Michelle Wie West, one of the most recognised players in women’s golf, will align with The R&A to expand her golf career off the course and into the global development of the sport. 

The Major winner made history at 12 years of age when she became the youngest player to qualify for an LPGA Tour championship and the youngest to make the cut at a Major before going on to establish a highly successful career, winning the 2014 US Women’s Open and a further four titles on the LPGA Tour.

Wie West has demonstrated a strong desire to elevate the visibility of women’s golf as well as foster an inclusive and diverse future for the sport, evident through her philanthropic endeavour #HoodieForGolf which harnesses the power of social media to drive awareness of women’s golf whilst selling tie-dyed hoodies to benefit selected charities.

Through their alignment The R&A and Wie West will work together across a broad spectrum of areas including women and girls initiatives with Wie West helping to drive participation, particularly in the Asian market as well as applying her unique knowledge to advise on elite performance and development.

“Michelle Wie West is undoubtably an icon of women’s sport and we are delighted that in her post-playing career she has decided to work alongside The R&A to achieve its global development initiatives,” said Phil Anderton, Chief Development Officer at The R&A.

“She brings to the role her star power, broad audience but also a vast wealth of knowledge and experience which can be harnessed to help develop the future stars of golf.”

Wie West is thrilled at the prospect of working with The R&A to further develop the game. “Golf is an incredible sport which has given so much to me throughout my career. I now want to use my platform and knowledge to contribute to golf away from the course,” she said.

“I am excited to be able to help shape the future players, both those who like to enjoy golf recreationally and the young talent who aspire to a playing career.”  

Wie West joins football superstar Gareth Bale as well as global music sensation Niall Horan as Global Development Ambassadors appointed by The R&A to utilise the power of influencers from the sports and entertainment industries to broaden golf’s appeal and image.

The R&A has appointed Modest! Golf, founded by Horan, to work on developing a series of future grassroots programmes aimed at inspiring more people into golf and retain them within the sport. Bale, meanwhile, features in The R&A’s 'Golf is Good' campaign which builds on scientific research to promote the health and wellbeing benefits of playing the sport through creative storytelling.

New Zealand has become the 13th country to join the Asia Golf Leaders Forum (AGLF), pledging its commitment to develop and expand women’s golf in the Asia Pacific region following a recent official MOU signing ceremony in Gangnam, Seoul.  

With New Zealand’s latest membership, AGLF now has members that include 14 associations from 13 countries: Korea (KGA & KLPGA), Thailand, Chinese Taipei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, New Zealand, Hong Kong, India, Myanmar, Australia and Singapore.

“We are excited that Golf New Zealand can contribute to the development of Asia Pacific region’s golf, which has been spearheading world women’s golf business in recent years,” said Dean Murphy, Chief Executive of Golf New Zealand (GNZ).

GNZ, which has not been able to host a tournament for the past five years largely due to the Covid-19 pandemic, has agreed to host the New Zealand Women’s Open in 2024 and preparations for the event are already underway.

New Zealand’s much-developed golf infrastructure and industry have over 400 golf courses. Lydia Ko, currently ranked number one in the world, has also come through the ranks from New Zealand’s golf development programs.

Other members of AGLF include companies and golf courses such as Baz International, Yeoeun, Sky 72, Solago CC, Yousung CC, GA Korea (Korea, Gold CC) and Hoban Construction Co, Ltd.

The R&A (Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews) is also a special member of AGLF where they support their belief in the development of women’s golf in the Asia Pacific region.

Mark Donohue, Rain Bird’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, has been elected to the role as Treasurer of the Asian Golf Industry Federation (AGIF).

Meanwhile, Steven Thielke, General Manager at Singapore Island Country Club, and Mark Kolentsis, General Manager of the Singapore branch and Regional Equipment Manager at Jebsen & Jessen’s Turf & Irrigation division, will assume positions on the new AGIF Board.

At the AGIF’s annual general meeting, it was confirmed that Donohue will take over as Treasurer from Sentosa Golf Club General Manager and Director of Agronomy Andrew Johnston, who held the position from 2020 to 2022. Although standing down as an office-bearer, Johnston will remain as a member of the Board, continuing a streak that began in 2017.

Stepping down from the Board are John Holmes, President of Atlas Turf International, James Shippey, Managing Director of Absolute Golf Services, and Sean Thornberry, Director of Global Development at the PGA of America.

Chris Gray, AGIF President, said: “As a not-for-profit organisation, the AGIF has always relied heavily on people volunteering their time freely. “As evidenced by the status of the new Board members, we are extremely fortunate to have so many talented and committed individuals that are prepared to share their knowledge and expertise and serve the Federation.

“While we congratulate Mark Donohue on his appointment as Treasurer and welcome Mark Kolentsis and Steven Thielke to the Board, we also express our gratitude to John (Holmes), James (Shippey) and Sean (Thornberry) for the contributions they have made during their tenure and look forward to their continued involvement as members.”

