She suffered two strokes and her timing was all but gone but after working at it for years Alma Morrison has finally noticed an improvement in her game.
In the meantime she threw herself into her volunteerism, helping her local club transform their approach to women in golf. Bushfoot Golf Club in Antrim has become one of the standard bearers in the modern age.
And Morrison heads up the operation alongside her friend Beverly Watton. Their unique approach, which involves focusing on the social side of the game, helps to foster a more inclusive outcome.
Backed by Golf Ireland’s Get into Golf programme – 51 of the 108 women members in the club have come through that avenue – Morrison sees golf as the perfect game for women and girls in 2023.
“It’s exercise, it’s fresh air, it’s fun, it’s friendship and the occasional good round of golf. To me it’s very important because of the social life as well as being out on the course,” said Morrison.
“The joy of golf is that you can play with your child or you can play with your granny. It accommodates everybody.”
The Coleraine native was a PE teacher at Sacred Heart Convent in Armagh as well as Graymount in Belfast before her son and daughter, Graeme and Carol, were born.
She began playing golf 30 years ago and was able to get her handicap down as low as 13 before she was struck down with illness for a short time
“I went from a 13 handicapper to basically not being able to hit the ball. But I still play golf, it’s not as good as it used to be but I have got so much out of Get into Golf,” said Morrison.
Get into Golf is a programme designed by Golf Ireland to get more women playing the sport here. It takes place over eight weeks and offers an affordable, stress-free, and supportive learning environment for women to gain fundamental skills and knowledge of golf.
Morrison was women’s captain in Bushfoot in 2003 and since then she has looked to inspire more women to get involved in the game.
The current women’s captain, Mary Platt, came through the programme, her incumbent Ruth Moore is also a product of it as is the honorary secretary, Rosie Hamilton-McCauley, and Jenny McNeil, the honorary treasurer.
“I had done competitions secretary and honorary secretary. I had played in the teams and had been team captain. But when I came in as women’s captain in 2003, I thought I would take the new women’s members on Monday night to introduce them to the club,” said Morrison.
“I took them with the high handicappers to encourage them to get more involved in the club as well. I was going to do that just in my captain’s year but I enjoyed it so much I continued on since then. Then when Get into Golf came it just linked in.”
The new group go out on the course on Monday nights where they join those from the previous years along with a more experienced golfer – they play scrambles, greensomes and foursomes.
Another two nights in the week the players play pitch and putt and they also get a chance to study the R&A rules, where Morrison and her colleagues get them to download the app and take them through the most important rules of the game and etiquette on the course.
“In 2015 we started Get into Golf in the club,” said Morrison.
“Beverly and I did a day course in Darren Clarke’s course in Antrim with our club professional Ian Blair.
“Now, Ian takes the lessons and Beverly and I do little games with them. We do putting and chipping but not the technical stuff. We do wee competitions at the end of the night and it all works.
“Beverly is my right hand woman, she helps me so much. There are also two or three others that I work with all the time. Then there is ones that come every now and again.”
In a club where much of the committee are also women, it shows that equality measures are really making a difference and the game of golf has never been a more attractive for women.
And having hard working volunteers like Morrison behind the scenes has helped to bring a new-look generation of beginners to the sport. She still plays too but enjoys her work off the course, and the impact that is making, just as much.
“I had the strokes around 2010 and I wasn’t that bad at the time. I was able to continue on working with the Women in Golf for that year,” said Morrison.
“I have improved a bit, there was a while where the timing just disappeared. The mini strokes are supposed to be transient but it did leave with me a weakness. However I was able to stand up and get on with golf so I am not complaining.
“And it’s great now, most of the committee are Get into Golf women as well. I think it’s absolutely wonderful, that is where I get my buzz and my satisfaction. Our women’s captain is going out next week and it’s another Get into Golf woman from the first one in 2015 who is coming in.”
And after three decades in the game and years of wonderful voluntary work in Bushfoot, Morrison finally got rewarded for it.
She was recognised as the first ever Ulster Club Volunteer of the Year in January and is now in the running for 2023 Golf Ireland award – although she believes she is only a cog in a smooth running wheel.
“I have no idea why I won the Ulster award,” joked Morrison.
“I love what I do, I love seeing those girls coming in, two years ago we had a bunch of girls who could not hit the ball at all, most of them are not going to be brilliant golfers but boy are they good club golfers.
“I couldn’t believe it when I won, quite honestly I cried. Whenever you do something that you really enjoy and has helped me, they helped me as much as I have helped me.
“They have given me an interest in the club. They have kept me involved in the club by doing this. I feel as thankful to them as they are to me and that’s my situation. “