Rachel Choi’s fondest memories as a kid are from a municipal golf course in a Seattle neighbourhood, where she grew up.
“Friends threw rocks at my window at 6am, and we would go out and play 18 holes, get lunch at my friend’s house and then go out and play again,” says Choi, a golf professional at the Education City Golf Club (ECGC), and perhaps Qatar’s only woman golf coach.
“I think every golfer has a different experience as a kid, like I had my best memories on the golf course.”
Golf professional Joe Puetz helped too. “He is one of those pros, who would be walking by while I would be on the course 10 hours a day, and he would pass on a tip here and there, and that was my golf lesson for the week,” she says.
And these are the kind of memories that Choi hopes her wards at Qatar’s newest golf club can reminisce about as they grow around the sport.
The ECGC boasts of three golf courses, including an 18-hole championship course, a six-hole full-length course to facilitate a round of golf in under 90 minutes, and a nine-hole par 3 course, which is also floodlit to enable night play.
However, besides the three golf courses which are all designed by two-time Major winner Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain, the 127-hectare facility also has a centre of excellence, equipped with state-of-the-art technologies to help everyone from a beginner to an advanced level golfer work on everything golf.
Five private swing studios and a putting studio feature the latest in video and ball-flight technology including putting analysis and pressure plate systems to track the golfer’s weight transfer among other things.
“The fact that we have a private area, nothing like it in the world, to just teach the ladies, and a lady professional, we really want to engage with everyone to help grow the game for everyone,” says head golf professional Anthony Caira, who also has Martin Steel from Australia as part of his coaching team.
Choi got her Professional Golf Association (PGA) training in the United States through a University of Idaho programme. After working at an exclusive club in Seattle, Washington, for three years, she moved to Vietnam, to Els Performance Golf Academy in Hanoi.
“That was purely a teaching academy. My only job was to teach, and I realised I really enjoyed it,” says the 26-year-old of her time at the academy that has four-time Major winner and former World No 1 Ernie Els on the board.
But like many golfers out there, Choi harboured dreams of playing on the LPGA Tour. “I had a couple of injuries while playing university golf and (playing on the LPGA Tour) didn’t work out,” she says.
“I knew I loved the game, and luckily I had got a scholarship to a university that also had a golf management programme. And so I passed from the university with a Class A PGA membership.”
Education is one thing, but like Caira says, when you talk about coaching, “you either have it or you don’t”.
He says: “I think as teachers we are very focused on basics. Basic fundamentals are so critical to get right.”
Choi adds: “I had a person here last week, and she had had 30 golf lessons earlier but she didn’t understand what the club face did. And that’s basics. Instructors had not told her such a basic thing.”
As part of a programme to engage with the community, ECGC have gone into schools and universities, offering complimentary lessons, and engaged the students. “I am teaching 10 group classes right now,” she says.
Choi hopes that the International Women’s Day programme tomorrow at the ECGC also helps women develop interest in the sport. A complimentary 15-minute lesson will get women initiated into golf, when they purchase a bucket of 55 balls for QR75.
Patience is key, she says, for the coach, but perhaps also for the aspirant.
“I think patience comes from the passion of trying to make you better. If that takes you three lessons to get you to hit a ball right, so be it. Golf can be complicated, and we do our best to not make it,” she says.
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