Donohue, who was elected to the Board last year, said: “Having successfully navigated the pandemic, travel and golf are active again in the region and our industry has adjusted to the new normal.

“After joining the AGIF Board a year ago, I have been able to observe the workings of the Federation and feel ready to expand my involvement. As the new Treasurer, I see the role as ensuring that financial processes meet funding requirements.

“The AGIF focuses on the core message that golf facilities, like any maturing business, need to be run and managed by qualified and experienced staff, with commonality in education and certification.

“In order to realise this goal, we need sound financial management that will advance these goals. With this in mind, I intend to serve the AGIF community with vigour and integrity.”

Like Donohue, Thielke and Kolentsis both have extensive experience of the golf industry and working in Asia.

Thielke has more than 30 years of club and golf experience in South Africa, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and now in Singapore, directing the full spectrum of business operations of world-class resorts and country clubs towards enhancing members’ satisfaction as well as shareholders’ value. A decisive and practical leader with 15 years of Asian club and golf experience, Thielke has a particular passion for club education

Kolentsis has been involved in the golf course industry for over 17 years and has worked in multiple facets internationally – in sales, distribution, irrigation installation, golf course management and construction. His passion for golf course management took him to Australia, New Zealand and St Andrews where he was a part of the team that prepared the Old Course for the 2010 Open Championship.

Kolentsis relocated to Vietnam in 2016 and took on the Country Manager role at Gateway Equipment Vietnam where he opened a John Deere and Rain Bird distributorship. In 2019, he moved to Singapore to join Rain Bird as an Area Manager, before being appointed as Regional Equipment Manager for Turf & Irrigation at Jebsen & Jessen in September 2021 and was elevated to General Manager of Singapore last January.

Joining Johnston in remaining on the Board for a further term are Owen Hester, Managing Director of Green Dynasty, and Bruce Williams, the former President of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America who now represents Brandt Consolidated as International Sales Manager.

Being a woman in the male-dominated golf industry has not deterred Karen Proctor from carving her own niche.

Since joining Textron Specialized Vehicles (TSV) almost a decade ago, Proctor has risen steadily up the ranks and is now based in Singapore as the company’s Director of Sales for APAC for the Jacobsen, E-Z-GO and Cushman brands. Last March, the Englishwoman was elected as Secretary of the Asian Golf Industry Federation (AGIF) and – not the least bit surprisingly – is a huge advocate of getting more women into golf’s varied workplaces.

“It is well known that the golf industry globally is male-dominated. Having spent time working in Europe, several months in America, and now in Asia, I have seen this first hand across all avenues,” said Proctor, who joined the AGIF board in 2020 and is now the first female office bearer of the association.

“Recently the Australian Sports Turf Managers Association produced research showing that women make up only 1.4% of qualified trade workers in the Australian sports Industry. In other parts of the world it is estimated that it averages between 5% and 7%. Even if we look at the higher numbers we have a long way to go to reach gender parity. It is imperative that we employ the right person for the job but the main challenge is we have so few women applying for roles, ”

Proctor is determined to break down any real or perceived gender barriers in golf, stressing that representation is key.

“Representation is key to creating more diversity in the industry. We have to work collectively on initiatives, look at the way we recruit and even the language we use in our job adverts. Having more women in the industry and in leadership positions will create that representation and ultimately break down the assumption that this is a male dominated industry.”

Last year, the AGIF adopted The R&A’s Women in Golf Charter and, in August, staged the inaugural AGIF Danang Conference where Proctor was one of the keynote speakers on the topic of the growing role of women in sports.

Asked if there will be more empowerment initiatives from the AGIF in 2023, Proctor replied: “We are currently working on a plan that includes interviews with key women in the region, more presentation opportunities to generate conversation and help provide solutions to the challenge. At the current rate, it’s going to take approx. 150 years to reach gender equality in the workplace. That’s not acceptable to me, it’s imperative that we carry on with these initiatives.

“There is a network of incredible women and men from associations around the world and they are all working towards the common goal of growing the number of women working in the sports industry. When people come together and are passionate about making a difference, anything is possible. It is incredibly encouraging that everyone I meet is engaging with these opportunities.”

One of the AGIF initiatives is to highlight key women in the golf industry by interviewing them and sharing their stories through the association’s various communication channels. “These interviews will show young ladies thinking of a career in sport and women in the golf industry who have the desire to progress into leadership, that there are women in leadership positions in golf – and that they too can achieve that.

“We’ve got to work collectively to move the needle – 150 years is far too long! Those who know me well will tell you I have little patience and I’d like to see it changed overnight, but the small activities that we discuss at the industry events and increasing the number of women represented can certainly help move it in the right direction.

