A series from Golf Ireland bringing you the stories from some of the most interesting golfers and personalities across golf in Ireland.

Words by Darragh Small 

Once she swapped hockey for golf Mildred Hodgett was determined to envelop herself in the sport and 40 years later her dedication has been recognised.

Hodgett picked up the Ulster Club Volunteer of the Year award five weeks ago and now she goes forward for the main prize in the Golf Ireland AGM.

Over the years her passion for the game made the transition to golf so much easier, meaning 36 holes a day either side of a full-time teaching role, only increased her intrigue about golf and the people surrounding it at her local club.

Banbridge Golf Club has given her so much and she is giving back to this day.

“I was teaching with a woman who played golf and I had just been injured in hockey,” said Hodgett.

“She brought me out to play, she told me what to do and where to hit it and I did that and never stopped after that. I played 18 holes before school and 18 holes afterwards.”

There were early mornings in the early days, the spring brought with it a slightly later start while she took full advantage of the summer months too.

From hockey to golf

Hodgett hails from Blackskull, a short 15-minute drive from Banbridge, and she grew up playing for Pegasus Hockey Club in Belfast. She was with their seconds side when they had two Senior League teams.
Following on from that she continued her career with Armagh and when her time in hockey was cut short she opted for the golf club instead.

“I was brought to play golf and the hockey was gone and I was hooked on the golf,” said Hodgett.
“There were similarities between hockey and golf, only you had time to hit a ball and the ball didn’t move, I had good hand-eye coordination from hockey too.

“I used to love team games but I was playing for myself, so it was unbelievable, the company made a big difference too. The women were very welcoming. In my first year I zipped down from 34 to 19 handicap. To be honest, I just loved it.”

Playing so much golf, day in day out, really helped Hodgett improve her game while she really enjoyed the social aspect of meeting new people in Banbridge Golf Club.

On some mornings she would arrive as early as 5am or 6am, ready to sharpen her skills, before she returned to the day job.

Banbridge pushed for the 'One Club' model

Meanwhile, in more recent years Banbridge have pushed hard for the ‘One Club’ model, with Hodgett to the fore as part of their rise.

They were awarded the Chairman’s Award at the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s Senior Sports Awards.

They were also remarked upon as ‘a club that is fit for the future’ and Hodgett was installed as their first female club president in 2021.

“Being the first woman to be president was a huge honour I have to admit,” said Hodgett.

“I felt a bit funny when they put my name on the board but that actually helped me a great deal. I got to know a lot more of the men too, in terms of following teams and matches and representing the club.

“The bit I didn’t like, I don’t like talking,” she joked.

Banbridge looked to entice a more family-friendly environment as part of their five-year plan with all age-groups catered for.

Their junior section has been bolstered as a result while the other clubs within offer different outlets for their members every day of the week.

Hodgett has taken to walking and gardening in particular as she continues to foster some new and lifelong friendships.

“They had started a gardening club, I wasn’t involved in that but during Covid, we got invited to come out to work outside and the women took me under their wings,” said Hodgett.

“I know absolutely nothing about gardening but I am very good at pruning, cutting bits off, and doing the edges. I now know the names of some plants but not all plants, I know literally what they tell me.

Gardening on the golf course

Gardening is a fantastic activity on a golf course providing you have people who know what they are talking about helping you.

“During Covid, we started a wee walking club too and one of the days we decided we would walk for a charity. We collected money for dementia. We have a social club on a Friday where you come down and play, and the best thing about the walking club is they give you coffee and buns.”

Last year the inaugural Golf Ireland Club Volunteer of the Year hailed from Ulster, when Bushfoot’s Alma Morrison took home the award.

Hodgett will be the Ulster representative at the AGM next month and she was thrilled to pick up her regional crown, although she says it is all about the club.

“I don’t see what I have got as a volunteer, I see it as somebody asked me do something and if I can do it I put my hand up and say, yes I can run with that, I don’t see that as volunteering,” said Hodgett.

“It’s unbelievable, the club have been really, really good for me. I came through a system and the women at the time took me on board and helped me. Now I am trying to give back what I got from it.

“I have got a great life from the golf, I have got a husband as well. I met Richard through the golf, he was a press photographer and that’s how I met him, coming out to take photographs.

“If you have a family club you will move forward and that’s Banbridge.”

To find out more about the great work being done at clubs in Ireland - visit the Golf Ireland website.

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