Lurgan's Zoe Allen named one of the world's top 50 kids golf coaches
Northern Ireland has a proud record of producing top level golfers; Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke and even back to Fred Daly - the major winners roll off the tongue.
But now NI is trying its hand at nuturing world-class coaches. Michael Bannon is the one that immediately springs to mind, Rory McIlroy's boyhood mentor who the world number 11 has kept faith with throughout his career.
He's not on his own though - now a Lurgan-based golf coach has been recognised as one of the world's top 50 kids teachers.
Zoe Allen, a teaching professional at Lurgan Golf Club, was named as one of only five coaches from outside the USA to be recognised by US Kids, a leading golf company that aims to encourage participation and enjoyment in the sport at a young age.
Zoe has helped to introduce the first US Kids learning programmes to Ireland, establishing the UK and Ireland's first US Kids Local Tour. That will comprise of six events around Northern Ireland, taking in Allen Park Golf Centre, Ardglass, Ballycastle, Galgorm Castle and Shandon Park before the Tour Championship at Zoe's own Lurgan GC.
Zoe, 29, has also helped US Kids Golf to train other golf professionals in their kids coaching ethos. She received her award at the annual PGA Show in Orlando, Florida on Wednesday.
"To be named a Top 50 US Kids Coach is a real honour," Zoe said. "It's definitely the highlight of my coaching career so far.
"There are so many great coaches out there and to be recognised for the coaching programmes that I run at Lurgan is special.
"Being part of the US Kids family is great. I’ve been very fortunate to get to spend time with Michelle Holmes from the Michelle Holmes School of Golf in Virginia and I’ve learnt so much from her and other great coaches that I've been able to meet."
Zoe says the principle driving force behind her promising coaching career is to encourage as many young people as possible to take up and stay in the game by making her lessons "fun and enjoyable" through a games-based method.
"I am very fortunate I get to be at a great golf club with an ever growing junior section," she continued. "Kids are starting the game younger and younger at Lurgan, we have fantastic facilities, and I have a very supportive Head Professional Peter Hanna."
Peter, the current PGA Vice-Captain, explained the impact Zoe has had on the club since taking up her role in 2014.
"It's a great asset to Lurgan Golf Club to have somebody who is as passionate about coaching and in particular junior golf coaching as Zoe is," he said.
"I asked Zoe to join my team at Lurgan because we saw the capability that she had to improve junior golf at the club. She is making the most of that opportunity and her career is blossoming. She is prepared to go to America where she can learn from the best in the business and thoroughly deserves this award. We're excited to see where her career will lead.
"With her help, Lurgan is now one of the best golf clubs for juniors in Northern Ireland, if not the whole of Ireland. We have over 100 juniors playing our juvenile competitions and they are now starting to play the sport as young as three, four or five years of age. That's something that has changed in recent years.
"We hope that Lurgan can continue to produce good golfers, as the club always has done."
Zoe first hit the headlines before turning professional, when she won both the Connacht Junior Championships and the Munster Junior Championships.
In recent years, Lurgan has produced top young golfers such as Irish internationals Niamh Ward, Niamh McSherry, Annabel Wilson and Peter Cummins.
And now, under Zoe's world-class tutelage, perhaps the County Armagh club can produce Northern Ireland's next top-level star.
Belfast Telegraph Digital