Molly Bullard from Excel Sports Management tells us how the pandemic brought new challenges and opportunities as she returned from maternity leave.
From managing European Tour players on a day-to-day basis to Tournament Director of the Rose Ladies Series, Molly Bullard's return from maternity leave was certainly a lot different than she had expected. We caught up with Molly earlier on in the season to find out more about her role at Excel Sports Management, the Rose Ladies Series and how we can get more women working in the golf industry.
Can you give us a little background into how you came into the golf industry?
I started playing golf, really young, I was four years old. My dad took me to learn how to play and I love playing through junior golf and elite amateur level into my teens. I then had a back injury and quickly realised that I wouldn't make it as a professional golfer. There were also concerns at that time about the longevity of female professional playing careers and the likelihood of earning enough money and it didn't look like a lifetime path to me. I come from a sporting family, my brothers played professional football, their agent told me that golfers have agents and player managers as well and that was something that I could lookup.
I studied law and then I got a graduate job at IMG. Originally just an assistant position, where I was able to indulge in all sorts of golf media and golf productions, including the European Tour. Slowly but surely I moved across to a bit more of player servicing and then player management which is called all different things by different companies. Some people call it an agent, some people call it player servicing others say player managers but essentially, it's all the same thing which is taking care of anything and everything off the golf course for elite professional golfers. Sponsorship, manufacturers, equipment, travel, logistics, visas, home life, anything and everything there really are no limits to what we do for them.
That was how I ended up moving into the career that I'm in now. I joined Excel Sports Management in 2018, looking after player servicing for their entire European Tour Golf division.
What is your involvement with the Rose Ladies Series?
One of the clients Excel Sports Management manage in the US and who crosses over into European matters is Justin Rose. So, from time to time when he's home in Europe. Justin falls under my care along with my colleague, Paul McDonnell.
Last summer, during the pandemic, I was actually on maternity leave at the time and the European Tour was suspended, so it was very quiet on the golf front. Justin and Kate Rose spotted an opportunity in their local paper to support an event at Brokenhurst Manor.
I got a phone call on my last week of maternity leave saying would I come back and dive in at the deep end and host a series for female professional golfers. It's something that I'd never done before, it’s something that my colleagues had never done before. But it was something that needed to be done.
We quickly put our heads together and rang everybody that would be able to help us to try and create the series, which we did in about two weeks. With the help of partners and Justin and Kate, the series was born last summer.
It grew exponentially, far beyond anything we had ever expected and we managed to televise it as well, which was nothing we'd ever dreamed of doing. I went from a player management role with the European Tour and became a Tournament Director of the Rose Ladies Series. It was seriously in at the deep end behind the scenes, it was anything and everything from website building, entries, invoicing, championship management, on-site registration, recording and scoring and partner and sponsor management and everything in between. So that's what happened with the Rose Ladies Series, which obviously returned this year bigger and better. But we did have a little bit of a bigger team to help us bring it back this year.
What does your day-to-day role normally look like?
Day-to-day would be working with my clients on the European Tour assessing their upcoming schedules. We'd be organising travel logistics, their housing, the hotels, their flights whether that be commercial or charter flights. It's not unusual to charter planes for them and their wider team, which includes their physios, their caddies, their coaches in pre-Covid times, and basically moving them around the world.
No two days are ever the same. The challenges keep you on your toes all the time. One day, it might just the simply booking flights, and the next day, you might be chartering a private jet, then you might be calling an embassy on the other side of the world to get special government permission from a diplomatic missionary to get somebody into a country. It's those challenges, but I get a strange satisfaction from them. When my phone rings at four o'clock in the morning, and somebody is stuck somewhere, it's my job to get them sorted. I've got a little baby, so I tend to be awake at that time in the morning, anyway!
You definitely need to be organised!
If you were interested in a role like this then you need exceptional organisational skills, multitasking really is the key to the job and a lot of forethought and time management. You've got to be on your toes at all times of the day and night, it really is a 24/7 job. There are no set hours. Golf is my passion and I feel privileged that I am working for the best players in the world. And that I get to go to the most amazing places and see people at the very, very top of their game competing. I consider myself lucky to be in that position. So, if that means working hours in the day and night, it's worth it to me.
How do we get more women working in the golf industry?
I think it's very easy to overlook jobs that go on behind the scenes in sport. If you can see it, you can be it and it's hard to see jobs like mine, people don't know they exist and they don't really know what they entail unless you're in amongst it and then you're already halfway there.
It would be good if people had a better understanding of what any sport does, not just golf, any sport where you see women in job roles and the nature of the roles that they do. It’s important to point out that none of these roles are gender-specific. I consider myself very fortunate to have never been in a position in my career where my gender has influenced any decision. I've never had any sexist remarks, and there's never been a question of it.
Behind the scenes, there are a lot more women working in these roles than people realise. There definitely needs to be more visibility into who these women are and what they do. This interview, for example, is something I've not done before, but I would do to try and help share the message that these jobs do exist. And I think people pigeonhole golf to be something different other than an entertainment industry with the same roles that exist in many other industries.
The message I would like to get across is that if you work hard and you succeed at your job, then your gender is irrelevant.
Read the full report from the final Rose Ladies Series here.