This week we spoke with Jess Heap as part of our Q&A’s on all things golf. Jess, an accredited PGA Professional based out of Milton Keynes, has experienced golf both in and outside of the ropes and we were keen to learn more!
Tell us about yourself!
I grew up in Cyprus, where I started playing golf and then moved back to the UK to complete my PGA Foundation Degree and have stayed ever since. I now live in Buckinghamshire with my boyfriend and children. I work for the European Tour and am also an Accredited PGA Golf Professional.
What’s your first golfing memory?
Going to the range in Cyprus when I was about 10.
How did you first get into golf?
My dad, he started playing golf again when we moved abroad and I went with him a few times and I loved it. I then had lessons every weekend and played pretty much every single day from the age of 10 – 16!
Who is your golfing inspiration?
There are so many great legends out there, but without sounding soppy, it has to be my dad. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
We’re super interested in learning more about your current role in golf!
After completing my PGA Coaching Degree, I wanted to change roles, so I could spend more time with my growing family. I was lucky enough to get a job at the European Tour! I am currently a Tournament Coordinator for European Tour and Challenge Tour. I work alongside the Tournament Directors and the promoters, venues etc, to ensure the events run smoothly, from an operations side. The easiest way to describe what we do, is we arrange pretty much everything inside the ropes (not the players!). My job involves coordinating the staff travel, accommodation and making sure they have everything they need to travel with, which in current times, is quite a lot of documents! I also manage all the paint and radio communications for both the European Tour and the Challenge Tour. My role is mostly office based, but a few times during the year we head out to events to help out with the tournament office on site. I went to Cyprus in October last year (2020) to help out with the events, it was lovely to go back to the golf club I grew up playing at as a junior!
What has been the biggest thing you’ve learned in your current role, which you didn’t know as a player?
If I’m honest, I didn’t realise how much planning and how many people and departments come together to help put an event together. The last 12 – 18 months have been challenging with the pandemic, but fortunately, we have such a great team of people at the European Tour that we have managed to put on so many events during these difficult times.
The best thing about your role is…?
I get to work with great people and travel to some nice places sometimes.
What advice would you give to juniors who are interested in this line of work?
It depends if they are looking to turn pro and run their own shop and coach full time or take a slightly different role in golf. Either of the roles require a lot of hard work, organizational skills and dedication. If anyone would like any advice, then I would be happy to chat with them.
When did you pursue the coaching route and how have you found your experience so far?
I turned Professional in 2015, having played for around 8 years, and started coaching juniors once I completed my ASQ Level 1 coaching degree and I loved it! Once I completed my Level 2 I then started coaching everyone, the club I used to work at had a fantastic membership and large ladies’ section, and we ran ladies’ clinics, and academy’s. I also helped set up a ‘Girls into Golf’ session, which I ran every week, until I left to work for the Tour. I still coach outside of my day job on the weekends, to anyone, all ages and abilities and love the combination I have with both my jobs. I love the feeling you get when you share your knowledge with clients and seeing them improve is magical. I always get such great feedback from my clients and that just tops it all!
What’s the best thing about coaching children?
Seeing them have fun. Which is definitely the most important thing when kids (and even adults!) are involved. I love creating new games for kids to play when they have lessons. Kids are always super enthusiastic and really keen to learn, which is fantastic.
At what point should parents encourage their children to seek coaching?
As soon as their child shows an interest in golf, I would recommend the parents seek coaching. Even if parents play golf, they may find it strains their parent/child relationship if they try to teach them, as like most parents know, children of our own, general tend to not listen! Joining a weekly junior group lesson will hopefully mean they make some new friends that also love golf, and a golf friendship pretty much lasts forever.
Before a child sees a coach, what three tips would you give?
Tricky one, but probably:
- Bring a pad and a pencil… I used to write everything down after every lesson with my coach
- Wear something comfortable and show up on time
- Set them a goal or let them set their own, so they can see their progress
Working with children presents a unique challenge. How do you approach coaching with different ages and ability levels?
I love the challenge of working with kids. I just do what feels right, and what I think the child is capable of doing. I talk to them and ask them what they want to do, rather than being told. I believe if they are able to choose what we do in the lesson, they will enjoy themselves more. The younger they are, the more I focus on having short games to work on the different aspects of golf. This helps keep them engaged and enjoying themselves. The older they get the more they understand and so the process changes from ‘fun fun fun’ to more routines and future goal setting, still with games, but ones that are more challenging! Everyone starts golf at a different age, so it’s important to work through the stages of game and goal setting, and then moving on to improvement and routine setting.
What do your plans for 2021 look like, now we are reaching a bit more normality?
Work less and golf more haha! But on a serious side, I would love to go visit my parents with the family, they live in Hungary, and I haven’t seen them since February 2020.
Who would be your dream Four-ball?
Oh tricky one… but probably, Annika, Seve and Tiger.
Where can we find you?
I currently am a Freelance Coach based at Pro Shot Golf Club in Milton Keynes. Feel free to check out my Instagram @pgajessheap