Education

Georgette Rolle’s drive

Baha Mar’s female golf pro is one of very few resort female heads and the only one with the position in The Bahamas

Georgette Rolle is in a unique position. She is one of very few resort female head golf pros, and the only one with the position in The Bahamas. She feels it is a huge step toward gender equality in the golf world. But to continue the trend of what she terms “women in executive positions or decision-making positions in golf” means communicating more with the younger female population.

“It is more important now than ever that we introduce more opportunities to females to let them know that there is more out there – it kind of lends itself to the old adage: you don’t know what you don’t know. If young women don’t know that something is attainable, the chances that they will aim for it are slim,” said Rolle, golf pro at the Royal Blue Golf Club, home to the award-winning golf course designed by the legendary Jack Nicklaus.

With this in mind, Rolle said International Women’s Day (IWD) is important to continue to change the mindset of what is or what is not possible for women, and create and carry out action plans to break those barriers.

“International Women’s Day is about continuing to fight for change and a better future for women. If the generations of women before had not fought for equality and hoped for more, I would not have been able to be in this position. Golf has been and still is mostly male dominated.”

Rolle, 36, was introduced to the game at the age of six. Growing up as one of the few girls in junior golf, she did not see it as an anomaly, but more so that a lot of girls just did not play the game as there were other “girl” things to do.

“If golf was something that girls did, I am certain the numbers would have been exponentially greater. So now, when I see the huge numbers of young girls playing golf, it’s amazing. We now have a large base of young ladies who not only play golf but see it as something cool and a way to earn a college degree.”

Growing up as a casual Saturday golfer, Rolle was surprised when she was recruited by Alabama State University and offered a golf scholarship. It afforded her the opportunity to pursue higher education. From the day of that offer, she admits, she dedicated all her spare time to the game, fell in love with it and became so proficient that it led to her eventually playing in the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association). She started at Baha Mar in 2017, when the resort first opened.

“When I moved home with the mindset of creating golf opportunities for young people, I did not think of focusing on promoting young women. However, as time went on, I began to truly understand the importance of increasing the number of young girls in the game. It was more than just creating young female golfers – it was about creating more opportunities to instill positive life skills and core values in them to make them want more and expect more of themselves. It is about showing them that they can be themselves, love a sport, and have many opportunities to excel in it.”

As she observes IWD, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women – that also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity, and coming together to celebrate women’s achievements or rally for women’s equality – Rolle said we should celebrate the women who came before us and paved the way for the women of today.

“In life, we celebrate many things for ourselves – we should especially celebrate on this day, the many women who have paved the way for us … our mothers, grandmothers and all women who came before us. For female golfers, I would advise each of us to take the extra step to do more to promote women’s golf, so that we can create and preserve the legacy of women in the game.”

Driving home the theme of this year’s IWD, “Choose To Challenge”, Rolle’s challenge to women is to be themselves.

“I believe that in general it’s more difficult for women to be comfortable with themselves as we are naturally designed to want to be accepted. However, the time that it takes us to learn to be ourselves, is time we have lost. It’s time that could have been spent honing our skills.”

She is not certain anyone really knows what it truly means to be themselves, and said people, especially women, can get close by making decisions that align with what they want in life, rather than allowing themselves to take a ride on someone else’s journey in life. She believes women can also get closer to being themselves by not being afraid to climb and fall.

“Bruises are a part of life. We tend to forget that as we age. As children, we were happy to climb and fall repeatedly, until we learned to not fall. As we age, that fearlessness that was ourselves, begins to diminish. I challenge us to do whatever it takes to be and continue to find ourselves.”

Over the course of the past decade, Rolle has also developed a passion for mentoring and helping not only young women, but young people in general to want more out of life.

“I must stay committed to investing in the youth and pushing females to want more than the status quo. We may not be physically strong, but we are more than capable of building up our society. This is done by the way we carry and present ourselves. Begin by dressing for success. [And] it is unfortunate that we are still judged by our ‘covers’ or our appearance, but until the times change, we must evolve. We can do this by changing the image that we portray to the world. Be fearless to become as close to your true self as possible.”

As for why IWD, which has been celebrated for well over a century, is still important today, the golf pro said she would be the first person to naturally question the need to still have a day like this as she would want to be recognized as a person, rather than a female achieving something.

As she considered the question, Rolle said she had to take a step back and take herself out of the equation.

“The women who came before us, who paved the way for us, could have thought to do away with it if they thought they had achieved their goals. They could have had the mindset of not wanting to be recognized just because they are a female achieving something which men have achieved time and time again. If they had stopped, we would have lost the mental leverage with the young girls.”

She said as she thought of the next generations of young women to come, she is happy to see this day as women continuing to gain mental leverage.

“We come as one – but stand as many. This has been said over the years, but only when we truly understand it can we fight for the future. The only way that this can continue and lead to true change is to not only continue to celebrate this day, but to celebrate what it is for. We must continue to change women’s perception of women.”

The golf pro takes a team approach to her leadership with the concept that there is no “I” in the word “team” and that a team is leading the golf course through the pandemic.

“We worked well together prior to the pandemic and continue to find ways to provide a better experience. Through the ‘poof of smoke’ that was 2020, we focused more on family and friends, and not only understanding but accepting that things can change in a moment. We learned the importance of not taking anything for granted.”

For young women, Rolle said they focused on defining their golf skills and on researching more about the game.

“Becoming a student of the game or whatever it is that you are working on is key, and that was a huge focus in the middle and latter parts of 2020. With the world in a ‘reduced speed’ mode, we were able to see things that we had not seen before. We realized areas we left untapped because we were moving so fast. [The year] 2020 became an opportunity to strengthen ourselves and become more whole.”

As for what she finds more challenging – the golf course or the men that seek to challenge her game – Rolle admits is definitely the course.

“Men that may seek to challenge [me] may be complex but [they] do not challenge me like the golf course. Each golf course has ever-changing characteristics. It is a platform which does not take my feelings into consideration. If I come unprepared without the correct clubs, it does not take it easy on me. It does not care if I am sad after losing. It does not change to adapt to my needs. It does not change its character based on my strategy for playing. I must always sharpen my skills to take it on. Without the human element, I must be completely ready. If I feel that I have conquered a certain aspect or distance on a course, I can always play the next tee box, or play it in different conditions. That is one of the things that I love about golf. I must continue to evolve to find ways to keep up with the game. It is a true test of strength and character and forever challenging.”

Her advice to her female peers is to never be intimidated to play with the guys. And to always have a desire to compete with them.

“If the course allows, play with them from their tees with some adjustments along the way – this not only strengthens your game, but you also earn respect,” said Rolle.

The golf professional uses the platform available to her to continue to make a positive difference for women and urges to continue to invest in the youth.

“I will continue to assist in keeping their minds open and fearless, so that they can come to know what they do not know is possible.”

And she wants women to continue to band together and fight for the success of females in the generations to come.

Passionate about youth development and inclusive of any young person, Rolle is actively involved with the Fourteen Clubs Golf Academy program, instilling core values and life skills for youth golfers. She is also excited that Royal Blue Golf Club has debuted a new 18-hole championship mini golf course, Mini Blue, which is ideal for groups of friends, families and beginner golfers, which she hopes young females take advantage of.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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