Interview: Mike Round – Ladies European Tour, Director of Development and Membership

In September 2014, the LET established a new Development Department and appointed Mike Round as its first ever Director of Development and Membership. After 14 years as the CEO of the Golf Foundation, Mike is now enjoying his new role and has produced a development strategy for the LET that aims to make a positive contribution to the growth of golf for women and girls.

What role does the LET have in encouraging women and girls to take up golf?

The role of the LET is to work in partnership with others to inspire women and girls to want to play golf and help them to achieve their aspirations. The LET liaises with the National Federations and other key partners to see where it can support the national development plans not only by providing playing opportunities for elite amateur golfers at LET events, but also by supporting participation projects and encouraging LET players to share their knowledge, experience and skills.

Female participation in the UK lags behind most of Europe – is that reflected in interest in the women’s professional game too?

Interest in the women’s professional game is actually increasing, which can be seen through the tracking of our social media activity. The number of people who ‘Like’ the LET’s Facebook page went from 5,000 in 2013 to 9,000 in 2014 and currently stands at over 25,000. This is in addition to the 22,000 people following our Twitter account and the number of views of our YouTube channel went from 700,000 in 2013 to around 2.6M in 2014. All of this indicates that more and more people want to know what’s going on in women’s professional golf. Also, it’s clear that more young women want to play at the professional level which is reflected in the growing number of elite female golfers joining the LET’s development Tour, the Access Series.

Mike-Round-e1404995074651How can clubs harness the emergence of stars like Charley Hull to boost participation?

Unfortunately, women’s golf doesn’t enjoy the same profile as men’s golf, so there’s a danger that the achievements of our top female golfers will go unnoticed. Golf clubs can help to raise awareness and show just how exciting women’s golf has become. This will help to send the message to women and girls that golf isn’t just for men. I’d encourage all golf clubs to follow the LET’s social media channels, which will provide content that they can share with their members.

If more young girls see the likes of Charley doing well in the sport, more of them will view it as a sport they’d like to play. However, linked to this must be the development of a welcoming and friendly environment with a programme of coaching opportunities, competitions and social events that will be attractive to women and young girls.

Several former LET players now manage golf clubs – is this now an established career path?

It’s encouraging to see the number of women in senior positions in golf clubs increasing and we hope this trend continues. We’re certainly trying to highlight this to our players and are encouraging them to give some thought to their second careers. As part of our development strategy, we want to empower our members. We’re looking at how we can help and support the players who want to take this career path once their time on Tour comes to an end. We’re looking to develop our links with organisations such as the GCMA so that players are able to access high quality education opportunities that will help them along this route.

How does the LET support prepare players for careers after their time on the tour?

This is an area we’re planning to develop over the next few years. It’s still early days, but we’ve been trying to gather together information about a range of education opportunities and make this available to the LET players through the members’ area of our website. We’re also setting up an Alumni Association so we have a better way of keeping in contact with former members. Our hope is that we will be able to draw on the experiences and knowledge of the ex-players for the benefit of the existing members.

The recent success of the England Women’s football team felt like a watershed moment for women’s football here – could the Solheim Cup provide a similar breakthrough event?

The Solheim Cup is a unique event not just in women’s golf but in women’s sport. The 2015 event at St. Leon-Rot Golf Club promises to be an incredible event and will attract the attention of the sports media. Golf clubs will be able to use the profile that women’s golf will enjoy to create new participation opportunities or special offers for those inspired by the top Europeans and Americans competing at the event. With the 2015 Solheim Cup and then the 2016 Olympic Games, this is a really exciting time for professional women’s golf.

Find out more about the Ladies European Tour.

Related Read: Carin Koch – the Value of the Female Golfer

By Mike Hyde

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