Ballarat Golf Club’s new head PGA professional, Angela Tatt, has turned the episodes of anxiety in her own career into valuable teaching tools.
It’s a fascinating slant to her busy role in country Victoria. In March, she stepped up as Australia’s latest female head pro and the first at a club with a heritage dating back to 1895.
Tatt’s eight-year tenure at Ballarat Golf Club as an assistant professional prepared her perfectly when predecessor Dave Wallis was a mentor.
“I love it and feel great pride in seeing the family name on this business,” she said of forming Tatt Golf. “In many areas it actually doesn’t feel any different because helping Dave with the everyday running of the business and golf were some of my roles anyway.
“I’ve always been someone who enjoys wearing many hats in golf. It keeps things interesting. It is never ‘Groundhog Day’ because you are doing everything from lessons to managing stock within the shop.”
Brother Travis works beside her and is in his final year of the PGA Membership Pathway Program. Nephews Jackson, 17, and Riley, 15, are helping in the shop and learning the ropes.
“Dad and Mum have also been popping in every now and then to lend a hand. It’s a real family feel in here and poor Steve [Patterson] and Liam [Howlett] are asked regularly, ‘Are you a Tatt, too?’ as part of the team,” Tatt said with a smile. “It’s nice to feel a level of respect from male and female members, young and old. Growing up in the golf industry has helped with all those conversations and the relationships you build in the game.”
Those conversations come easily. Harder for Tatt, 38, was delving deep inside herself to draw a positive from attacks of anxiety in her own game when playing at the top level. She played pennant for Victoria Golf Club in 2005, the same year she won the women’s club championship. Success at the Castle Hill Country Club Pro-Am on the ALPG Tour in 2008 in the final year of her PGA training was another highlight.
“I suffered anxiety on course and the main reason I talk about it now is to help others who suffer from it,” Tatt said. “Unless you’ve gone through a few mental demons and tried to play golf, it’s hard to understand.”
Tatt lined up for the Women’s Australian Open last December with Wallis as caddie. It was all to simply enjoy the experience and the chance to play at Victoria Golf Club again. The demons returned on her eighth hole, the course’s par-5 17th.
“Off the tee, I toe-shanked my 4-wood out-of-bounds,” Tatt recalled. “I had that horrible feeling in the hands and said to Dave, ‘I can’t do it.’ I topped the next one off the tee.”
To her credit, she kept going and conquered another mental hurdle on the next tee.
“My security blanket 4-wood was gone so I had to take out driver, which had been a problem club in the past. I piped it up the middle. The rest of the round wasn’t great, but I was OK,” Tatt said.
That latest tournament experience has fed into many of the messages she now imparts to club golfers with a problem club, a perceived hang-up or jitters as a beginner.
“I want to be open because issues I have had can assist others,” Tatt explained. “I’ve had young guys open up to me during lessons about anxiety problems on course. We go through the possible triggers and develop coping techniques from there.
“I’ve one member who now finds the positives to every round he plays rather than concentrate, to his detriment, on a couple of poor shots. We don’t hit perfect shots all the time. That’s a good thing for players of all standards to understand. Play one shot at a time, rather than counting shots, is one thing I often talk about. Beginners to the game don’t need to look pretty with their swings but absolutely they can still enjoy it, improve and play in a comp when they never imagine it is possible.”