Originally published by Noisy Golf
Zoe Allen, US Kids Masters Coach
Recently we spoke with US Kids Golf Masters Coach, Zoe Allen, based out of Lurgan Golf Club, Northern Ireland. Zoe is a PGA Professional, US Kids Certified Coach, Qualified in TPI Level 2 and also a Little Golf Train Certified instructor.
Zoe has a glowing reputation in junior golf and we were keen to learn about her background approach and involvement in the US Kids Northern Ireland Local Tour and Junior Irish Open in 2021.
Tell us about yourself!
I started playing golf when I was about 10 years old, my Dad played and he got me interested in playing. I was into many different sports, swimming, hockey, but enjoyed golf as I could get out and play with my Dad.
I loved to play junior competitions at my club and had the chance to represent my club on a few occasions, but wasn’t quite good enough to take golf any further. I only started to really concentrate on getting down to single figures after completing a degree in Accountancy at Queens University, Belfast. Accountancy wasn’t for me and wanted to try and see if getting a career in golf might have been an option so secured a part time job at Belvoir Park Golf Club in Belfast. After spending a year working really hard on my game, I found myself in a position to apply to the PGA and I have never looked back ever since! Not long after I moved to Lurgan Golf Club, where I am now, to complete my PGA training under Peter Hanna. I now coach full time at Lurgan Golf Club and have set up my own golf school, Zoe Allen Golf.
What’s your first golfing memory?
Getting my very first set of golf clubs! All I ever wanted was my very own golf bag, so I could organise and but all of my bits and bobs in it, along with some snacks! It was the coolest thing when I got my first few clubs and a bright red bag to put them all in!
It’s funny the things we remember as kids!
How did you first get into golf?
My Dad had heard of junior golf lessons at a local driving range every Sunday, so that’s really how I started. My Dad would bring me along to the junior group lessons on a Sunday and turned out the PGA Professional Michael McGivern who took the Sunday sessions would become my first PGA mentor Professional at Belvoir Park many years after. Small World!
Dad always used to stop off at a shop on the way home and get us both a chocolate bar, I’ve great memories of getting into golf from the age of 10 years old.
How did 2020 impacted your day-to-day life as a golf coach?
Massively! From being at the PGA Golf Show last January 2020 and returning home early February to really get started with what was going to be a busy 2020. To only few weeks later all of the private lessons, junior classes, Easter camps, US Kids Golf tournaments all having to be cancelled. It really was all systems go, to nothing at all!
It definitely was a very strange transition, but everyone was in the same position, so I guess we just had to adapt!
Trying to keep busy, working out at home, going on long walks, setting weekend golf challenges for kids and reaching out to those who would come for lessons. As well as some online learning and reaching out to fellow pros, sharing ideas and asking questions. Always trying to learn! I guess day-to-day life changed from busy to try and keep busy.
How would you recommend children hone their golf skills whilst at home during lockdown?
It is definitely much harder this lockdown to stay motivated for golf when the weather isn’t so good! But I would definitely encourage some indoor putting on rainy days, along with brighter sunnier days some chipping in the garden! Short game is so important, so if we can keep some touch and feel up that will be good for when we can get back to it! Try and make it fun creating your own game, scoring system, set a task you have to try and complete.
What advice would you give to parents whose children have just shown an interest in golf?
Make it fun! If they’ve shown interest, make sure whatever you guys do it’s fun and engaging and the kids want to keep coming back! Also try and find a local coach with a good junior programme. If they’ve shown interest, you want to find the right person for them to begin their golfing journey with! The first impression of the game will be everything!
At what point should parents encourage their children to seek coaching?
To be honest I think the earlier the better! A good junior coach will be able to advise you on the right equipment, ways to practice, ideas with keeping your kid engaged, so the sooner you can find that right coach the better!
Before a child sees a coach, what three tips would you give?
1. Make sure the connection is good between child and coach. Your golf coach as an adult might not be the best coach for your child. So make sure your child likes the coach, they are happy when around them, willing to learn and engage when with them. You’re trying to find the right match to make sure your child will love the game.
2. Golf is a difficult sport as we all know – so as a parent be supportive – know that there will be good days and bad days on the range and on the course. Have a good relationship with the coach, so you as parent can help practice with your child outside of lesson time. Develop a good relationship between player, parent and coach.
3. Be ready to invest your time, golf takes time to learn and develop, not to mention when kids go through grow spurts things may change in their set and swing. So you must find a coach you trust in and prepared to stick with for the journey!
Working with children presents a unique challenge. How do you approach coaching with different ages and ability levels?
I mainly coach kids aged 3-12 years old and of course across these ages there are many different approaches.
The youngest kids who are aged 3-4 years old, known as the Minion. The approach with these little ones is very different to the 10+ year olds. I can’t imagine bringing the little rubber ducks that the minions love out for a 10+ year old session!
Making sure to set to set a session up age appropriately is very important, know what a certain age group will engage in, maybe a particular game or task or simply a fundamental in golf you want to teach on that given day.
I don’t always get it right, some games you think will be great and engaging maybe don’t work out as planned, so it’s always having a bank of ideas and games, just incase the first plan doesn’t work. I also enjoy the variety of teaching different ages, conversations obviously are different and keeps my day always interesting!
You’re currently involved in running US Kids Golf North of Ireland Local Tour & for the first time this Summer US Kids Golf Irish Open, what advice would you give to parents and children whose children are looking to compete for the first time?
Yes, I love being a part of US Kids Golf and running tournaments in Ireland. These are events for kids aged 5-18 years old. US Kids events are great introduction into tournament play, the courses we play are set up with age appropriate tees, so kids are only playing a course that suits their age and how far they are able to hit the ball. It’s a great family day out as well as parents can caddy for their kids! I would highly recommend getting involved, for anyone who comes and plays their first event, once their child makes a new friend they are definitely going to want to sign up to the next event!
If anyone is interested in more information or signing up for 2021 you can check out the https://foundation.uskidsgolf.com/foundation or contact Zoe directly, who will be happy to help.
What’s the best thing about coaching juniors?
It’s always FUN! Kids always come out with the funniest things, I laugh everyday in my job!
Junior are like little sponges always soaking up information and keen to learn. What fascinates me, is they remember everything! Sometimes they’ve even remember a game we played months ago! I love the fact they will make it clear games they love to play at golf and maybe games they aren’t so keen on. It helps me fine tune my sessions to ensure they are always fun, engaging and the kids want to come back!
Who would be your dream Four-ball?
Dream Four-ball would have to be, my Dad, his favourite golfer The Shark Greg Norman, along with my favorite golfer Rory McIlroy and of course myself! That would be some match!
Where can we find you?
Zoe, thank you so much for your time. It’s a wonderful insight into junior golf and we look forward to seeing Zoe Allen Golf continue to grow!