Bryanston Country Club head teaching professional Leigh-Jane Middleton has been appointed as the PGA of South Africa’s first female vice-chairperson.
It is a strong move by the association in its centenary year to promote greater gender diversity and inspire its female membership to the leadership opportunities in golf.
Middleton has been a PGA professional for 18 years (Class AAA), most of that time as the business owner of Bryanston’s Golf Academy, where she has championed golf development initiatives and the GIGS (Get Into Golf Girls) programme which introduces newcomers to the game. Before that she was the club’s golf director.
Within the PGA she took a lead role in the Women in Golf task force aimed to reflect The R&A’s Women in Golf Charter and its drive for greater female representation. She won the PGA’s Grow Golf Award in 2020.
Louis Destroo, PGA chairperson, said he was excited about this new era. “The PGA is a non-gender non-race organisation. We’ve been focused on a path towards greater diversity and inclusivity and Leigh-Jane has walked this journey with us as a member of our Board of Directors.
“She was an obvious candidate for this historic appointment. Leigh-Jane has that valuable quality of being able to manage emotions and expectations, which is key for any membership association. She has a calm way of leading, and her fellow members and the golf community hold her in high regard.”
Ivano Ficalbi, Chief Executive of the PGA, welcomed Middleton’s appointment and the message it sends to the golf community.
“In 2019 the PGA of South Africa, in line with the PGA World Alliance, committed to The R&A Women in Golf Charter. But we wanted to do more within that charter. So we launched our own Women in Golf task force and Leigh-Jane played a key role for us. Our women members make up 7% of our membership base. As far as we are aware, the only other PGA with a higher percentage of women members is the PGA of Sweden, so we take our commitment to our female membership and the value they can add very seriously.
“We want more engagement with our women members and Leigh-Jane represents everything we seek to inspire in them. She runs her own business, she works at a high profile club and runs a very good coaching academy there. Upon our submission, Leigh-Jane has also been accepted onto The R&A’s new 18-month programme for top leadership. So we know that going forward she is going to add immense value in this new role.”
Middleton said she was excited and humbled to take up this new opportunity.
“I’m passionate about growing the game among women and would like to use my journey as an example. We have so many top women golfers who maybe can’t see a place for themselves on the tours and then think that’s where their journey in golf ends.
“We want them to realise the incredible opportunities there are within the PGA of South Africa and a career in the golf industry. The PGA gave me this and I truly feel responsible to give as many other women golfers out there the same opportunity.”
Middleton played provincial golf for Gauteng and KZN as an amateur before at 22 enrolling into the PGA’s 3-year Apprenticeship programme. “I wanted to pursue a career in the golf club industry,” she said. “My first two years were under the guidance of Phil Simmons at Mount Edgecombe, and my final year at Fancourt Golf Academy under the mentorship of Val Holland.”
“Golf has traditionally been a male-dominated environment but this is changing, and there are now equal opportunities for women. I’m ecstatic about being able to represent this change, and I hope to add as much value as I can.”