Howley Hall's O'Grady on a drive to encourage more women into golf

LONG-DRIVE specialist Becki O'Grady, of Howley Hall, is going to great lengths to encourage women to take up golf.

Rebecca O'Grady.

O’Grady, who last year became Howley Hall’s first female director in their 117-year-history, together with the club’s professional Ryan Rastall has organised free taster sessions, which will be held at the end of the month.

“Both days will involve tuition from our pro Ryan and his team and a chance to play some holes,” said O’Grady, who has twice reached the UK final of the American Golf-backed long driving competition.

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“The perception of golf is that it is boring, so that is why we are trying to make it fun.

Rebecca O'Grady with Paul Monaghan at Howley Hall.

“We’ll get some ladies up at Howley Hall – we’ve already had some takers – and have some afternoon tea with our lady members after the golf to make it a fun event.”

Both events will run from 2-3.30pm, on Sunday, March 25 and Monday, March 26.

O’Grady feels there is an unfair perception that golf is not only boring, but also behind the times. She says her experiences, both as past ladies’ captain and as a board member at Howley Hall, point to the contrary.

“I think there has been a massive change to when I was a junior 15 to 20 years ago, with ladies golf especially,” she said.

Rebecca O'Grady with Paul Monaghan at Howley Hall.

“Women are now able to play with men in competitions – you could never do that 20 years ago.

“We have quite a few mixed competitions at Howley Hall; we have one a month throughout the summer.

“We make it into an event. We lay food on afterwards and invite our partners up to the club, so whoever you are playing with it becomes a bit of a social event as well.

“The men and ladies have got involved and the juniors too. I think it’s good that we can all play together.”

O’Grady has also welcomed a sea change in the demands made with regard to what clothing golfers are expected to wear, on the course and in the clubhouse.

She feels this is particularly relevant when it comes to attracting youngsters to take up the game.

“You look at the Yorkshire ladies’ team, who are English champions, and they’re all young, they’re all fashionable and they’re all passionate about the game,” said O’Grady.

“If we want to get youngsters into the game we don’t want to have to tell them, ‘to play you’ve got to wear a baggy shirt with a collar on’. They want to wear fashionable stuff because that’s what young people do, isn’t it?

“I’m against wearing jeans on the golf course, but I’m for it in the clubhouse and we changed our policy on that last month at Howley Hall. Especially trying to get the younger people in, you need that.

“They don’t want to come into the clubhouse if they have to dress up; they want to just come down for a drink on Friday night and come to a social event and setting.”

O’Grady, who is 38, is particularly keen to get some new younger women members at Howley Hall as the average age of their lady members is 64.

“On the back of that we are struggling to field teams. If we’re not getting new members then we won’t be able to play competitively,” she said.

“We don’t struggle with men, it is just the ladies.

“We are also promoting nine-hole competitions a lot, especially with the ladies because some of them can’t get round 18 holes, and you also have ladies who work and they have the time constraints of work to deal with.”

Anyone interested in attending either of the sessions should call 01924 350102 or email [email protected]