Former Curtis Cup and Solheim Cup player Trish Johnson has highlighted the importance of shorter formats to encourage more young girls into golf.
Johnson relished her first visit to West Lancashire Golf Club for the recent Women’s Amateur Championship, working in a broadcast role.
The 19-time Ladies’ European Tour winner is impressed with young players developing across Europe, with players aged from 13 and upwards competing at the north-west venue.
Johnson is also an advocate of nine-hole golf and believes more shorter courses could encourage further young girls to the sport.
“One thing I think golf needs to think about is probably smaller golf courses, nine-hole courses,” said the Englishwoman, who won the English Amateur and Stroke Play titles in 1985. “Times change and, unfortunately, if you don’t change with them you get left behind. People’s time these days is so important. People will spend one to two hours on a course.
“Maybe if there are new courses being built, then focus on nine-hole tournaments, nine-hole golf. Personally, I love nine-hole golf. If my friends at home say ‘let’s go and play nine holes’, I’m there in a minute. If it’s 18 holes, I think about it. Girls obviously need encouragement to play golf, but I think if you want to play then go for it.”
The R&A is among organisations committed to promoting shorter formats, including GolfSixes and The R&A 9 Hole Challenge, with the Final staged on the eve of The Open each year.
Indeed, participation initiatives have helped drive a rise in both nine-hole golf in Australia and New Zealand in recent times, with their work aided by running activity to support The R&A 9 Hole Challenge.
For example, in Australia, 190,315 qualifying rounds took place in 2019-20, involving 36,288 individual golfers from 903 clubs. This is a healthy increase from 2018-19 when there were 130,543 qualifying rounds, with 28,627 golfers competing from 655 clubs.
Last November also saw a total of 51,186 qualifying round entries in New Zealand; the first time more thn 50,000 nine-hole rounds have been played in New Zealand in one month.
Johnson is impressed with the work and believes anything can be achieved in golf by young girls, especially after the life-changing success of Germany’s Sophia Popov, 27, in winning the recent AIG Women’s Open at Royal Troon – her first professional victory.
Johnson, 54, added: “Obviously, The R&A are really pushing girls’ golf and women’s golf and that’s fantastic. It’s great to see that they recognise the need to do that. But it’s also up to the individuals to go for it. If you are looking to get into golf, just go for it.
“There is an incredible life out there, as an amateur golfer or as a professional golfer as I am. I realise how incredibly lucky I am to do what I’ve done all these years, and still doing it, and I love it. Anybody can do it. As Sophia Popov proved, anything is possible, absolutely anything.”
Johnson still looks back on her own amateur days fondly, with a Curtis Cup victory in 1986 a particular highlight, as Great Britain & Ireland won on American soil for the first time.
Johnson proved pivotal in claiming maximum points in a 13–5 triumph at Prairie Dunes and added: “After winning a couple of Solheim Cups, the Curtis Cup is still my third favourite moment in my entire career. It was the first time we had won in America and I loved the team; it was just amazing.
“It was a great dynamic of probably five out-and-out amateurs and those with designs on being professionals. We had such a great time and in achieving history you never forget it. It was a real achievement. Amateur golf is extremely important; winning is important to learn how to win as a professional.”
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