In this series Women & Golf focus on what golf means to a female golfer, and the significant impact the game has on her life and on the lives of others, in this article we speak to Lizzie Taylor.
Golf needs more Lizzie Taylors. Plenty of us share the bug, but Lizzie is a golf champion in many ways, and her love of the game is helping to attract new faces to the sport. The mum-of-two may not have started playing until after she finished university, but there’s no escaping her addiction now, and that’s only benefitting the pupils of the school where she now teaches PE.
Her golf journey may well have started sooner, especially given her father, Geoff, was a “very useful one-handicapper”, but the inevitable happened when Lizzie joined him one evening after work, and she soon discovered a talent with a 7-iron in hand. Within three weeks, the bug had well and truly bitten. The backpacking could wait, for the only objective during the immediate summer following graduation was to get a handicap - and it wasn’t long before the West Essex member was doing some damage off 24.
The five-day Festival of Golf at West Essex that summer gave Lizzie a taste for silverware, and she won every event she played in, including the mixed event and pro-am, where she teamed up with now husband, Nick, and his father.
“I remember being completely petrified the whole week of doing the wrong thing, of making a mistake, especially playing with experienced golfers,” says Lizzie, who also forged a winning partnership with the Lady Captain’s husband in the mixed.
Encouraged by her glittering summer, Lizzie set her sights on representing Essex. Even when her father turned professional and headed off to compete on various tours around the world, she was not to be deterred. “Nick helped me get better quicker, he was really supportive. For two years, instead of going out on dates, it was “Come on, let’s go and play nine holes and then pop out for dinner,” jokes Lizzie.
“You have to make golf slightly different and fun for the kids for them to want to keep coming back.”
Within 18 months and Lizzie was down to five, narrowly claiming the bragging rights over Nick. Having reached that standard, new doors opened and it led to a number of county honours, the highlight of which was the Ladies County Championships.
It’s somewhat fitting that Lizzie, who enjoyed such rapid improvements in the game, should also boast a win in the 2017 British Speedgolf Championships, a unique tournament where the aim is to achieve the lowest possible sum of shots combined with the time taken to play your round.
“SpeedGolf came about by accident. My husband was training for the marathon, he was going to go and do it and I was going to go and watch, but he noticed that they had a ladies event. I ended up entering it with no idea of whether I’d be competitive or not and ended up winning,” says Lizzie, who shot an 8-over-par 80 in 59 minutes and 57 seconds, over the 5217-yard, par-72, course at Piltdown Golf Club in Sussex.
Unfortunately Lizzie didn’t successfully defend her title at the 2018 British Speedgolf Championships, and she’s unable to take up the opportunity of competing in the Speedgolf World Championships in October, as it clashes with term time. Lizzie’s focus now is very much on her pupils, and passing on her love of the game.
“The problem with golf is that it’s not very child friendly,” explains Lizzie, who now plays off three. “Eighteen holes of golf with all the rules and regulations, do this, do that, stand here, be quiet, and don’t talk while they’re doing this. You have to make it slightly different and fun for the kids for them to want to keep
coming back to do it.
“I’ve introduced golf now as one of the sports we do at school. On Monday afternoons, on the dark nights we go to a driving range and in the summer we go to the local par-3 course. We’ve also started an inter-house competition.”
Over the last 20 years, Lizzie has seen the junior membership at her own club grow significantly to the point where the boys/girls split isn’t far off 50-50. Thanks to people like Lizzie, more youngsters are given the opportunity to discover golf and all the life lessons that come with it, benefits she’s now sharing with her own children.
“We play a lot as a family, which is great,” says Lizzie. “My daughter is 11 and the professional runs group lessons at the weekend. It’s so different now. I used to be one of just two girls.”
Lizzie’s son may only be eight but with plenty of crazy golf on holidays in the Algarve and at the High Beech par-3 course just around the corner, you suspect it won’t be long until the ‘Taylor family fourball’ is complete.