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Prairie girl Amanda Minchin has always been a master of all tasks. As a youngster she excelled in a variety of sports — hockey, softball, soccer, basketball — and when she started working at Estevan Woodlawn GC in her teens after getting hooked on golf at 12, she didn’t limit herself to one gig. She toiled in the back shop, on the turf crew and in food and beverage. Need a grip changed? Check. A green cut? Check. A burger for lunch? How would you like it cooked?
Now, some three decades after starting in the junior program at the 400-member Saskatchewan club — known as TS&M Woodlawn Club since 2012 when a naming rights agreement was struck with TS&M Supply to fund a renovation after flood damages — Minchin is its general manager. Serendipitously, but also maybe predictably, she’s the boss.
“I guess I had the best education in terms of experience,” laughed Minchin, who was born and raised in Estevan.
But just like her days punching a clock, general manager isn’t Minchin’s sole title. Along with being vice-president of the PGA of Saskatchewan, she is also Woodlawn’s head professional. She’s one of 29 female head professionals in the country and one of a very few to hold both head pro and GM titles. Minchin says she enjoys a bond with other female head professionals in Saskatchewan, and across the country, citing Bobbi Brandon, the head pro at Saskatoon’s Moon Lake G&CC, as a friend and mentor specifically. However, she also says she doesn’t ever think about working in a male-dominated industry.
“It’s never been an issue, if you’re a woman or man,” she said. “To me, I wasn’t raised like that. I was just raised that you do whatever you want. The stuff that you want to do, that’s what you do. Sort of a genderless thing. And that’s how we try to approach things at our golf club.”
A club that recognized and conceded her desire to keep the head pro job when she was named GM. Minchin was adamant about that.
“I got in the golf business because I love being a golf pro, I wanted to be a golf pro,” she stated. “I didn’t want to give up that side of it.”
Not necessarily a club pro, however. After getting into the game just for fun, Minchin improved dramatically around the time she turned 16. It seemed to happen overnight, she explained. It was then that she started to play competitively and discover the places the game could take her. She won multiple Saskatchewan Junior Girls titles and twice finished second in the Saskatchewan Women’s Amateur. She wound up on provincial teams and competed nationally for the first time at the 1998 Canadian Junior Girls at Toronto’s York Downs G&CC. She loved it all — the trips, the courses, the people she met. A U.S. college scholarship emerged as a possibility and she wound up a two-time tournament winner and three-time first team all-conference player at Eastern Illinois University.
Upon graduating Minchin gave tour life a shot, plying her trade on the old Canadian Women’s Tour and teeing it up in mini-tour events whenever and wherever she could. Success — and cash — didn’t come, however, so at 27, having already lent a helping hand in the TS&M Woodlawn junior program from which she graduated, she became a PGA of Canada member and joined the club as assistant professional. She became head professional in 2016 and head professional/GM in 2018. Through the years the accolades have piled up: PGA of Saskatchewan Assistant of the Year in 2012; PGA of Saskatchewan Teacher of the Year in 2015; PGA of Saskatchewan Junior Promoter of the Year in 2013 and ’16; and the PGA of Canada’s Jack McLaughlin Junior Leader of the Year in ’16 as well. She was also an assistant coach for Golf Saskatchewan’s 2017 Canada Summer Games team. It’s those junior leader awards of which she is most proud.
“I love teaching kids,” Minchin said. “As a GM/head pro I still get to do our Tiny Linkster junior lessons. I still get to be out there with the five-, six-year-olds on the weekend and teach those lessons. Might be funny to some people but I think it’s cool.”
Of course, a world with COVID-19 has changed some of that. After a long shutdown, Minchin was just getting junior camps at Woodlawn up and running again in early June, having to create regimes for physical distancing, especially at the youngest levels. But she also noted enrollment for camps is up over last year as are junior and adult memberships. The school of thought that golf might benefit from the pandemic with people unable to participate in teams sports has come to fruition at TS&M Woodlawn with members of the public struggling to get tee times as season pass holders gobble them up with the ability to book seven days in advance. That is something Minchin said she has never seen at the club. As for golf being a safe haven in these uncertain times, her sell of the game remains the same.
“I’m going to push junior golf no matter what, COVID or not,” she avowed, noting the club has produced nine juniors who played competitively last summer and had graduates playing collegiately in the U.S. before the shutdown. “I feel bad for kids. I can’t imagine not being able to play sports and do all of their activities. I mean, I grew up loving all sports. So I feel for kids. And adults. I mean, I miss sports. I miss watching hockey and whatnot. If I could say anything, it’s that we of course feel very safe here, it’s a great place for kids to meet other kids. We see it now. Kids are coming here, they are learning how to make tee times on their own, they’re booking online because kids are so good on computers obviously. But it’s not just about hitting golf balls. It’s learning how to talk to adults, play with adults because we have to fill those tee times. The life skills alone, I’ll always preach that, in a COVID world or not a COVID world.
“We want your kids — boys and girls,” she continued. “We just think kids should be introduced to golf. Whether they decide to go play competitively or whatnot, obviously as golf lovers we see the benefits of it as a lifelong game, so we’re going to be really pushing that in the next year.”
And why not? Look what joining the junior program way back when has done for Minchin.
“I’m from the junior program and here I am 30-odd years later as the GM. To me, that’s a cool story.”