Welcome to our Junior Captain blog where we hear from one Junior Captain and the experiences of her year in the role
We're pleased to be able to bring insight from another Junior Captain this year. In 2023, we head to Ireland as we follow the year of Junior Girls' Captain Isabella Stewart from Greystones Golf Club in Co. Wicklow.
We caught up with Isabella ahead of her year to find out more about her, how she got into golf, her aspirations for the year and what her own golf ambitions are.
Junior Girls' Captain Profile
Name: Isabella Stewart
Club: Greystones Golf Club, Co. Wicklow, Ireland
Age: 16 years old
Junior Captain: 01/01/23 – 31/12/23
Golf idols: Leona Maguire and Justin Thomas
Golf goal: To get my handicap below five because in Ireland to be selected for the provincial panels and in my case be able to play for Leinster, you have to be below five to be considered.
Isabella Stewart Q&A
How did you get into golf?
I was nine years old. As I am an only child, my Mum wanted us to be able to do something together. Both my parents played golf before I was born, but gave it up when they had me.
I had some lessons with my friends but I really wasn’t that interested as I couldn’t hit the ball well and I was doing so many other sports.
During lockdown, I got a putting mat and that's when I just started putting, consistently almost every day. Then after lockdown, I played one round of golf with my Dad and I got my first ever birdie on the ninth hole at Greystones which is the hardest hole for women. I was like, okay, I really, really, really like this. I really loved that feeling. It was at that moment I decided I want to play golf.
Mum and Dad invested in coaching for me and applied to Golf Ireland so that I could take part in a coaching scheme with other girls. It’s one of the best things that I’ve done – six sessions, for 60 euros with a PGA professional.
In 2021 I dropped from a handicap of 36 to 16 and last year I dropped to 10.5. Last summer, I realised that if I was to get any better at golf I had to give it my full attention. I spoke to my school coach and she agreed that I could drop hockey and concentrate on golf.
We're offered strength and conditioning at our golf club which is the equivalent to what I would have been doing with hockey so I'm not losing my fitness levels by not playing hockey and I'm still being able to play golf every day.
I have a plan from my golf coach and I see him about once a month. At the moment I am pretty much practicing golf every day.
Thanks to Golf Ireland I have had lots of opportunities to play some fantastic courses across Ireland, such as Portstewart and Ballybunion taking part in competitions. I won an event early in 2021 but I am finding it harder now that my handicap is much lower than back then.
How did you become Junior Girls Captain?
There are a group of girls at the club around my age who play golf consistently. Every year the Junior Girls Captain has been so nice and you can normally tell who's going to be Junior Captain based on their personality and how much golf they play.
When the Junior Girls conveyor asked me to be Junior Girls Captain, I had no hesitation! I just want to help the juniors, because I'm so passionate about golf. If I can help them in any way to get to where I am, I know they'll really benefit from that. And I also benefit from that too.
What do you hope to achieve this year?
I'm trying to get the junior captains more involved in the decision-making for the juniors overall, because at the moment the junior captains aren't on the junior committee. I'm going to try and push for us to be able to influence how we get our coaching, what we do for our coaching and what type of competitions are available to juniors.
I’ll need to work with the Junior Boys Captain as we’ll be stronger working together to achieve these goals. I want to hear his ideas and see what I can do to help with the boys' section too.
I also want to be a role model for the junior girls, especially because I think they might find it difficult when it comes to mixing with the boys. I want to encourage them to mix with the boys more. Last year we introduced a junior scramble, where we have two girls and two boys participating. It was so much fun and there was no negative feedback.
As well as the scramble, this year, we want to set up a calendar of events for the juniors so that they know what competitions are coming up so that they can enter into these competitions and see what they can work towards.
I am hoping to introduce a junior competition, a Junior Captains day so I can invite other Junior Captains from the local area to come and play and my hope is it will become an annual event with a trophy.
I don't really know many people who are going to be Junior Captain this year, so this event would also be a great way to meet people and get feedback on how they're doing in their clubs, how their process works and what they're doing to help the juniors. It’ll help create new ideas as well as meeting new people
Maybe this could also lead to inter-club matches too so that our juniors can gain valuable match and stroke play experience.
I also want to use my position to help with teaching the junior girls about the basic rules and etiquette. I think it would be better coming from me rather than older members at the golf club and will help them feel comfortable on the course.
The ladies in Greystones Golf Club are now encouraging the junior girls to play with them at the weekend. I have been very lucky to have played with some super ladies and have learned a tremendous amount, particularly about the rules of golf. At first, it’s a bit daunting but after a couple of rounds, you feel comfortable. While I am Junior Girls Captain I want to encourage as many eligible junior girls as possible to play with the ladies and learn from their experience. This will help the junior girls become better golfers as well as build the camaraderie within the club.
What’s the size of the junior section at Greystones?
We have about 30 girls at the club, with 20 of them playing regularly and there is over 100 boys at the club. The difficulty is trying to get the girls to stay past 11, 12 or 13 years old. Once they get to secondary school, that's when they don't really want to play anymore.
I think one of the reasons is that hockey is huge in secondary schools in Ireland. Hockey takes up your entire life. Last year, I was on the cup team for my school and I trained for seven hours a week. But also, I think it could be the fact that sometimes golf is perceived as a different type of sport. It's not considered in some people's eyes as a sport.
What does the start of the year look like for you?
I am currently in Transition Year, the year between junior certificate and leaving certificate, where I have the opportunity to explore opportunities outside of the school environment. I’m excited to be heading to the Henry Brunton Golf Academy in Florida for two months in March. The main aim is obviously to improve my golf.
I want to be eligible to be selected for the Leinster panel in Ireland which means my handicap needs to be five or below and ultimately and I want to play golf for Ireland. Golf is something that I'm so passionate about and I really want to do well in. So when this opportunity came to go to Florida I was like absolutely 100% yes!
What are your own golf ambitions?
I'm hoping to be good enough to get a golf scholarship either in Ireland or the USA. The degree that I would like to do is probably going to be law, because if golf doesn’t work out then I would love to become a solicitor or a barrister.
I think studying in America would be an amazing experience. I love the thought of being able to have the facilities and the access to all the things that are there. The LPGA Tour is so huge, the facilities, the tournaments, money and everything. I just think that's where I need to be to be able to progress my golf. However, over the past couple of years scholarship opportunities have become more attainable in Ireland. I am looking forward to working hard to achieve my golf goals.
Find out more about Greystones Golf Club via their website here and you can follow Greystones on Instagram or Facebook.