several coaches to urge Rolley to go into television, Rolley undertook a broadcast presenting course at National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in Sydney. The move paid immediate dividends when Fox Sports hired Rolley to help present the Golf Show. There, she garnered the attention of other networks and was brought across to the NBC network to host the Golf Channel’s Lesson Tee Live.
Which brings us to one of Rolley’s all-time favourite memories: joining the CBS team to watch from inside the ropes at Whistling Straits as a fellow Aussie created Major Championship history with the record for the lowest 72-hole score (20-under par). “I was with the CBS team for Jason Day’s win at Whistling Straits (last year) and during the final round I walked inside the ropes with David Feherty,” recalls Rolley. “There I was, just behind the final group watching Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – who I’d seen as a 16-year-old winning amateur events in Queensland – on the world’s biggest stage. “It was amazing to be there and congratulate him. “Not bad for a young girl from Brisbane.”
- Started playing golf at 17 years of age
- Competed in domestic amateur events on a Queensland Academy of Sport Scholarship
- Studied a Bachelor of Business, majoring in sports management at Griffith University in Queensland
- Completed a Certificate in Applied Golf Management Practices at the PGA International Golf Institute
- Completed a PGA Traineeship (Professional Year) with the PGA of Australia
- Represented the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma in Division One Intercollegiate Golf
- Completed a presenter course at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA)
- Assistant Golf Professional – Royal Sydney Golf Club Professional Golfer – Trump National Golf Club, New York
- Golf Instructor
- Host of Australian Golf Digest TV