And Who is going to Teach the Men?
Day one as a PGA Professional and this was my opening conversation as I signed a member into the weekly Wednesday Competition. It was Wednesday November 1st 2017 and I just added the letters P.G.A to the end of my name. The excitement was overwhelming. I couldn’t wait to get started, I was going to change the world of golf from my little proshop in Rush, I wasn’t going to wait for opportunity I was going to seek it, I wasn’t going to be idle and wait for business I was going to go out and get it…..and then with one swift flick of the members tongue , my dreams grew smaller and reality hit home. I never saw a career in golf as being a ‘Man’s job’ . My experiences in golf up until this point told me there was a place for women in golf and being a woman should be a help and not a hindrance. Don’t get me wrong I have come up against these attitudes before….. but that was in 2008, clearly in the last 10 years not much has changed. I finished secondary school in 2005 and went on to WIT to achieve my first degree in Exercise and Health Studies. It wasn’t long before the call of the infamous J1 Visa program caught my attention and I was USA bound for the summer. I set up camp in a little village in Long Island called East Hampton aka The Hamptons. It was a world I had never seen before, money was no obstacle and who you knew not what you knew was everything. I started caddying in 2008 when America was only 3 months away from seeing their first Black President. The build up to the election was all the Americans could talk about. What it meant to see an African American Man in the Oval office and what it would mean for the country. Twelve years later and Donald Trump is up for re-election, we are experiencing a Global Pandemic and your ‘worth’ is based on likes and follows….2008 was a simpler time for sure. The club was made up of a whose who of bankers and ‘Old Money’ and to them I was Dee. The spelling of my name was puzzling to everyone I met let alone trying to explain how ‘bh’ makes a ‘v’ sound in the Irish language. I remember arriving to the club on day one. Bright eyed and enthusiastic I introduced myself to the caddy master. One quick look at my pale skin and small arms he replied with ‘If you last one round with two bags you can stay for the summer’. One loop and two bags later I was part of the shack. My body ached for a few days after that first loop, but no one was ever to know. The money was good, and the people were amazing, I could suffer through it. The shack was a melting pot of caddies from Ireland, Scotland, Antigua, Argentina, and Local Long Islanders. One female and 50 males made up the shack that summer, I started off slow, caddying with seasonal caddies and learning the ropes. It would take the players at least 6 holes before they would dare ask me for a line or even a distance. It was only thanks to the male caddies who every now and again would give a bad read so that the players would ask for a second opinion and that is when I would come in. In the end I had my regular loops of men and women who requested me. All they had to say was ‘Is the girl available’ and the caddy master could easily identify who they wanted. It was now a benefit to be the only woman in the shack. I was perched on the first tee one day waiting for my players to arrive. Their clubs were cleaned and their matching headcovers where now stored neatly in the ball pocket of their bag. Ask any caddy and they will tell you a missing headcover mid round can be the difference between a good tip and getting nothing at all. I was not taking any chances. My players arrived at the tee after they had guzzled a few beers in the men’s locker room. My hand reached out ready to introduce myself when I noticed the look of panic on my players face. A few moments later the caddy master arrived down to the tee to inform me I had been given the ‘wrong loop’ and to head back to the shack. I knew what was going on. A female caddy? Can you imagine it? The day rolled on and I was called for another loop. I had written off the day at this stage and would have happily headed home to lounge by the pool and bask in the Hamptons heat, but I was happy to be taking some money home for the day. I stepped up onto the tee only to see my previous loop putting on the 18th. I just wanted to run away. I didn’t want the players to see that I had waited all day for a loop. Just before they headed back into the clubhouse the players called me over. With my tail between my legs I hesitantly paced over. This time the players hand reached out and I shook it respectively, as I began to pull my hand back the crisp 100 dollar bill slipped from his hand to mine with the words ‘Im sorry it wasn’t personal’ dripping from his mouth. I started my loop and finished out my day, headed home and realised something. Gender roles are not black and white and are not always seen as equal, but they should never stop you doing something you want to do. It took that player 4 hours and 18 holes to realise he was wrong, and it cost him an extra 100 dollars that day. You might think the punishment didn’t fit the crime, a 100 dollars to make him feel good about himself but once the word got out around the club I was inundated with requests, I had the summer of my life. His wrongdoing benefitted my bank account One bad experience should not shape your life but in this case it did. It taught me never to accept rejection based on being a woman. If I am not right for the job so be it but it should not be because of my gender. I was as good of a caddy as anyone that summer, I worked hard and was rewarded for it. No person should be deemed ‘unfit’ because of their gender. With over 450 PGA Professionals in Ireland, It is a privilege to be a member of such an elite group of Women and Men who all strive to achieve the same goal and who support each other on the basis of being fellow PGA Professionals regardless of gender. And if you’re wondering what my reply was to ‘Whose going to teach the Men?’…it was simple, clean and to the point….. ME!!!!