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WFCC Success Story: Edwina Kennedy

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How old were you when you first started practicing a sport? Do you feel that age has a strong impact on how well you may perform throughout the years? There have been a number of studies conducted recently that demonstrate a correlation between beginning a sport at an early age and achieving outstanding results.

Only a handful of golfers at the Wentworth Falls Country Club have become members under the age of 10 and have obtained international recognition. One of the most remarkable is Edwina Kennedy. Edwina’s golfing career starts at the age of 7 and progresses rapidly reaching sensational results in Amateur golf  that have yet to be beaten to this day.

Practicing a sport at a young age

Often young children start a sport because of their geographic location, because it is practiced in school or because their parents follow or practice that sport. More often than not, sports are practiced recreationally up until an adolescent age and then other factors take over and the young individual might lose interest.

The first element to take into account when assessing sports for a child is talent. But how do you determine whether someone has a talent for a sport, especially when very young? This can be challenging to say the least but it often evolves from a strong passion for a sport.  Many studies suggest that parents should expose their children to various sports and allow them to choose rather than imposing one sport. If you grew up in Australia you most likely played rugby, cricket or soccer when growing up but what if you have a talent for horseback riding and have never been on a horse? Exposing the child to a number of different sports to be able to gauge whether there is a specific talent is therefore crucial.

Some schools of thought maintain that perseverance is the most important element of all and that as long as you stick to a sport for long enough you will succeed. This can be applied to everything in llfe, not only sports, as if someone is dedicated and enthusiastic about something they will eventually achieve recognition. Professional athletes in fact train for hours on end to improve and hone their skills to the nth degree. Not only their skill but also their physical condition must be pristine in order for them to run faster, jump higher or hit the ball farther than their opponent. Being focused and wanting to succeed as an athlete helps in sticking to a sport but not everyone has this strong mental preparation.

Another key element for success in sport is the environment you grow up in. If you grow up in the Snowy Mountains you are more likely to go skiing rather than playing baseball as a child. Similarly if you are surrounded by golf courses you are more likely to give the game of golf a go.

Edwina Kennedy is an individual who had all three of these key elements.

Early stages

Edwina’s first golf club was a cut down hickory shafted “jigger” given to her by her grandmother. During the Wentworth Falls Country Club Centenary celebrations, Edwina Kennedy was elected guest of Honour and during her speech she mentioned how the wooden golf club her grandmother gave her for her 2nd birthday triggered an interest in the game of golf. Furthermore, Edwina had a strong relationship with her grandmother who lived in Wentworth Falls and whom she visited often.

Edwina truly enjoyed visiting her grandmother and playing golf in Wentworth Falls although there weren’t many young female golfers when she decided to do so. She commenced her competitive involvement in golf at age 7 when she first joined WFCC. She used a variety of second hand clubs, and received one new golf club each birthday and Christmas. She gradually built up her set, not owning a fully matched set of clubs until she was 11 and nearly a single figure marker! One of the peculiar incidents she vividly recalls from her early stages of golf at WFCC was being reprimanded by a woman member while playing golf as there weren’t many young golfers and golf was not a game typically played by young women. But she adds that both men and women members were very friendly, extremely supportive of her golf and encouraged her greatly.

She carded under  100 at age 8. She competed in a number of Junior and Schoolgirl Championships from the age of 7 and reached a handicap of 18 at the age of 10. At 16 she won the Australian Foursomes Championships with Sue Goldsmith. She proceeded to win the Australian Junior championships 4 years in a row, 1976 to 1979.

Edwina believes that she benefitted in many ways from playing a number of sports, especially team sports, before she began to focus solely on golf after leaving school and commencing university studies. She strongly recommends this to aspiring athletes who want to maintain a balanced perspective and a rounded approach to life.

Career accolades

In 1978, on her 19th birthday, Edwina Kennedy became the first Australian in win the British Women’s Amateur Championship. Her most memorable achievement was being a member of the first Australian team, with Lindy Goggin and Jane Lock, to win the Women’s World Amateur Team Championships in Fiji in 1978.

In 1979 she became the first woman to compete in the Australian universities team championship winning each of her matches from the men’s tees. Today, the Edwina Kennedy Trophy for women’s individual stroke play is awarded regularly at the Australian University Championship for golf.

