Women and Girls’ Golf Week – Rebecca Hembrough on a career devoted to creating top players

Rebecca Hembrough has made her career in golf and is the England Golf Women’s Performance Manager, developing the talent of the country’s best female golfers. She’s no mean player herself, has represented England and has a handicap of plus-one at Hallamshire Golf Club in Yorkshire. At the moment, though, she’s most closely concerned with the progress of one, small person, her new daughter Nina.

Here, in her own words, Becca reflects on golf, her career, maternity leave and motherhood.

How did you get into golf?

I started with junior lessons in the summer at Glossop Golf Club, where my dad was a member, when I was about 12 or 13. I was hooked, there was a fantastic junior section and the boys took me under their wing and we’re still friends now. Glossop was a great 9-hole club to learn the game and so supportive.

What happened next?

I followed the route of county (Derbyshire) to regional coaching, and was selected to play for England in the 2000 Girls’ Home Internationals after finishing runner up at the English girls’ championship. From there I played another Girls’ Home Internationals and was fortunate to play a Girls’ European team championship in Oporto.

I went to Kent State University in Ohio on a full scholarship and had an amazing four years out there, achieving a degree, playing a challenging level of golf and building strong friendships. Now at 34, I play to challenge myself and to enjoy time with friends, I’m playing as good as I’ve ever played and sneakily still want to get better!

How did your career develop?

After four years at Kent State, I knew that I didn’t want to play professionally – I loved the game but not enough to compete at that level, with the travelling and limited opportunities. It was clear to me that I wanted to support athletes and individuals on their own journeys.

I came home and completed a Masters in Sport Science with a focus on psychology and got my first job at Sheffield Hallam University as a Sport Science Officer – Psychology. Whilst developing as a practitioner at SHU, I did a PgDip in Psychology and became registered with the British Psychological Society. I managed individual and team sport psychology development programmes across a wide range of sports, ages and abilities, including golf.

The stand out, amazing experience was supporting the GB women’s volleyball squad for two and a half years leading up to the London 2012 Olympics. I worked at the Games for the duration of the volleyball competition as part of the support team.

What appealed about the role as Women’s Performance Manager?

Easy question! The prospect of having a significant impact on the landscape of women and girls’ golf in England – to improve the playing, coaching and life opportunities of women and girls that enjoy the game.

What do like most about it?

There are so many fantastic moments involved in building relationships with people and watching them grow and develop over time. From teams/individuals being successful on the golf course, to gaining a scholarship to their chosen university, to coaches achieving recognition for their commitment and passion and working with the performance team to continually push forward the programme.

What do you like least about it?

Honestly it’s the occasional conflict that can occur when mine or the coach’s values are questioned. In this team we are hugely passionate about supporting people and the time and energy that we commit to the roles is enormous because we want to do right by them.

Best moment so far?

Getting the call from national coach Steve Robinson to say that our team had won the European Team Championships in 2016. I understood just how much had gone into that win and knew the heartache of previous years and the level of preparation in the year leading up to it.

Do your own golfing/career experiences help you relate to the players?

Yes without question – I’m a lot older (!) but I still play pretty well, I understand the game, the commitment, the pressures and the amazing opportunities that golf can provide. My career so far has given me insights into many different high performance sports, the importance of the support team, a good understanding of sport science and how powerful a vision and a leader can be.

You’re just starting maternity leave. How did golf combine with pregnancy?

I was playing until about 35 weeks into my pregnancy – I wanted to get my cards in for my handicap and play as much for the Hallamshire scratch team as I could. The challenge was running out of clothes to equip me for the Sheffield weather – I was all bump! I still clipped it and didn’t feel like I had to slow down or change my swing, a little draw crept in that took some getting used to! I eventually stopped when I struggled to walk the last few holes and couldn’t move a few hours later. It was so important to me that I continued to do what I have always known and baby H came along for the ride!

When do you expect to get back to golf?

I’m not sure – this is the first time I’ve had a big break from the game and it’s strange not having something to work towards. With that said I don’t want to rush back, I want to enjoy being a mum and investing into family time. I’ll know when I’m ready and just in case we have a pram that will go on the golf course!!

Do you plan to return to work?

I’m going to take the full year and make the most of having that time with my baby and family, but I’ll definitely be back.

If so, how will you juggle child care and career?

The big question! We don’t know at the moment and realise that it will be difficult. This role is not 9-5, Monday to Friday and there is a lot of travelling involved. As an EG team I hope we’ll figure it out and my husband is very supportive and will help as much as he can.

Will you introduce your daughter to golf?

Golf is such a huge part of my life, it will most certainly be a part of hers. My husband is a strength and conditioning coach and runs his own weightlifting club so she will probably be squatting and deadlifting before swinging a golf club! We want to give her lots of opportunities to try different sports and she’ll find her thing.