Today's theme of Women & Girls' Golf Week focuses on the hidden heroes behind the game- the volunteers. Awarded Volunteer of the Year in 2017, here's Jean Hooper's story. 

Jean Hooper

Today's theme of Women & Girls' Golf Week focuses on the hidden heroes behind the game- the volunteers. Awarded Volunteer of the Year in 2017, here's Jean Hooper's story. 

In many ways Jean Hooper is just your average lady golfer. She loves nothing more than getting out on the course and playing a round at her beloved club, Bramley Golf Club, near Guildford. She plays off a commendable 23 handicap, and now enjoying her retirement spends much of her time balancing her golfing commitments with babysitting duties for her two young grandchildren.

Speak to anyone at the Surrey club however, and you will find out that there is nothing ordinary about the retired teacher. In fact, quite the contrary.

Just over a decade ago, inspired by the welcoming reception her son had received growing up at the venue, she volunteered to give back and help with the club’s juniors. Since then she has worked ceaselessly, building one of the strongest junior sections in the country and constantly going above and beyond the call of duty to help support the local youngsters with their golfing ambitions.

In a world where parents are usually the ones that take up the mantle of helping to organise junior competitions, the 68-year-old is somewhat of an anomaly. It is in her tireless devotion where Jean truly stands out, a commitment that was honoured at the England Golf Awards where she was named 2017 Volunteer of the Year. For Jean, whose work as junior organiser has inspired hundreds of youngsters to take up the game, the honour was simply a bonus for the many hours of happiness that she has gained from doing a role she loves.

“This came as such a shock to me,” she said after collecting the award.

“I do all this because I like doing it, but this is a lovely bonus - and one that I just didn’t see coming.”

For those she has touched in the role however, it was an honour worthy of the years of sacrifices. Her devotion, passion, and interminable enthusiasm were just a few of the many reasons why so many people came forward to nominate her for the prestigious award.

One junior cited her influence in transforming him from a badly-behaved youth into a junior captain and “the person I am today”, another mentioned the countless hours she sacrifices to help build the junior section, which currently boasts an impressive 70 members, including 15 girls. One nomination even pulled attention to her choice of car, a people carrier, which was chosen specifically for its capability to act as team transport!

In fact, in her many years of entering the juniors into as many matches, tournaments and inter-club competitions as possible, she has only ever missed three events.
It’s a role that Jean believes was a natural progression from her job as a primary school teacher, and some of her former pupils even encouraged her to take up the sport.
She fondly remembers one girl in her class, Danielle, who grew from a quiet and shy youngster to become junior captain and a confident young woman on and off the course, even winning an award for making an exceptional winner’s speech.

It is these moments that make all the hard work worthwhile.

“Juniors are the lifeblood of golf clubs and it is so important that we are welcoming and encourage them into the game. We are very lucky at Bramley to have a membership that is so supportive of the youngsters, and for me, it’s very rewarding to see them grow from complete beginners into confident young adults.’’

She hasn’t stopped there, between her duties as junior organiser she has managed to squeeze in a term as Lady Captain, as well as many years serving on both the club’s ladies and club committee.

Heartbreakingly, the person who stood by her throughout her many years of service to junior golf, her husband, passed away just 12 days before the award ceremony. In a manner apt of his steadfast support, he had pressed her that she should attend the ceremony regardless of the circumstances.

Instead, over 30 members including several juniors, stood by her side as she received the prestigious award in front of a crowd of over 500 people at a glittering award ceremony at London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel.

A fitting gesture for a lady who has selflessly sacrificed so much to support the golf club and its members.

Women & Girls’ Golf Week is a week-long campaign that aims to celebrate the successes of women and girls in different roles in golf, and to challenge the misconceptions and stigmas that surround the sport. The week has the support of England Golf, Scottish Golf, Wales Golf, the Irish Ladies Golf Union and The R&A, and is designed to unite the golf industry behind the aim of growing the women and girls’ game. Read more of our Women & Girls' Golf Week features here.



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