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In 1980 she won the Canadian Amateur Championship and in 1985 the New Zealand Amateur Championship. She won the Australian Amateur Championship in 1986 and was losing finalist in 1979, 1984 and 1991. She represented Australia more than 30 times in 20 countries between 1977 and 1991. She was a member of the Australian team that won the 1983 Commonwealth Tournament, the Queen Sirikit Cup Asian Teams Championship in 1982, 1983, 1986.

Edwina also won the New South Wales Championships in 1979, 1984, 1985 and 1986 and represented NSW from 1977 to 1993, winning 10 times.

Edwina received a Medal of the Order of Australia for her services to golf in 1985. She retired from competitive golf in 1993. She married Vaughan Kirkby in 1988 and they have two children, Jack, 19 and Anna, 17.

Credo

“Work hard to achieve your dreams but remember that life is much more than winning”.

Edwina Kennedy is the perfect example of an individual who recognised their talent for a sport at an early age and with hard work and perseverance managed to achieve outstanding results. She remains to this day one of the most inspiring and successful athletes the Wentworth Falls Country Club has had the pleasure to witness.

We encourage young readers and adults with young children to share their experiences and points of view on starting a sport at a young age. The Wentworth Falls Country Club supports young players and looks forward to welcoming the new golfing generation of the future.

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How do you steer clear of golf injuries?

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Golf injury prevention

If you are reading this blog, you most probably have a strong passion for golf. Your love for the game means you probably play once a week or even more often. Have you ever experienced any aches or pains during or after a round of golf?

Whether you are an experienced golfer or whether you had your first golf lessons last week, you may be experiencing lower back pains, wrist aches and soar elbows. How do you treat these pains and most importantly, how do you prevent these aches and pains from occurring in the first place?

As a low impact sport, golf is not usually associated with a high rate of injury such as rugby, water polo or judo. However, many people who play golf around the world, from beginners to professionals, experience pains in various parts of their body from excessive strain and over exertion. In addition, many golfers fail to consult a doctor or seek medical advice, which may aggravate their condition and ultimately lead to a more significant injury.

You would be surprised how few golfers actually spend time undertaking simple and quick exercises to reduce their chances of injury.

By simply understanding the main causes of injury and pain and following some basic practices to avoid these from happening, golfers can enjoy the game to a greater extent and for a longer period of time.

1. Common golf injuries and treatment

Many studies have been conducted to identify the main areas of injury linked to the game of golf. One of the most reliable studies conducted on this subject matter was completed in 2004 by the Harvard Medical School.  Let’s have a look at the main areas, the symptoms and what to do to cure and prevent them from creeping back.

Lower back – 36% of golfers experience lower back pains as a result of playing golf. The motion of the golf swing alone can be the cause of a series of injuries to the lower back. Executing the motion of the golf swing over 60 times in a round of 18 holes but also bending over to pick up golf balls or fix divots may place a great deal of strain on the lumbar spine. The main symptoms of this condition are fairly obvious with shooting back pains, stiffness, muscle spasms and pain or weakness in the legs.

The first piece of advice from both the Australian Journal of Sports Medicine and the above study is to make sure your swing technique is correct. By taking a few golf lessons to correct the simple bad habits we all have could go a long way to improve your lower back problems. Other suggestions are to bend your knees slightly and keep your back straight when you follow through on your swing. Lastly, use a cart or a buggy to carry golf clubs so as to reduce the strain on your back when transitioning from hole to hole.

Elbow – Around 32% of golfers may be afflicted by elbow injuries or pain during and after having played golf. This is mainly due to gripping the club incorrectly coupled with repetitive and sudden force applied to the elbow when taking long shots such as drivers. Pain in the elbow may be a sign of muscle damage or an inflammation of tendons. The most common symptoms are pain when making a fist, weakness in the wrist and/or hand and tenderness and pain in the inner side of the forearm.

The immediate treatment for elbow pain suggested by the Australian Journal of Sports Medicine is to apply ice to the area 4 times a day for 15 minutes at a time and give your golf game a rest. Should the pain be quite intense, over the counter pain relievers are recommended and a visit to the doctor could be in order. In the long run, your swing would have to be reviewed so as to determine whether your technique could be the main cause of such discomfort.

