Magenta Shores CC, March 29-31, 2024

Day of Dreams for Bathurst Girls

Darcy Habgood is a really good golfer.

Fortunately for Australian golf – and as a great example to all sports – she’s an even better person.

Habgood, 24, gave two wide-eyed Bathurst girls a life-changing experience today.

Maiv Dorman, 14, and Lola Lamb, 12, were asked to play in Habgood’s group in the pro-am before this week’s Women’s New South Wales Open Regional Qualifier at their home course.

And if there’s a clear night sky tonight in Bathurst, it still won’t contain as many stars as could be found in the juniors’ eyes after their round.

In isolation, youngsters playing with their heroes is not radical.

But this is where the regional focus of Golf NSW breaks new ground.

At practically any other time ever in rural Australia, these two golf-loving girls would have been forced to travel hundreds of kilometres to play in a pro-am with golfers of such quality and standing.

And once they’d arrived in their nearest “big smoke”, that event would most likely have been alongside men.

But in Bathurst today, Maiv and Lola became THE poster girls for arguably the most important notion in female sport … If you can see it, you can be it.

Habgood split her time growing up between Toowoomba and Nambucca Heads, like her newfound friends, a hike from the trappings of any capital city.

So, one might say it was fate that Maiv and Lola would have the day of their sporting lives sharing a course with someone of their own background who has overcome the odds confronted by thousands of Australian girls for generations.

A hero. Of the same gender. In their hometown. Playing with them.

There might literally be nothing better for a young female golfer.

“It’s really important having the girls here today,” Maiv said.

“Just being at this course and having people like Darcy come to play is really, really good. It’s so important for us.

“They should do this more often.”

Lola also admitted her eyes were now “wide open”.

“It was overwhelming. My dad got a call from Matt (Barrett Bathurst GC Head Professional) the other day asking if I wanted to play with a pro and Maiv, and I was just shocked to get that opportunity to be able to play.

“It was so cool … everything I thought it would be.”

On course, Lola said she learnt by listening to Darcy that keeping her head still would help her take her next step as she hones the game she began at age eight.

“I was shanking it or chunking it, but then I kept my head still after watching a couple of Darcy’s swings … and it’s really good!”

Maiv – already off a handicap of seven having started at age six – took away an even more specific lesson.

“I was really excited to play, but I get frustrated if I hit a bad shot. I asked Darcy, `How do you not be angry at yourself?’ and she said she takes 30 steps to be able to angry and then she has to forget about it,” she said.

“So, hearing that Darcy still has bad shots and has to get over it has helped me already.”

For the record, their group – including Julie Murnane – scored a very creditable 93 points in the day’s event, not quite enough to sneak on to the podium.

But for Maiv and Lola, victory was well and truly theirs well before the presentation.

Habgood, a recent graduate of Washington State University, has since advanced to have status on the Epson Tour in the United States, a secondary arm of the LPGA Tour.

The stories, fun and golf she shared with the girls today already has the youngsters thinking big.

“I really want to do that, too,” Maiv beamed.

“Getting better at golf and being overseas would be a great opportunity. I want to do what Darcy is doing. No specific aspirations, but I want to go to college in America, Washington State, yeah, that one!”

Tears were already welling in Darcy’s eyes as she listened on, then nearly spilled out when Lola said: “It’s really inspiring to strive to be someone like Darcy. To be as good her would be amazing.”

And totally belying her tender age, Lola summed up the moment almost perfectly.

“Today’s very important because if it wasn’t in Bathurst, I wouldn’t be able to go.

“And we can see Darcy comes from a small town, too. She can do it from there, so hopefully we can one day.”

And what of Habgood’s perspective on her day of becoming something of an unintentional hero?

“When the head pro told me I was playing with juniors, I was almost a little hesitant, but once I met Maiv and Lola, I put that aside, kinda put my leader hat on and tried to help them when I could,” she said.

“I wasn’t really focused on what I was doing as much, rather just immersed myself in a teaching role and making sure they had a good experience.

“I had a lot of fun watching them play and was really impressed by their poise. And when they hit a bad shot, they didn’t get angry. They even had a few pars and it was really cool to watch.”

Sage words from the perfect person for this role.

“It was quite odd,” Habgood continued.

“I haven’t played with a junior girl for quite a long time, so I put myself in their shoes and I remember being that age and playing and I don’t think I had the experience to play with a female professional.

“I was always with the boys and trying to fight my way to have my own place.

“So, I’m really glad they got that experience.”

Which requires a few bows be taken.

Lola’s dad Donovan, a five handicapper, and her cousin Jacob (“off about three”) are some of those responsible for developing her love of the game.

Maiv has already blown past her father and golfing inspiration Joshua in terms of handicaps; she smiles widely when asked what the moment of beating him for the first time was like.

“I don’t remember what he said really. It was a bit like, `Oh, I’m going to have to hear about this for a while!”

Darcy’s background is similarly with predominantly male members of her family, with her father and uncle also professionals. Although she begrudgingly admits that her mother beat her to having a hole-in-one!

The next plaudits must go to the Golf NSW team and their government backers for having the foresight to make this revolutionary regional series come to life.

The benefits of the six-leg qualification series are almost innumerable, but arguably the biggest payoff will come down the track when Maiv or Lola, or any of their regional sisters make golf their game of choice for life.

Whether they go as far as Darcy Habgood is almost immaterial.

The trio swapped contact details after their round, almost to the youngsters’ disbelief.

They are now in contact with a female touring professional on a global tour.

In Bathurst.

“I’m going to follow her on Kayo and see what she’s doing,” Maiv said.

It’s no wonder Habgood was emotional.

What a win.

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