07 Apr 2022 | Participation | Women and girls |

MyGolf Girls going places at Gove

by Dane Heverin

The Sunday MyGolf participants at Gove Country Golf Club in north-east Arnhem Land with long-time volunteers Esther and Jonetani Rika. Ten of their 22 MyGolfers are girls.
The Sunday MyGolf participants at Gove Country Golf Club in north-east Arnhem Land with long-time volunteers Esther and Jonetani Rika. Ten of their 22 MyGolfers are girls.

In northeast Arnhem Land nearly 1000km from Darwin, Gove Country Golf Club is proving to be one of the most welcoming and fun places to be for budding girl golfers.

Gove are enjoying great success with their Australian Golf Foundation (AGF) Scholarship Program since its inception last year and they have also sustained a healthy number of MyGolf Girls participants year on year after it began in 2018.

The reason girls keep coming back can largely be credited to the devotion of long-time volunteers Jonetani and Esther Rika who treat the girls as if they are their own children.

Golf is a family affair for the Rika’s. Their three daughters have all undertaken various roles within the club between them including their youngest being a MyGolf Girls participant, and the older two being community instructors and assisting in the delivery of MyGolf Girls.

Their eldest daughter, Katelyn Rika, is currently playing college golf in the United States, and those connections to the game at various levels are helping the Rika’s to kick off a host of girls’ golfing lives.

“As parents we’ve had first-hand experience of what can be achieved through golf and her Katelyn’s US journey is the next big chapter of her life,” Esther Rika said.

“One of our indigenous girls, Ivana, met Katelyn for the first time in August 2020, which was her last session with the juniors before flying the coop to go to the US. Katelyn made such an impression on Ivana that she aspires to be just like her in pursuing golf.

“Peer mentoring has been and still is an important part of the success of all of our junior programs. We’re all volunteers and as community instructors, we’ve always encouraged the older more experienced juniors to be mentors/helpers at junior sessions.”

Gove does not have a resident PGA professional, instead Graham Bolton visits from Cairns at least once a term and the volunteers help fill the void.

Having the people power to run the programs is an ongoing challenge for the club, but nevertheless ten of the 22 participants in their MyGolf program on a Sunday are girls. Their seven AGF scholarship recipients also have their own session once a week and join in the Sunday MyGolf program too.

Since 2018, they have also maintained an average of 45% of girls’ participation with the club. The fact their local township of Nhulunbuy is home to just 3500 people and offers at least ten other sports to juniors makes their efforts all the more impressive.

“As community instructors 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,“ Esther Rika said.

The team at Gove are not content with their current efforts however, they want more girls playing golf.

“Our programs will hopefully inspire and encourage the new girls and grow our numbers overall,” Esther Rika said.

April is MyGolf Girls Month where Golf Australia promotes girls participation within golf to raise awareness so others can catch the golfing bug via the MyGolf Girls program.

Find out more about MyGolf here.

Six of Gove Country Golf Club's AGF scholarship recipients who also join in the MyGolf program. L-R Back: Esther Rika, Ruby Smythe, Maia Epiha, Holly Hughes, Erin Miles (junior helper); FRONT: Emilia Kowcan, Frankie McKie-Blamey, Chelsea Smith.
Six of Gove Country Golf Club's AGF scholarship recipients who also join in the MyGolf program. L-R Back: Esther Rika, Ruby Smythe, Maia Epiha, Holly Hughes, Erin Miles (junior helper); FRONT: Emilia Kowcan, Frankie McKie-Blamey, Chelsea Smith.

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