Hand and wrist – Injuries and pain in the hands and wrists are fairly common and they are more often than not connected with the repetitive impact of the head of the club with the ball, or in some cases the ground. When golfers hit the ball, the impact travels through the club and is absorbed by the hands and wrists. As the strokes mount up, they can lead to strained tendons. Over time, repetitive strain and improper wrist motion can cause fractures, sprains, and ruptured tendons that eventually cause chronic pain and decreased mobility.

Although the symptoms are fairly obvious, the immediate and long-term solutions can be varied and quite interesting. There are vibration-absorbing golf clubs that reduce the impact on the hand, which might be a life-saver for some. Secondly, by squeezing a tennis ball regularly, the hand, wrist, forearm and shoulder muscles are strengthened. Lastly, the technique. By using light grip pressure, slowing the backswing, cutting excess wrist motion and avoiding a steep downswing (potentially striking the ground) the chances of reducing hand and wrist injuries are increased.

Shoulder – The rotator cuff in the shoulder is also a quite common area that is prone to injury.  The main cause once again relates back to the golf swing and the wear and tear to the muscles and tendons. When the tears heal they create scar tissue that may hinder the desired movement and also increase the sensitivity of the whole shoulder. The main symptoms are pain in the shoulder or upper arm pain when the arm is lifted up and away from the body and pain in the front of the shoulder extending down to the elbow and forearm.

The immediate remedy to a sore shoulder is rest, icing and pain medication. Many exercises can be done however to improve the shoulder ailments over time. Physical therapy including stretching and strengthening exercises are the most common treatments for shoulder pain.

Knees and hips – Both knees and hips may come under unpleasant pressure and strain while golfing. Furthermore they may have the tendency to deteriorate should the golfer have injured these previously. Striking the ground hard during a swing can result in excruciating hip and knee pains. The main symptoms are generalized pain in the knees and hips, clicking in the knee, and swelling of the knees.

For immediate relief, the most recommended treatments are rest, icing, elevation and pain medication. However, wearing knee bandages and braces and golf shoes with short cleats can remarkably reduce the chance of injuring the knees and hips once again. Long cleats anchor your feet while you swing and could strain your knees.

As you will appreciate, while playing golf there are many areas of the body that may be strained or over exerted with repetitive and forceful swings. Having said that, there are also a number of simple exercises and techniques that can be followed to greatly reduce the chance of injury and prevent pain from getting in the way of a healthy round of golf.

Golf swing

2. Tips to reduce the chance of injury

Four things will grossly improve any golfer’s physical health and strength in the long run and in turn improve their game, namely stretching, warming up before playing, regular fitness training programs and correcting one’s swing.

Warming up and stretching before golfing has been shown to decrease the incidence of golf injuries. Apparently over 80 percent of golfers spend less than 10 minutes warming up before a round. Those who do warm up have less than half the chance of injury with respect to those who don’t warm up. Lower handicap and professional golfers were more than twice as likely to warm up for more than 10 minutes as compared to other golfers.

Flexibility, strength, and aerobic training have become increasingly popular among golfers over the past several decades. Early advocates of strength training included Gary Player, the international champion who claimed to have significantly increased the length of his drives despite his small physical stature. More recently, players like Tiger Woods have embraced strength and flexibility training and have undertaken regular fitness training programs, whereas more senior players have been exercising to improve their level of play or merely to remain competitive with younger players.

A regular exercise program that includes core strengthening, stretching and strengthening all the major muscle groups can also help decrease your injury rate and increase your playing time.

Swing mechanics also plays a very important role in decreasing the chances of injury and the improvement of one’s game. It is advisable to consult a golf pro to review one’s technique and correct any idiosyncrasies or bad habits.

Golf is a great game that is enjoyed by many around the world. Why not have a few lessons with a golf pro (possibly Lang Doolan at Wentworth Falls County Club), do a little stretching and warm up before playing if you know how important it is to keep you well clear of common golf injuries?

Also, should you desire further information about fitness training programs, Pete at the WFCC gym will be able to assist you.

Do you dedicate time and effort to injury prevention? Let us know your views by commenting below.