Scholarships transforming girls golf at WAGC

12th Feb 2024

WAGC girls pennants

The Australian Golf Foundation’s Junior Girls Scholarships have been a catalyst for significant change at The Western Australian Golf Club.

WAGC has a long history of supporting its junior golfers, but the funding support from the Australian Golf Foundation has enabled the club to take its support of girls’ golf to another level.

When the Junior Girls Scholarships program was introduced in 2021, WAGC Golf Manager Nicole Martino saw the opportunity to add a girls-only activity to the already strong list of junior programs offered by the on-site Perth Golf Centres (PGC) team of PGA Professionals. The scholarship program now provides a pathway for girls to move from junior clinics to junior membership.

Martino said: “I have a 10-year-old daughter myself and I can now see how important programs like this are to foster friendships and nurture bonds. The girls have fun. Their energy and enthusiasm is infectious. But what I’m most proud of is that the group share in each other’s successes and support each other when it doesn’t go as hoped. They truly are growing together.”

With strong support from the club’s board and match committee, the program has gone from strength to strength. One scholarship holder, Jade Wilkins, credits the program with keeping her involved in the game. “If it wasn’t for the scholarship, I would have stopped playing golf,” she said.

The pennant experiment

WAGC has tried to integrate the girls into club life as much as possible, with GolfWA’s junior pennant a key part of this.

In 2021, the club had just one junior girl playing pennants in a mixed team with another club. In 2022, when the girls’ scholarship program commenced, WAGC was able to field its first junior girls pennant team. A year later the girls went on to win the Division 2 flag (pictured, top).

“Pennants is a great stepping stone for juniors to learn the match play format and test their skills in a competitive environment,” said Martino. “Plus. being a team competition, it complemented the outcomes the club was seeking such as friendship, comradery and building a supportive environment.”

To further accentuate the growth opportunities the scholarship provides, when the junior girls are no longer eligible to play for the pennants team they are stepping up into non-playing captaincy roles. Past player Ruby Fry led the Division 2 team to glory in 2023, with program graduates Kaela Barnes and Heidi Pearce doing the same in 2024.

Additionally, Heidi won the 2023 WAGC women’s club championship: a fine reward for her hard work and a feat the club hopes will inspire the other girls.

Could your club follow in the footsteps of WAGC? Find out more about the AGF scholarship program here.

A version of this article first appeared on the Golf Australia website.