South African tour ace Connie Chen, who two years ago won a Mercedes-Benz with a hole-in-one, is aiming to hit top gear in her studies after signing up with the PGA training programme.
The 22 year old was an enthusiastic participant in the recent PGA residential courses at the PGA National Training Academy at The Belfry.
Chen was one of two LET players in attendance with fellow tour winner Lydia Hall also soaking up a range of subjects at the PING House headquarters of the academy.
Both Chen and Hall have enrolled on The PGA’s three-year foundation degree in professional golf studies with one eye on future careers in the golf industry.
LET players are encouraged to consider completing the PGA qualification to expand their career options once their touring days are over. Former US Women’s Open champion Alison Nicholas is among those to have completed the course.
The duo joined fellow first year PGA assistants studying a diverse range of modules including coaching, equipment technology, sports science and business and marketing.
Chen, who landed her maiden LET title at the Tenerife Open last year and won the car at the Dubai Ladies Masters in 2013, begins her 2015 playing schedule in Australia next week at the RACV Masters but while in England she explained her reasons for undertaking the PGA training programme.
“Long term, thinking about the future, I don’t just want to be a player, I’d like to be more rounded and do a lot of different things and I felt that if I started the PGA course it would give me the tools to do that,” she said.
“I had the basic knowledge about everything but now coming into this I have acquired much more in-depth knowledge.
“I’d say the business side is interesting because of what you are going to need when you want to start your own business. I remember Ian Poulter talking about having done the PGA course.
“Doing the foundation degree gives you more insight, knowing all the branches you can go into when you finish as a player whether retail, coaching, custom fitting – anything.
“At the moment I don’t exactly know what I’ll do in the future but this course is really good because it touches on all aspects you can branch out into.”
PGA National Training Academy manager Dave Robinson commented: “Connie is one of 13 overseas assistants attending the PGA National Training Academy over the next two weeks.
“Over the weekend she is also taking her Level 1 Coaching Qualification. It’s great to have Connie and Lydia here from the Ladies European Tour.
“We have liaised with the LET over the last few years promoting the course and slowly players and ex-players are taking up the opportunity to do the PGA training programme. We would like more female assistants on the programme so hopefully having two high profile players in our ranks will encourage more females to consider the foundation degree and training programme as an exciting career.”
Chen began playing golf when she was 10 and turned pro at 18 when she got her LET card at the first attempt and is hoping to inspire children to take up the sport.
“I really enjoyed golf, it was one of the things I was really good at,” she added.
“When I was 15 I played for South Africa in the Junior R&A Open Championship and I really enjoyed it and liked the travelling and meeting people.
“I played in the Ladies World Amateur teams in Argentina in 2010. South Africa came third – I really had a good amateur career and when you have a good amateur career you tend to think you can do well as a pro.
“I’ve always been quite competitive, and when you play well it’s really one of the best feelings in the world and you feel you can do anything.”
As a teenager Chen played in the tournament of her golf hero Annika Sorenstam and hopes to have a similar impact.
“Playing golf puts you in contact with a lot of good people and you can inspire kids and that’s what I want to do, inspire other people and little kids the way I was inspired when I was a kid.
“I looked up to the likes of Annika and Michelle Wie. I met Annika when I was 17 at the Annika Invitational and I was really amazed at how she was at her own tournament yet still took time to go there and speak to each and every one of us and I think that just remarkable.”
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