Former Ladies’ European Tour star Alex Keighley last year celebrated 10 years as the Head Professional at Huddersfield Golf Club, better known as Fixby.
Keighley first played at Fixby in a Junior Open when she was 12 (she won) before soon revisiting the club for Yorkshire coaching. In 2022 she celebrated a decade as the West Yorkshire club’s head professional.
In her early days she played full-time, gaining her card on the Ladies European Tour as well as playing on other tours around the world, having represented England and Great Britain and Ireland at amateur level. Her playing highlight came at the 2003 Women’s British Open at Lytham, where she led at one point on the opening day, before narrowly missing the cut.
Keighley did her PGA training while playing for a living and began working at Fixby as an assistant in 2003. Nine years later, an opportunity came up to take on the role of head professional.
“Being a female Head Professional 10 years ago was quite a big thing but the members were really supportive and backed me 100 per cent,” Keighley revealed.
“I had slowed down with my playing and I was enjoying teaching and being at home and at the club more. Hopefully I earned some people’s respect through my playing career and I won the Women’s PGA Professional Championship in 2012, which was great.
“Playing at the top level maybe shouldn’t be that important but, in some respects, it does matter. You want to peg it up with the members and be able to play but the teaching then became more of a factor as it went on.”
What does she think have been the secrets of her success in her decade at Fixby?
“I would like to think we bring a very professional set up here at Fixby. The welcome all members and visitors get is first class and something
“I pride myself on. First impressions go a long way. We have a very strong men’s and ladies’ membership and I think we cover every base.
“We face day-to-day challenges but we try to react as professionally as we can. I am constantly looking at ways to improve and never rest on what we have. For example, we have just introduced a new GC Quad and a till system that is up to date and informative to our members.”
As an inadvertent trailblazer, Keighly became the first female captain of a PGA region when she took on the role to represent the North region.
“It was a great honour to be asked to be captain and a responsibility I took very seriously,” she said. “I didn’t manage to play as many events as I would have liked, but I did enjoy representing the North region in a few events.
“Working with fellow Members was a great experience and I managed to meet a lot of pros that I wouldn’t have normally. It was a great privilege.”
Keighley completed her PGA training 20 years ago and she is widely respected for her teaching skills, coaching male and female golfers of all ages and abilities.
“I just like to improve people’s golf, whether they are 56 or scratch. Hopefully I’m good at keeping things quite simple. I was coached by some really good teachers and simple is always the best way. I’m not overly technical and I don’t have any desire to be a coach to the next superstar, I just like coaching across the board. Coaching juniors also has also been a big part of things here and I teach members and non-members which breaks things up too.
“This is a generalisation, but men are probably wanting more of a quick fix, a quick tweak and that will do them. I teach a lot of women and that is helped by me being a woman, but equally, some guys won’t have a lesson with me as they prefer to go to a man, which is fine.”
Despite attitudes changing, Keighley remains very much in the minority in being a female golf professional. She will still answer the phone in the pro shop to confused callers when she confirms that she is the head pro. She believes that it will always be a talking point, but things are changing, thankfully, for the better.
“Attitudes are definitely better. Being called Alex confuses people a bit more, but we’re getting there. My advice to any girls who are thinking about becoming a professional is to just be proud and assured that you’re just as good, if not better, than everyone else. You will end up getting even more respect by facing it up and not shying away from it.”