With the all-new Scottish Golf now up and running, its Chair, Eleanor Cannon, shares the vision for the future
Eleanor Cannon, a highly qualified director with a passion for golf, recently heralded a fresh start for the sport after her appointment as the inaugural Chair of Scottish Golf.
Following the historic decision to amalgamate the Scottish Golf Union (SGU) and the Scottish Ladies’ Golfing Association (SLGA) into a single governing body for amateur golf in Scotland from October 1, Eleanor intends to use her extensive strategic and commercial background to lead the new organisation in the non-executive Chair role for an initial three-year term.
Succeeding the current Chairs of both governing bodies, Tom Craig (SGU) and Beth Paterson (SLGA), Eleanor, 50, will seek to lead the ongoing development of golf in Scotland and meet the challenges the sport faces. Scottish Club Golfer met her for a Q&A...
Tell us about your journey to the Chair of Scottish Golf.
I’ve played golf since I was very young and was a junior member of Ralston Golf Club in Paisley. Golf was very much part of our family life and we enjoyed many annual holidays playing golf as a family. When I went to University at St Andrews [graduating in 1986], I embarked on quite a career journey that took me all around the UK, which didn’t really give me the time to concentrate on golf. I had the joy of having two children and that made life even more complex and more difficult to play golf, but I always tried to join a local club and I certainly played corporate golf at any opportunity.
Since I relocated to Scotland and my children left the nest, I’ve taken out the clubs again and joined Ranfurly Castle Golf Club in Renfrewshire. When this opportunity came up, I just felt it was my chance to bring the experience that I’ve had in corporate life, in terms of transformation and change and integration, to bear on a sport that I’m very passionate about.
The amalgamation of the SGU & the SLGA contributes to an important rate of change within the industry. How will this benefit golf in Scotland?
I believe that the coming together of the two governing bodies will be a tremendous, positive step for the game of golf in Scotland. It will open up lots of opportunities in terms of growing the game from a family perspective, where people are perceived to be players and members, and not identified by their gender all the time. I also believe more funding opportunities will be available to us, given the values of the game, what a family sport it is and the skills and values it instils in young and old alike. We are already delighted that Aberdeen Asset Management, a long-standing partner, have extended their support of our national teams until the end of 2017.
My role is to make sure that, as a combined body, we do absolutely everything in our power to support the development of the game locally across Scotland.
This includes encouraging non-golfers to join clubs and play, helping golfers develop from a young age and encouraging families to come back onto the golf course and enjoy the wonderful family sport it is.
How important is it to have a female as the
first Chair of Scottish Golf?
I’m not so sure it is important to have a female. I think it’s important that somebody who has experience of facilitating transformational change in business and who has experience of enabling executive teams to support the work that is done locally, is actually more important than the
What are your main objectives as Chair?
We want to see stronger clubs, in terms of clubs thriving and being very much part of the community. Some clubs certainly are already, but there may still be ways that we can add value - in terms of opening up innovative ideas, different formats of the game, participation and accessibility. We are here to help and support all clubs, including those that are finding it tough and need to engage with their local community in a different way.
We also want to boost membership and we are encouraged by our latest figures which show that membership is stabilising. I’d also like to promote a unified game, as we have to start talking about golfers, rather than men and women.
With your experience and expertise in running an Executive Coaching business, how do you believe you can deliver change within Scottish Golf?
As an executive coach, my job is to support, help and enable executives be the very best that they can be in the work that they do, both at home and professionally. I see this job very much the same, in terms of enabling the executive team and the whole team that supports Scottish golf be the very best that they can be. My hope is that I can use my skills to be able to do that.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
Probably being able to fit golf in, as I can’t find the time to play at the moment! The biggest challenge will be communicating the value of the sport to non-golfers, given it can be perceived as being rather old-fashioned, mostly by those people who don’t play. I think a huge challenge is to reposition the game as the wonderful, fun, family sport that it is.
Throughout the UK there is a focus to encourage more females to the sport, particularly a younger generation at club level. What ideas do you have?
I’m encouraged by our new Get into Golf initiative, building on the sterling work of the national junior programme, ClubGolf. Get into Golf aims to attract more beginners, as well as those who have previously given up, to the game with over 90 clubs in Scotland now running coaching programmes and offering introductory memberships.
The traditional model of membership is being challenged, as consumers spend their time and money in a different way, with Get into Golf designed to appeal to people who have never played golf but like the idea of trying it, or who would like to get back into the game. This is achieved via group coaching sessions run by a PGA professional, PGA assistant or volunteer coaches at golf clubs. We are also encouraged that, from our latest membership figures, early indications show that junior girls membership is up by 3% which reflects all our hard work.
How will you cope if you face opposition from traditionalist male members who are unfamiliar with a lady in charge?
I would simply do as I would always do, which
is seek to understand what the issues are, sit round a table and come up with workable solutions that make commercial sense to our local clubs, which after all are local businesses
in their own right.
Scottish Golf’s new Board of nine Non-Executive Directors has now been finalised, with the appointment of a new leadership team boasting wide-ranging business and golf experience. How excited are you for the future?
I’m very excited at the make-up of the new Board and we have a great opportunity to propel the sport forward. We have individuals with experience and, at the same time, we are bringing in people with a fresh perspective, having not been involved at all in the administration of golf. Collectively, they will offer new ideas and a real hunger to make a difference to ensure we build on the momentum in terms of the work already being achieved with clubs throughout Scotland.