26 Jul 2023 | Clubs & Facilities |
Fostering inclusivity at Rich River
by Australian Golf Media
By Jim Tucker
Watching a beginner golfer hit the ball in the air for the first time has an addictive appeal for Jody Fleming, the new Head Teaching Professional at Rich River Golf Club. Her time in golf has embraced playing at the top level as a pro, corporate golf, teaching, golf operations, running clinics, encouraging more women to play and much more. That exposure has converted to one abiding feeling. “I’ve always worked in the golf industry and there’s always such an opportunity to facilitate an enjoyable experience,” Fleming said. “To watch the joy of a beginner golfer hitting the ball in the air for the first time is happiness for me. There’s an addictive side to wanting to help players get better. “It’s a hard game and you forget sometimes. Once you have played for a long time, you can easily become self-absorbed so it’s good to see that sheer enjoyment.” Fleming’s appointment to the top job at Rich River is a great fit for the busy 36-hole club at Moama, on the New South Wales side of the Murray River, and a great fit for her. “It’s a welcoming club in general and really encouraging to females,” Fleming said. “Rich River was the first NSW club to sign The R&A’s Women in Golf Charter (to maximise the potential of women at all levels in the game). In action, that has meant a massive shift so the ladies’ club championship is no longer just three mid-week rounds but includes Saturday play and a joint finale with the men. “Rich River has a great line of juniors. You see them on the range from sun-up to sun-down and you want to see those kids progress. “I conduct a lot of clinics and one piece we can do better is converting golfers from the beginners’ pathway to becoming members in an environment that isn’t intimidating.” Fleming, 37, has been a PGA Professional since the beginning of 2020 and her breadth of experience made the transition from player mode easier than it is for some. As a pro through her 20s, Fleming won the 36-hole Texas Women’s Open in 2012. Her 7-under-par 65 in the final round included a hot stretch of five birdies and an eagle in six holes mid-round. On home soil, a 2-under 71 on the final day for 43rd at the 2012 Women’s Australian Open at Royal Melbourne was of the highest quality. No player in the field made up more ground that Sunday when winner Jessica Korda and major winners Jiyai Shin and Yani Tseng were shooting 74s. “I gained so much confidence from that round. It was one of the best days I’ve had on a golf course; it felt like I’d shot 65,” Fleming said. “Pitching to greens below the hole all week, putting well, hitting the ball into the right places… it gave me a feeling I belonged out there. “Having grown up on the Mornington Peninsula and in Melbourne and having played pennants for Yarra Yarra, it was an extra thrill in my home state.” After her stint on the ALPG, the former Victorian State team member’s shift into corporate golf didn’t mean suddenly giving up her own game. “You had to perform at corporate days so it kept my golf at a fairly good level along with those years learning about that side of the game,” Fleming said. Teaching at Sydney’s Pittwater Golf Centre and time as an Assistant Professional at Long Reef were all part of her progression. “It certainly got me to the mindset that I needed to be a PGA Professional to make this a career. I transitioned nicely,” Fleming said. Fleming works beside the experienced Steve Loader, Rich River’s Director of Golf. She’s also been offering helpful advice ahead of the Deniliquin Pro-Am set for September 6. “Doing the bridging program took hard work. There was the study, playing, still doing corporate golf and life’s curveballs but the assistance I got along the way was greatly appreciated,” she said. New Club President Susan Hull added: “The signing of the Women in Golf Charter in March is Rich River Golf Club’s commitment to progress the sport and career opportunities golf presents to women of all ages. “We are very fortunate to have Jody, along with outstanding facilities, to progress the Charter for the club.” A single parent, Fleming has a smile on her face each time she sees her boisterous 4-year-old, Noah, reach for his Young Gun clubs. “He and his little friend from day care love mini golf. Them just hitting a ball is that pure joy that golf can bring,” Fleming added.
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