15 Dec 2023 | Clubs and Facilities |

Leading by example at Leongatha

by Martin Blake

Leongatha women image
Leongatha's general manager Kate Rowe, president Colleen Touzel and PGA pro Melissa Taylor

An eastern Victorian club is celebrating an historical first – having three women in the main leadership positions.

With the appointment of former board member Kate Rowe as general manager this year, Leongatha Golf Club in south Gippsland now has women as GM, President (Colleen Touzel) and PGA Teaching Professional (Melissa Taylor).

It is certainly a first for the club and believed to be a first throughout Australia.

“The board’s very proud of it,” said Rowe this week.

An industrial chemist and former manager with the multinational Orica, Rowe was appointed after a year as a board member at Leongatha, while Touzel is a former secretary of the club.

The last piece of the puzzle came earlier this year with the hiring of PGA Professional Taylor, who had previously worked at Eastwood Golf Club in Melbourne, with the aim of engaging with women and girls.

Leongatha has a 22 percent ratio of female membership, above the national average but not good enough, according to Rowe.

“We want to grow membership generally, but the pool of women available is much bigger,” she said. “And the more women and girls who come to the club, we feel the more will want to join. It’s an exciting opportunity in our view now that the sport has become so equal.

“We see the great health benefits that people get from golf. We have a few elderly female members and they’re so fit and strong. They’re very inspirational.

“Our club is for people of all backgrounds. It’s a very inclusive club all round.”

With the exception of Monthly Medals all club competitions are mixed-gender, and any golfer can play on any day of the week at Leongatha.

Taylor has instituted a new beginners’ golf program for women and girls which has already had strong take-up throughout the region.

“The club’s vision is for it to be a hub for the region,” said Taylor this week.

“It’s been great to be working there. It’s an inclusive environment and that’s proven by the appointment of a woman as general manager. The board and the members are backing the idea that if they want to grow, they have to reach out to the whole population.”

Leongatha's changes fit with the Australian Golf Strategy of encouraging more women to take up leadership positions in clubs and facilities.

Rowe says the membership at Leongatha has welcomed the changes that have come, and that despite the appointment of women, they are taking a broader, whole-club approach.

“Our club is made of its members. They’re extremely supportive of the people who are in these roles but more so they’re supportive of the individuals as opposed to the women,” she said.

“Colleen and Melissa are strong women and they’re incredibly enthusiastic and dedicated to making the club run strongly for everyone. Yes, it (women’s golf) is a great market and we do see the benefits that come from playing, but it’s about the whole club. Gender doesn’t come up all the time.”

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