New Head Pro Knows She Must Still Prove Herself To Some

by Gord Montgomery - Michelle Van Slyke may not have made Alberta golf history in the broadest sense of the term, but she did make history in a specific part of Alberta.


Van Slyke became the first woman head golf professional in the Edmonton area recently after accepting that job at the Country Side GC  near Sherwood Park following time as an associate pro at Edmonton’s Glendale G&CC;.

About the move, and going from a busy private club to a bustling public track, she noted this was a case of moving her career upward as opposed to anything else.

Image Caption : As The First Female Head Professional In The Edmonton Area, Michelle Van Slyke Knows She Has Her Work Cut Out For Her To Accomplish Her Goals - Image Courtesy Country Side GC

“It is strictly advancement. It was very difficult to leave my Glendale members behind and especially the programs I left behind, in particular the ladies and the juniors. I have worked public before (at The Ranch just outside Edmonton) and that kind of started it all,” she said of what launched her career.

Her duties at Country Side will include building programs already in place, something she’s willing to sink her teeth into.

“The goal here at Country Side, we have leagues and leagues we want to start, and they want to have more of a club atmosphere here. There are a lot of regulars here so we wanted to be a bit more 'clubby' but still have the public access, and with 27 holes we have the ability to do that.” 

Van Slyke said despite the different feel between the private and public entities, she is going to bring her ‘A’ game in settling in and setting things up. That includes being up front with players.

“When you’re at a private club you really create relationships with people and that’s one of my goals here, instead of just being a pro shop attendant, taking people’s money. We want it to be the whole experience for them here. That’s a big part of this, building relationships with people.” 

While she’s not the first female head pro in Alberta - she follows in the illustrious footsteps of Judy Forschner (Glencoe), Cheryl Rowland (Pinebrook, Silver Springs) and Tiffany Gordon (Cottonwood) she is the first in northern Alberta. All of the other pros are based in Calgary, so for Van Slyke, being named as the first female head pro in golf-crazy Edmonton is indeed history in its own right.

Stepping into that role of being a female professional does have some pressure attached to it, she agreed, but it’s not going to consume her thoughts. She pointed to a conversation she recently overheard between some males who didn’t want anything to do with a female playing partner although they grudgingly allowed her to join them. That stigma is something Van Slyke wants to do away with.

Image Caption : Country Side Golf Course Is Located Near Sherwood Park, Just 20 Minutes From Downtown Edmonton

“I don't know if I can change that (behaviour) because it’s a culture. I feel pressure that I want to make a change, but in all seriousness, is that really going to happen? I’m not sure, but I’ve proven I can do the job. I proved it at Glendale and Greg McGarry (the head pro there) was a great mentor so I feel I’m ready for the challenge, for sure.

“I don’t know if I can change that culture, but I do know I'll always be my best and I feel I always have to prove myself; know more about equipment, about technical aspects than some of the guys because I have been challenged. It’s early and it’s always about gaining respect and I have to earn that.” 

That being said, Van Slyke is delighted by the break-out play of the LPGA’s Brooke Henderson in the recent past. That, she feels, heightens all women’s place in the golf world, both professionally and in the amateur ranks, and as such should help swell their numbers and she’ll do her part there.

“Absolutely. One thing with Brooke, she’s what...17? I didn’t even start playing until I was 27. This is not just a boys’ sport. I really try to focus on getting girls in golf because there are so many opportunities for them. We want to get more girls definitely involved. There are so many different avenues for them. There will be a girls’ club here, for sure.” 

With that thought in mind, and her desire to grow the game through inclusion of both sexes, Van Slyke will, in her own way, continue to make history as she moves forward as the first female head golf professional in north-central Alberta.

About the writer: Gord Montgomery is a retired sports editor of two weekly newspapers in the Edmonton area and is a member of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. He has written for Inside Golf for the past seven years with the majority of his coverage in north and central Alberta. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. He’s also on Twitter at @gordinsidegolf.






 image courtesy country side gc