Sue Bamford is a founder member of the Ladies European Tour and now Head Teaching Professonal at Forest Hills Golf Club in Gloucestershire. Women & Golf asks the questions.
What first attracted you to golf?
I come from a golfing background and from a very young age I loved playing. My father Brian Bamford is a former PGA Champion and Canada Cup player, and an Honorary member of the PGA. My handicap came down quickly and I played for Dorset Ladies for two years from the age of 14. Following a move to Worthing Golf Club, I won the Sussex Ladies Championship at 16, followed by the South-Eastern Ladies Championship . Other wins included the English Girls’ Championship (a diminutive Trish Johnson caddied for me in the final), and the English under-23 Championship. When the opportunity to turn professional as a founder member of the Ladies European Tour (LET, then the WPGA) arose, I jumped at the chance. With the formation of LET a reality and an offer of personal sponsorship under discussion, I left college and turned professional at the end of 1978.
As a founder member of the LET, what are your thoughts on the tour as it currently stands?
Exciting new players such as Nuria Iturrios and Aditi Ashok, winners in their first year on tour, charismatic order of merit winner Beth Allen, Charley Hull who won on the LPGA tour last year, and many other excellent players all contribute to raising the profile of the LET. The Olympics has helped to bring golf to a wider audience, and there is now better television coverage of LET events than ever before. It’s widely acknowledged however that the tour needs additional tournaments, particularly in Europe. The recent appointments of Helen Alfredsson in the newly created role of Player President, and Mark Lichtenhein as Chairman, are positive moves in this direction, and I’m optimistic for the future development of the LET.
Did you always intend to teach golf once your playing career had finished?
No, absolutely not! After seven years of playing on tour I had no idea what I wanted to do. I spent a year working for Alan Fine, a highly respected performance coach who used Timothy Gallwey’s Inner Game theory within his coaching. At that time Alan worked individually with several European Tour players, and sometimes I was invited to sit in on sessions on the practice ground. It was interesting work, and had a lasting impact on me. A change of direction came when I was offered a job as assistant professional to Geoffrey Legouix at the Downshire Golf Club. I started teaching there and found that I had an aptitude for it.
What qualities does a good teaching pro need to possess?
A good teaching pro must have excellent technical and analytical skills. Other qualities needed are empathy, good communication skills, a desire to learn and the ability to listen. Being able to adapt the style and content of coaching to the needs of the individual pupil is important. Success stories can vary from competition wins and handicap cuts to simply helping someone to enjoy the game more. I had the privilege of working on the delightful Maria Dunne’s putting during the nine months before her selection to the victorious Curtis Cup team last year. In the context of relaxed but competitive putting contests, I was able to get a complete overview of Maria’s putting game from alignment to stroke, to reading greens and how to practise.
After 16 years in Ireland as a teaching pro, what brought you back to Gloucs and Forest Hills GC?
The position attracted me for many reasons. The club has excellent facilities and proprietors Ed and Alison Breton are forward thinking and progressive, and constantly strive to improve the club. It’s in a stunning location, in an area I already knew and loved. And as my many Irish friends understand, I wanted
to come home.
You are also a PGA Rules official; tell us about your experiences
Highlights have included refereeing in Greece for the PGA’s of Europe, and several trips to Morocco for the LET Lalla Aicha Tour School. I enjoy course set up, setting tees and choosing pin positions early in the morning, when the course is quiet. More unusual rulings have included a player’s ball lodged high in a hedge, balls tangled up with marshals’ lunch boxes, relief from wild boar excavations, and a ruling where the player’s options depended on which hole she was playing - and I had to ask.
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