“It’s like a snowball effect – the more women we can get working in the industry, the more women will want to be involved. This is not just about our ethical responsibility, there is a plethora of research that tells us that having a more balanced workforce brings with it many benefits not least the positive financial impact.”

Like many other women in the golf industry, Proctor did not start out working in golf. “I was managing a conference sales office in Manchester nearly 20 years ago, when my previous employer called and asked if I would like to run a golf sales office!

“I knew nothing about the sport, but it seemed like an interesting opportunity.I took that role on and worked my way up to Director of Golf, then eventually moved to Textron, and never looked back,” she shared.

Promoting golf and other sports-related careers to schoolgirls would change that tremendously, Proctor noted. “Much of our assumptions and biases about gender are formed in our early school years. Visiting local schools and showing them there are opportunities for both men and women is another way to secure a longer-term pool of talent.

“That way you’re not waiting for them to leave school; instead, you’re engaging them at a young age,” she stressed.

Getting men involved in promoting gender equality, Proctor added, is extremely important. “Everybody can play a part in growing diversity, regardless of your position in the company, regardless of your gender. Men hold the majority of the top positions in golf or turf at the moment, so it’s crucial that they continue to play a vital part in changing the balance.”

Proctor proposes a mentor programme to help young female talents move up the ranks. “You can create a buddy system where individuals with talent are paired with mentors – male or female – to help them develop their skill sets. Mentors can be champions as well, and you need champions to be in the boardrooms talking about future talents.”

Work aside, Proctor is enjoying her time in the cultural melting pot that is Singapore.

“I love the food and you get to meet people from all walks of life, all nationalities. I’ve learnt so much about different cultures whilst living here. Your friends become your family when you’re expatriated and I have built some wonderful life-long friendships,” said Proctor.

Describing herself as a “terrible golfer”, Proctor rarely plays the game like many others in the golf industry. “I generally have to play with people who’ve got very good sense of humour, or are very good at pointing out golf balls! I do love the sport though. I enjoy going to the driving range as I can cause less damage at there!

“Golf is one of the very few sports where it doesn’t matter what your skill set, your age, or your gender is. Everybody can play together. Golf crosses generations and genders.”

As for her life philosophy, Proctor nutshells it as “to seize new experiences, adventures, and learning opportunities.

“But most importantly, be happy and treat others with kindness.”

That’s certainly great advice across all generations and genders!

Jebsen & Jessen Technology – Turf & Irrigation (JJ T&I), a division of the technology business unit of diversified industrial conglomerate Jebsen & Jessen Group, has inked a ten-year agreement with the brand-new Stonehill Golf Club located north of central Bangkok in Pathum Thani, Thailand.

Building on an existing package of equipment and irrigation solutions sealed in 2018 to support all areas of course maintenance, this new agreement advances their partnership to achieve a higher level of synergy over the next decade.

Stonehill, which celebrated its opening in July 2022, is a private golf club a 7,815-yard, par-72 championship course designed by Kyle Phillips. The club successfully hosted the Bangkok leg of the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational in early October, during which JJ T&I provided a full suite of support services, including Toro equipment, equipment health checks, on-site technical assistance and volunteers.

With the new agreement, JJ T&I and Stonehill will collaborate more closely over an extended period of time to ensure a well-maintained golfing green. Stonehill will be able to access support from JJ T&I’s team of technical service experts; the newest products and technology as they become available; and support for myTurf Pro – Toro’s proprietary fleet management software. Stonehill’s staff members will also get the opportunity to partake in formal training and learning trips to selected clubs during tournaments to gain skills and expertise.

L to R: Darren Moore (Director of Agronomy, Stonehill), Richard Walne (Managing Director, Toro Asia Pacific), Saris Ratanavadi (Executive Director, Stonehill), Philipp Hoffmann (Regional Director, JJ T & I)

“We are proud to further build our relationship with Stonehill to meet their turf and maintenance needs. Since 2018, JJ T&I has provided Stonehill with our industry-leading experience and comprehensive range of high-quality Toro equipment, and we are well placed to be part of their growth journey for the next decade as they establish themselves as a world-class golfing destination,” said Philipp Hoffmann, Regional Director, JJ T&I.

Darren Moore, Stonehill’s Director of Agronomy, noted: “Every step of the way – from design to construction – we have selected the most high-quality options and ensured adherence to internationally accepted standards. We have found a trusted partner in JJ T&I and we look forward to further leveraging JJ T&I’s range of innovative equipment and irrigation solutions, and trusted technical expertise, to maintain the greens and guarantee the best golf experience for Stonehill’s esteemed guests.

“Course maintenance is a never-ending battle that has many routines and we expect the highest standards of turf maintenance machines and suppliers. It gives me great peace of mind knowing we can expect that level of excellence from Jebsen & Jessen and Toro for the next decade to come,” added Moore.

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