07 Dec 2023 | Participation |

Gove to Sydney: Esther Rika named Community Instructor of the Year

by Patrick Taylor

Esther Rika
Esther and Jonny at The Australian.

Esther Rika’s passion for golf, which has been crucial in the growth and participation in the game at Gove Country Golf Club, has earned her this year's Golf Australia Community Instructor of the Year award. Esther and husband Jonetani (Jonny) started volunteering in golf in 2011 after their daughter took up the game. Since then, if a golf ball has been hit at Gove, it is likely that Esther and Jonny have had some part to play in it. As community instructors, they are the primary deliverers of MyGolf, the Australian Golf Foundation girls scholarship program and Get into Golf for women, and have seen incredible growth in participation numbers over the past 12 years. "Golf is for everyone and when delivered with passion, it has ability to transform and empower people’s lives," said Esther. "The Northern Territory is still so remote in the big picture of golf in Australia, through everything we do, we need to create opportunities for these talented kids we see coming through the pathways and programs." "We aim to ensure that when any of our juniors leave Gove, they will be able to take these life skills and continue playing golf wherever they go.” The passion Esther has to keep improving the opportunities for junior golfers in the Territory stems from her own daughter's golfing journey. Katelyn Rika, who now plays college golf on a full scholarship in the US, was an incredibly talented junior. She was the No.1 ranked girls amateur in the Territory for a number of years, and this year was the first Northern Territory woman in 10 years to win the NT Women’s Amateur. As part of the Community Instructor of the Year award, Esther and Jonny received an all-expenses paid trip to the ISPS HANDA Australian Open in Sydney, and exclusive access to the Champions Club on the adopted "party-hole" 16th at The Australian Golf Club. While walking the fairways of The Australian, and seeing a number girls (now elite professionals) who Katelyn used to compete against, Esther couldn't help but think of what might have been if opportunities for juniors in remote areas were better. "We've got some great kids coming through the NT, some really amazing kids… I'm really passionate about trying to work with all the programs to create more opportunities," she said. As well as instruction and program delivery, Esther was instrumental in Gove becoming a signatory to the R&A Women in Golf Charter, becoming the first golf club in the Territory to do so in the process. This year's Get into Golf women's program has seen an overall 33% increase in participation at Gove, and further growth has also been seen through the AGF junior girls’ scholarship program. The highlight of the Australian Open trip for Esther was meeting and talking with AGF board member, and instrumental figure in setting up the junior girls’ scholarship, Bonnie Boezeman. "She is such an inspiration," Esther said. Esther and Jonny had an incredible weekend in Sydney at the ISPS HANDA Australian Open, and were proud to represent the Gove community. "It was amazing to be acknowledged, for not just us, but for the whole community. It's a very exciting thing for us all."

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