Alex Keighley says the fact she didn’t have pushy parents helped her to become a professional golf player and blaze a trail for women in the sport. Now, as one of the country’s few female head club professionals, she’s helping other young people to succeed at the game. HILARIE STELFOX reports
AS A professional golf coach Alex Keighley has seen plenty of pushy parents and their offspring.
But she strongly suspects that if her own parents had been more involved in her early golf career she might never have gone the distance.
“We were a very active, sporty family and I played everything,” said 30-year-old Alex. “But no-one else played golf – that was just something I wanted to do.”
At the age of 11 she asked for a set of golf clubs for Christmas and simply started playing with some friends.
“We lived right next to Lightcliffe Golf Club so I just used to take myself off and play,’’ she said.
“I played morning, noon and night but no-one made me. I just I wanted to.
“It was easy because we lived so near to the club and no-one had to take me.
“I think now that if I’d had pushy parents then I would have rebelled because that’s my character – I’m quite stubborn. My mum knew nothing about golf, which is probably a good thing.
“She just took me to tournaments when I needed to go.”
Such was Alex’s obsession with the game that she would play whenever she could.
“There was no structure to it,’’ she added. “It was just a proper hobby and I went along when I had time. I’d lose track of time as well. I can remember my father coming to get me from the golf course at 10pm in the height of summer.”
Although Alex had ambitions to become a sports teacher and was a good all rounder, playing hockey and tennis as well, it became apparent that she had a serious talent for golf.
“At one point I was playing hockey for the north of England and golf for the England under 18s and I had to make a decision about which sport to take further,” she said.
Golf won and by the time she completed her A levels she knew that she didn’t want to go to university – but she did want to play golf.
Alex, who still lives in Lightcliffe, began playing with a handicap of 36 and by the time she turned professional in 2003 it was down to plus 2. She played for the Great Britain and Ireland ladies team and at the British Open.
In October 2003 she was invited to the Tour School in Faro, Portugal, to try out for a place to play on the European Tour.
She spent the next five years travelling around Europe competing at major tournaments.
Although Alex says she enjoyed only moderate success as a professional and certainly never made her fortune, she has no regrets about pursuing the sport that she loves and would encourage anyone else to do the same.
She was fortunate in finding sponsorship and during her amateur years she was funded by a National Lottery scheme.
“I travelled all over the world,’’ she said. “I had a fantastic time and I was playing for my country. What more can you ask.’’
During her time on the European Tour, Alex was also studying for a teaching certificate with the Professional Golfers Association and had attached herself to Huddersfield Golf Club in Fixby.
Seven years ago she became a coach at the club and was recently appointed head professional.
She says she is one of only 10 female head professionals working in the many thousands of golf clubs around Britain.