Today's Women & Girls Golf Week theme is Role Models and they don't come any more inspiring than Stacey McNicholas, Regional Development Officer at the Golf Foundation. Here's her story...
Words by Ben Evans
Stacey McNicholas is forging a career in the sport of golf, one of seven Regional Development Officers (RDOs) for the Golf Foundation, the child-centred UK charity that encourages young people into golf from all backgrounds.
Meeting her, it doesn’t take you long to realise that Stacey is one of the most enthusiastic people you could meet in golf. Her job seems perfectly tailored as Stacey has a natural, warm affinity with young people; passionate about including youngsters, whether giving them a go in a school setting, or making them feel truly welcomed when they walk into a golf club.
“I do love being able to help many different youngsters to discover that being included in golf is such a positive experience,” said Stacey. “This is a great game, children can learn so much while having fun, which is why all of our development team enjoy our work. We also put great value in growing the number of girls who can experience all the benefits of the game.”
Nine years with the Foundation and as the nominated ‘Girls’ Golf Lead’, Stacey is proud to be part of a strong female cohort in the development team that includes Daisy Brierley (RDO for the East), Alice Lowe (West Midlands) and Katie Moggan (the GolfSixes League guru).
Her working area is the East Midlands, where she liaises closely with schools, communities and golf clubs, and the charity’s partner organisations including The R&A, England Golf and The PGA.
Stacey has written key guideline papers and run workshops helping golf clubs to better encourage girls, and juniors in general (culture-enhancing thoughts on inclusion, tolerance and motivation); work that comes naturally after completing her MSc in Sports Development by Research around 10 years ago, which examined gender inequality in golf.
Co-founder of the Golf Foundation Girls' Leadership Programme
For her, it’s about youngsters being valued, including helping girls to reach their potential. Stacey was delighted to be a co-founder of the Foundation’s Girls’ Leadership Programme, encouraging 40 girls in two years, introducing the students to influential figures in the golf industry, and seeing major progress in the confidence and knowledge of all taking part.
It is crucial to never make development merely a numbers game, Stacey believes, but to offer authentic programmes with sound underlying principles.
The Golf Foundation’s new ‘Unleash Your Drive’ programme helps young people to improve their resilience and sense of wellbeing through easy-to-relay golf coaching. Via a good contact with Baysgarth School in Lincolnshire, Stacey trained a group of teachers to deliver Unleash Your Drive: so impressed were they with the concept there are plans to be the first school to deliver the learning to all 660 pupils at the school.
“While we are growing participation, a by-product of learning to play can be improved confidence, self-reflection and resilience, and our programmes are all underpinned by always offering these learnings, wherever your starting level.”
Get Glowing Golf
One of Stacey’s recent innovations literally shone a light on encouraging less confident new golfers to have a try: she set up ‘Get Glowing Golf’ in Lincolnshire (inspired by insights from a Women in Sport conference). Here, some 300 school pupils loved their first taste of golf played to music in a dark school hall!
Stacey said: “I like to question and challenge the norms and traditions of golf. Golf is played in the daylight but there is no reason we can’t play in the dark! Why not try it in schools and community groups, and that’s where Get Glowing Golf was created.”
A key Golf Foundation initiative, GolfSixes League, is a team event at club level where new young players are in teams of six to play six-hole matches. Much is being done to ensure the inclusion of girl players, recording 26% of nearly 7,000 players in 540 golf clubs in 2022. But Stacey also created a GolfSixes League for girls in Lincolnshire: 48 girls took part – designed for those who favoured being in a girls’ team to begin their journey into the game.
Some of Stacey’s best research has been done at her home club of Elsham GC in Lincolnshire, where she lives nearby with husband David, the club’s PGA Professional, and together they have worked wonders for the juniors there.
A PGA Trainee and Junior Coordinator in Lincolnshire
In her spare time at present, Stacey delivers junior coaching under the supervision of David as she undertakes her new journey as a PGA Trainee. This learning has taken over from her recent kickboxing training, while whenever she can she dotes on her two cats, one called Kiwi, famed throughout the club and often found in bunkers and lurking on fairways, and a brand new arrival, a kitten called Tallulah.
The price of her love of golf means that Stacey has been drawn into a couple of volunteer roles, which have worked well.
In 2020, as Junior Coordinator for the Lincolnshire Women’s Golf Association, Stacey recruited a team of volunteers and created the Lincolnshire Girls Golf Squad. In 2022, 21 volunteers helped support and deliver short game order of merit events, competitions, practice and coaching for all ability levels, increasing the number of girls registered with the LWGA from 27 to 107.
Claire Talbot, a parent of a junior girl, said: “Stacey is very enthusiastic, she gives up her time unconditionally. She arranges fun team gatherings as well as running the county coaching events and competitions for all levels - making golf accessible and fun!”
Trustee of the England Golf Trust
For seven years, Stacey was a Trustee for charity the England Golf Trust, which supports young people from different backgrounds to pursue their golfing dreams. Stacey set up the Trust’s first group of young ‘Ambassadors’, welcoming boys and girls from as young as 8-9 year-olds to help grow the game. This has led to mentoring younger golfers, one whom is now studying Applied Golf Management at the University of Birmingham, with the ambition to become a PGA professional coach.
The Trust’s former Chair Di Horsley calls Stacey “a truly excellent role model”. Only this week before the Women’s Open at Walton Heath, Stacey was nominated for a Women in Golf award for her work. The work is ongoing, inspiring youngsters through her passion, expertise and sense of fun.
Find out more at www.golf-foundation.org