Elaine Ratcliffe has enjoyed a lifetime in golf as a top ranked amateur, a LET professional and now as captain of the 2021 GB&I Curtis Cup team.
Unusually, though, her involvement in the game took a new and unexpected twist a decade ago when she put her business degree from Stirling University to good use, joined forces with family and bought a golf club!
For any woman wondering about a career in the golf industry, Ratcliffe’s developing story is well worth a read.
“I’ve spent my whole life in golf from when I first started playing, through Uni, to turning pro and then having a family and getting my amateur status back,” admitted the busy working mum.
“Ten years ago I was volunteering at Hertfordshire as a county training officer and working with juniors. Then – with my partner, sister-in-law and brother-in-law – we bought a golf club!
“There was no huge plan in that – it happened that we had houses on the course, it was up for sale and by buying it we were in control of the future of our lovely houses.
“It’s been a rollercoaster – we changed the name on day one to Essendon Country Club and we set about building a golf course that is open to all.”
Throughout Ratcliffe’s life, golf has been a constant companion.
From first picking up a club as a kid, to winning the English Women’s Amateur Championship at Walton Heath in 1998, playing in the Curtis Cup and being named Rookie of the Year on tour, Ratcliffe’s world has revolved around the game.
But as Women and Girls in Golf Week highlights, the game can be about so much more than birdies and bogeys.
There are opportunities for women to enjoy successful careers in a range of positions in the golf industry as Ratcliffe proves beyond doubt.
“I took a business studies degree at Stirling Uni in the mid-90s so being able to use what I was taught has been great,” added Ratcliffe.
“That’s been an exciting opening and not one I realised I needed or wanted as much as I did.
“My sons were three and five and it’s lovely having them, but I was excited to get my teeth into something new and bring my knowledge of golf and business acumen together.
“It’s been fantastic for me. I can’t help but smile when I think about it.
“I’m fortunate that the opportunity arose and I could bring both aspects together.
“There’s a lot of opportunities for golf and business.
“We all know the people that have golf days and do business on a golf course – it can work the other way around. You can be a good golfer and run a good business.”
As someone who played the game to a high standard as both an amateur and a pro, Ratcliffe is a committed champion of the women’s game.
But she acknowledges that recruiting and retaining women and girls to the game she loves requires a lot of hard work on behalf of governing bodies, clubs and the individuals at grassroots level that drive the sport forward.
“It’s hard – there are a lot of sports out there vying for girls to play their sport,” added Ratcliffe.
“There’s more sports than when I played. Part of the reason I took up golf was that there were not that many sports for girls to play in summer.
“We didn’t have a tennis club nearby and I’m from the era where, as much as I was brought up catching and throwing a cricket ball, I wasn’t aware that I could go on and play cricket.
“There’s a view now that ‘you play sport’. It doesn’t matter what sex you are. When I was growing up you were a tomboy if you played sport.
“Golf is still vying for attention and it’s hard to get girls into the game. On the whole England Golf are doing a great job. We run one of the Girls Golf Rocks programmes here
“The R&A have the Women in Golf Charter and it’s about keeping people interested. If you have enthusiastic people that rubs off on others.”
Everyone who arrives at Essendon is guaranteed a warm welcome. For Ratcliffe, golf clubs must be inclusive and open to all.
She added: “I’ve found over the years at some clubs the building gets in the way of the person getting on the course. I wanted to make sure we didn’t do that.
“When you do get on the course golf has so much more to offer – playing with older or younger family members and competing or having fun or having time out for a couple of hours to enjoy quality time with a friend and some mental headspace.
“It’s important we let people see how multi-dimensional golf is.”
- Elaine Ratcliffe will captain the GB&I Curtis Cup team in the biennial match against the USA at Conwy Golf Club in Wales from August 26-28. For details on the event and how to buy tickets, click here