The PGA professional and Rose Ladies Series player tells us why she’s excited by how golf has reacted to the Black Lives Matter movement and what needs to change for more people from BAME backgrounds to be attracted to the game.
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Nicola Bennett is having a very busy summer. Balancing her job as a Senior PGA Professional with playing on the Rose Ladies Series has taken up every moment of her free time, but she remains more excited than ever about the progress that the women's game is making.
She told us that as a golf coach, attracting more women and people from Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds into the game is her top priority.
"I'd like to encourage more women from all different backgrounds, no matter what age or race they are, into the game of golf," she said.
"You don’t see many people from BAME backgrounds out on the course, and I think there are a couple of reasons for that, both social and economic.
"One big issue is the cost, golf is an expensive sport for an athlete to compete in and this puts a lot of people off. Golf has minimal exposure in the ethnic community too, and that needs to be addressed. On top of this, there’s also a lack of BAME representation within the senior official and board level in the golf industry, so until this changes I think it will be a slow process for the level of diversity in the sport to really improve."
Following the death of George Floyd in America, many from the golf industry have spoken out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
This included the LPGA releasing a statement declaring that it is against 'racism, sexism, violence and injustice' and prominent figures such as Tiger Woods, Cheyenne Woods and Henni Zuel commenting on the issue.
Nicola told us that she is proud of how her sport has responded.
"I’m excited by how the golf industry has reacted," she said.
"I hope that I can be an example and role model for black girls and female golfers and demonstrate to them that things are changing and progress is being made."
She is certainly making a difference at grass roots level. Every Tuesday she runs a group ladies' coaching session in North London for 30 women, and it is becoming more popular by the week.
"When I first started at the club I had no women wanting lessons so I handed out leaflets out, gradually built it up and now it’s become so popular," she said.
"I have women aged from 18 all the way up until 76 and I really enjoy teaching them."
Nicola wants to show that golf is fun and accessible, and like many people, she thinks that the dresscode is one thing getting in the way of that message.
"Golf is still quite old-fashioned in general. I tell the ladies to wear what they want to wear and what they feel comfortable in. I’m not into the collared shirts or anything, I try to be trendy and wear what makes me feel confident. Young women in particular won’t get into the game if you can’t even look good or feel good about themselves. The dresscode has to be relaxed really."
This summer she is playing in every event on the Rose Ladies Series and she is so grateful to have the opportunity to take part in a consistent schedule of competitions.
"Women’s golf in general is still very much falling behind the men’s and Justin Rose is great because he recognised this and realised it had to change," she said.
"Having such a big player support us means so much and he’s already had a huge impact. I’m so glad that it is happening now because it has given me the opportunity to have a consistent schedule of tournaments to play in. I struggle with tournament golf and this is the perfect time to see what it is that makes me play differently and try and improve.
"In general the ladies’ standard isn’t anywhere near as high as the men’s so it’s hard to build any interest and momentum. But at the same time I think if every female player had the same opportunities as the men do, the same consistency and tournaments then naturally everyone would improve and the standard of the women’s game overall would be raised."
Like many of us, it is the mental side of the game that she finds the most difficult to tackle.
"I’ve always wanted to play on Tour but in the last two years I’ve had a few bad experiences and haven’t really had the chance to play much. I’m not a good tournament golfer, I perform better when I’m more relaxed.
"For me the first tee shot is always nerve wracking. I do a lot of meditation to try and help me handle these emotions.
"I like to watch Beyonce talk about how she handles her nerves, because even now she is still so nervous every time she performs and that’s why she always puts on an alter ego so you would never know. I’m trying to do a similar thing and teach myself to shut off at the right time. It’s all about concentrating on the shot you’re about to play and not thinking about the one after that or the next hole. With golf a lot of it is about what’s between your ears."
We wish Nicola the best of luck on the remainder of the Rose Ladies Series, and we're sure her ladies' sessions will just contine to grow and grow.