North Coast and Ballymena edition July 2017

North Coast · Coleraine · Ballymena · Ballymoney · Antrim · Larne

You are here: North Coast and Ballymena Features “I will keep fighting”

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Portstewart ladies get ready for The Open

Portstewart Golf Club's Julie Corbett and a team of hardworking ladies helped prepare for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open

Julie Corbett, who’s meeting and greeting the world’s top golfers at this month’s Irish Open in Portstewart, is happy to debunk the myths surrounding the misses and missuses of the game.

For the popular Ladies Captain at Portstewart Golf Club, insists that discrimination against the fairer sex on the fairways isn’t par for the course in this neck of the woods.

“There’s very little tension here between the men and the ladies in Portstewart,” says Julie. “We are only associate members at the club but the men are very accommodating. There’s a great working relationship.”

Many golf clubs down the years have, of course, refused to admit women as members and though for many it’s still a case of men-only, the barriers are crumbling.

And Julie says “There’s part of me that says live and let live. But I think that women should be admitted to all clubs. It’s a little bit dated that they aren’t allowed onto certain courses. Things are changing however. The equality issue in law has kicked in quite a bit.”

Julie was a comparatively late recruit to golf even though her father Danny Kennedy is an honorary life member of Portstewart.

Julie’s first sporting love was swimming but one of her best friends from school Grace McDowell encouraged her to join the golf club in 2004.

“We had both been heavily involved with helping to run activities at Coleraine swimming club but I decided to give golf a try,” says Julie whose administrative skills were quickly utilised by Portstewart officials who recruited her as their juvenile convenor.

Julie later took on the mantle of captain of a number of teams before Ladies captain Irene Murray asked her to be her number two at the club.

Tragically Julie’s friend Grace died from cancer but the golfers have remembered her with a memorial bench which has a message that she was an inspiration to everyone at the club.

Julie says she would have loved Grace to have been able to enjoy the Irish Open.

Because she was called Grace McDowell and because she was such a good golfer we used to joke about her being our G-Mac after Graeme McDowell.

She adds: “Because of her name and because she was such a good golfer we used to joke about her being our G-Mac after Graeme McDowell.”

Getting the Ladies captaincy in such an important year has been a real thrill for Julie who’s from Coleraine but she denies she’s obsessed with golf.

She says: “I’m not a fanatic but I play two or three times a week, though I probably enjoy the social side of the game – the 19th – just as much as the golf.

“I’m not a great player but I am a respectable golfer.”

Julie says she and the rest of her golfing colleagues could hardly believe it when the news was announced that the Open was coming to Portstewart.

“We have a very, very active Ladies branch here and they’ve all been very involved with the preparation for the Open. A lot of them are acting as volunteers and scorers.”

Julie has been looking forward to meeting and greeting the golfers – and their families and their entourages – for months.

“I’ve been very excited particularly about meeting my favourite players who are our local heroes, Rory, Darren and Graeme. Their successes have given everyone here in Northern Ireland an added interest in golf.”

The 50 or so ladies who will be on duty at the Open were told a long time ago that their days wouldn’t be short.

Julie has three children, Olivia, 26 Christina, 23 and Alastair 20.

The two younger children play golf as does their dad, Derek whose nickname at Portstewart is Happy Gilmore, after the hit sports movie which starred Adam Sandler.

“When he started he hit a very long ball but it wasn’t always in the right direction,” laughs Julie.

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