Dinner at Royal Melbourne Golf Club
September 17 2018
Report of GSA Dinner at Royal Melbourne Golf Club, 17 September 2018 by Murray Cropley
Morag North welcomed about 80 members and guests to the GSA dinner, held at Royal Melbourne Golf Club, on 17 September 2018. Augmenting the guests were several invited Lady Captains and Presidents from many Melbourne clubs, which resulted in a pleasing preponderance of women as attendees.
Our guest speaker was Chyloe Kurdas, recently appointed as Golf Australia’s National Female Participation Manager. Chyloe a former Melbourne University lecturer and currently an Associate of the Melbourne Business School as a keynote speaker on leadership and cultural change. Her most recent sport-specific role was as AFL Victoria female football development manager, where she was responsible for leading the growth of female participation that culminated in the establishment of the ground breaking AFLW competition.
Chyloe spoke about GA’s Vision 2025, promoting women’s and girls’ golf. She spoke about cultural leadership and role models for female participation in golf. She reflected on her experience as a women’s AFL player for about 15 years and as a staff member at the AFL. She emphasised the point that ‘attitude reflects leadership’, and that had been a strong feature of her recent experience at GA.
She took up golf just as something to do while she was playing football and found that it ‘got under her skin’, so began to take a stronger interest in it. Later, while working at the AFL, she spent a brief time in the USA with the LPGA. Chyloe noted the way the LPGA headquarters recognised and venerated the organisation’s history and the people who were involved in this; values that the GSA stood for. This experience also further sparked her interest in golf, which she put to good use when she left the AFL in 2016, and started to ‘hack around’ Royal Park; playing there reinforced her view about the importance of grass roots involvement by those trying to promote the game, as well as being an appropriate way for many people to enjoy the game without the demands of club membership. This grass roots involvement is an important component of the Vision 2025 program.
Another important pillar of Vision 2025 is to do with high performance and coaching, and the value in providing these for young people who aspire to high levels in the game. It is also important to market the game more, particularly to women and girls. Currently, participation by females is about 20% of that for males, as reflected by club memberships, and that percentage is probably going backwards. Why don’t more women play golf? There are a number of reasons.
• The values that females face in relation to sport are different from those faced by males — professional sport, in particular, is generally closed to women.
• Girls feel they need to be invited to play, rather than take the initiative themselves to play.
• Sport is not seen as a birthright for girls — historically, it has been seen as a male domain.
• Women can’t afford the time to play golf because of the time it takes to play a traditional round of 18 holes.
The game and its culture need to be structured better to cater for and appeal to women and girls, such as providing better physical spaces, resources and facilities that suit women better. Moreover, the time requirements and costs need to be reconsidered.
How does Chyloe see her role at GA? She considers she is basically a conductor; she is not the expert, she is there to help the experts do their work. So GA is rethinking how it will operate; everyone there is building female participation into their workplans. She also recognises the unique history and traditions of golf, which are part of its strengths. But this should not interfere with achieving greater female participation. Moreover, those of us who have positions or roles within golfing communities should use our experience as a platform to cultivate change and encourage more females to play golf.
GA is trying to set up the foundations to effect change — there probably won’t be much change in participation levels in the first 1 or 2 years but, provided the foundations are right, and those in positions to contribute can do so, positive change will occur over time.
Tony Rule thanked Chyloe for her talk, and a Q&A session followed, where many of the themes Chyloe had spoken about were reflected and expanded upon.
President Graeme Ryan then spoke about the recent sad losses to Australian golf with the deaths of Peter Thomson, Ian Stanley and Jarrod Lyle, and the contributions they had made to golf in Australia and the rest of the world. He then stated that, following the loss of Peter Thomson as the Golf Society’s Patron, he was very pleased to announce the appointment of Mrs Anne Court as our new Patron. This was greeted with acclamation by all.