Sport

Our Game: Women’s Stories Shaping Sport - Golf Australia program looks to boost female participation

By Tyler Maher

McPherson Media Group has partnered with Valley Sport to bring you Our Game: Women's Stories Shaping Sport highlighting the brilliant and often under-appreciated, contributions females of the region make to their sporting clubs and organisations, on and off the field.

Each week a different district female athlete, leader or champion will be highlighted — so make sure you contact MMG or Valley Sport to nominate those around you to be profiled in the series.

This week we look at how golf clubs are aiming to increase female participation in the region, with Shepparton's Megan Carr featured.

Female participation in golf is a crucial growth area for the sport in Australia, and clubs in the Goulburn Murray region are at the forefront of a renewed focus on the issue.

A number of district clubs — including Shepparton, Kialla, Kyabram Parkland, Nagambie, Cobram-Barooga and Tocumwal — have been taking part in a new gender equality program run by Golf Australia, dubbed Even Par.

Victoria's female engagement manager for Golf Australia Megan Carr is a Shepparton local herself, and detailed the aim of the organisation's new program as well as why it is needed.

“We have identified that participation in golf is fairly gendered,” Carr said.

“About 80 per cent of golfers are men and boys and only about 20 per cent are women and girls, which equates to about one in five members of clubs being female today compared to back in the ‘70s when it was around one in three.

“It means that changes in clubs need to be made, we need to look at the structures in place and how these might impact the way women and girls engage with the sport.

“Things like making sure leadership structures allow women and girls have a say, implementing programs to help them be pipelined into the sport and assessing whether maybe the traditional membership model is always the right structure at a club (are high priorities).

“Locally we decided to run the Even Par trial in the Goulburn Murray region, so we put it out to all of the clubs and it was fantastic that we had those ones sign up and come to two workshops.

“Unfortunately COVID put a bit of a halt on it, but we're getting back into it in an online setting.”

Carr has always loved sport of any kind, and is glad to be able to help other women and girls find community connections through her role with Golf Australia.

“I love sport and I love what sport brings to the community,” she said.

“Being able to deliver a lifelong love of sport to others in my job is great.

“I moved to Shepparton 18 years ago and the way I got into the community was through sport, and now my kids are playing as well and it's just great to be able to be involved.

“I just love that it's the lifeblood of the community.

“It's fantastic to be able to work with the local volunteers as well and see the amount of work that they do to keep their clubs running.

“What those clubs and others in the region are already doing or looking at doing to help engage women and girls in the sport is just fantastic.”

The key message from Carr to clubs is to keep thinking of what they can do to help women and girls first discover golf and then engage with the sport.

“Female participation in golf is the biggest area where we can have growth — there's such a good opportunity to grow from the 20 per cent base that we have now,” she said.

“Females are spoilt for choice now when they're looking to play a sport, so much more so than any time before, and it's great to be able to say to young girls ‘you can choose what you want to do'.

“So it's our job to put the structures and systems in place to help them as well as make sure our culture is as welcoming as it can be.

“Clubs are doing some amazing things across the region, multi-day club championships to help working women and those that prefer playing during the week stay involved, multi-tee competitions as well.

“They're not dictating the way the game is played to people — they're letting them play how they want to.

“Through another program we run — MyGolf Girls — we had 30 girls come together for a camp last year, and it was all about fun and friendship — we're keen to focus on that.

“The more we can drive the participation of the younger generation of girls up the better so they can play with their friends and people their own age. It's not necessarily cool to go and play golf with your mum or your grandmother all the time, but it's a lot different with friends.”

More in the Our Game series

Introduction

Rylee Alderton

Megan Wood

Amy Marshall

Dossie Parnell

Erin Blachford

Grace Raphael and Bridie Mackay

Rhonda Carpenter

Kyabram women's cricket team

Navigating the post-COVID-19 sporting landscape

Marlie Noonan