Zoe Allen reflects on how she developed her hugely successful junior coaching career at Lurgan Golf Club in Northern Ireland.
Zoe Allen loved golf from the age of ten when she first picked up a golf club and she loved playing with her father. Never did she think she would have a career in the sport let alone be one of the leading female golf coaches on the island of Ireland.
Allen always had the intention of forging a successful career for herself. Upon leaving Queen’s University Belfast with an accounting degree, the Lurgan native decided to go down another road and a ‘sliding doors moment’ came in her life.
While she loved golf, she never considered playing it seriously or having a career in the industry, but when the door opened for her to jump into a PGA course, she ran straight through it and hasn’t looked back since.
“I always played from the age of 10. I went to the driving range hitting a few shots with dad and then went for a couple of lessons which I enjoyed and he signed me up to our local club.
“Through starting to play junior golf I developed a real enjoyment for it. I played other sports as well and I was the only girl at my golf club so I wouldn’t say golf was my first love.
“It was a summer sport and nothing really more than that. Throughout high school and college I played more and joined Lurgan when I was 18 or 19 because there were more girls there.
“At that point I never considered myself good enough to do anything in golf so accountancy was the way that I went. I decided after completing that degree that it wasn’t really for me,” said Allen who is now a US Kids Golf top-50 Master coach and a Titleist Level 2 Performance coach.
Allen’s first job in the golf industry came in the pro shop of Belvoir Park under Michael McGivern who gave her the encouragement she needed to pursue a career as a PGA Professional.
“He offered me a part-time job in the shop for the summer which was great for me needing some pocket money. Started working there and it was actually him who suggested I try become a PGA Professional.
“We always joke about it because he said to me ‘you don’t have to be the best golfer to be the best coach!’ He was a really good coach but he would admit himself he didn’t make too much money from playing.
“At that point my handicap was still too high at 8 or 9 so I needed to get to 6 to start training. I decided it was now or never and I put lots of effort into my game and I got down to 5.”
Having completed her studies and obtained her PGA qualifications, she was taken under the wing of renowned PGA Professional and former PGA Captain Peter Hanne at her native Lurgan Golf Club where she has established her own coaching academy with juvenile golfers for the last six years.
“It happened quite quickly I found myself in a position where I better jump in. So, I started my first year of training under Michael and then got offered a position at Lurgan under Peter Hanna where I still am today.
“Once I completed my training and felt like I was ready to jump into full-time coaching, I approached Peter and he was very supportive. I’m coaching full-time for nearly six years which is crazy.
Allen then took another bold move Stateside where she was directed towards the US Kids Golf coaching programme which is where she has made her name.
With the help of Mayo native and LPGA Teaching Professional Michelle Holmes, Allen has grown to be one of the top US Kids Golf coaches in the world, receiving three successive top-50 awards before becoming a Master coach in the field, the highest honour an instructor can receive from US Kids Golf.
The Armagh woman runs a thriving US Kids Golf academy at Lurgan GC with children as young as three coming to her lessons. Allen breaks the lessons up into categories, minions (3-4), advanced minions (5+) and the US Kids Golf Player Pathway which gives players golf lessons while learning the rules and etiquette.
Allen’s goal is to give children under the age of ten a pathway to golf before they join golf clubs when they are older, which can be key in fending off competition from other sports.
“Michelle Holmes is a good friend of mine and we only came across each other on social media which is really funny! It’s like we’ve known each other for life. She invited me out to shadow her one summer and fair play to Peter at Lurgan for letting me go, he saw the opportunity.
“Michelle introduced me to US Kids Golf and once you are known the tournaments follow quickly. The introduction was great and she was 100% right in saying it was the best seminar I would ever do so I would encourage and recommend it to anyone else.
“I’m fortunate now I get to be a part of the US Kids Golf European Championships in Scotland. The World Championships is held in Pinehurst every year and I haven’t missed one since. They have an event in Venice as well.
“The US Kids top-50 award was crazy in how quickly it happened it was very cool. The first year in 2018 I got awarded my first top-50 and then I got my second and third in 2019 and 2020 which gets you a Master award.”
Today, Allen is one of the most respected and one of the top coaches in Ireland. While she primarily coaches juniors in an individual and group setting, she also gives tuition to adults at Lurgan Golf Club.
Allen has also set up a yearly programme to get women into golf and her lessons have gone down a storm with students travelling up to an hour to see her which is a great reflection on her coaching.
“It helps me keep the head down and keep pushing. You don’t often reflect too often because I love what I do so it doesn’t seem like a real life job which is half the battle. It doesn’t seem like work.
“It blows my mind, a lot of the time they are travelling the same amount of time as the length of the class but it gives me a great sense of achievement. At the same time it’s hard to believe that it does happen and it motivates me to become better at what I’m doing.”
Allen still has lofty ambitions for the US Kids Golf and she is looking to bring more events to Ireland on top of the Northern Ireland Open which she has already established and the Irish Open which has drawn international fields in recent years.
Reflecting back on her PGA training, Allen added: “I would definitely recommend the PGA course, I met so many people from different walks of life and I would say to people, don’t rule it out if you think you aren’t good enough as a player. That was a doubt I had but through the encouragement of Michael, the training was invaluable in learning to run a business, coaching, finances etc. The coaching course goes by in an absolute blink because you are working and learning on the job for three years.
“There are so many different PGA pros from different walks of life, I would highly encourage people to do the course if they are considering it.”
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