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Jess Hosking - Kicks long and drives strong

Women’s Golf Magazine loves to profile professional athletes (note: obviously must love golf) from all sporting codes. This time around, we tracked down Jess Hosking - a professional Australian Rules footballer who plays for the Richmond Tigers. Always the sporty type, Hosking was a state netballer before being drawn to the AFLW alongside her twin sister Sarah. It’s apparent that her elite athleticism, enthusiasm for women’s sport and vivacious, yet grounded attitude has created a well-rounded sporting personality that fans adore, and youth idolise as role model even more. When she’s not on the footy field, you’ll find her chasing waves along Victoria’s stunning coastline or out on the course.

14th Hole Peninsula Kingswood North Course by Gary Lisbon

Here’s what Jess has to say about our great game…

Your dad is a long-time member of Peninsula Kingswood; did he get you into golf?

Yep, he used to take us to the driving range and we lived really close to the Mount Martha Golf Course. I played a couple of times when I was young, but it wasn't until I got into footy that I picked up a club again. A few opportunities to play in charity golf days came my way, and I fell in love with it. I realised that I needed to learn the rules properly - so I did. At the time my work was about a hundred meters away from Peninsula Kingswood, I signed up for a two-month membership trial and jumped on board with it. It's been pretty cool to have more bonding time with dad on the course too.

Did you take up lessons when you got your membership?

I hadn’t had any lessons until I got my handicap and wish I’d had them a lot earlier. In my first week of lessons, I noticed a huge difference. I reckon it’s best to find a coach that you're comfortable with.

 What is your handicap?

I think it's at 21. I haven't played enough rounds lately to enter my scores or I've just been playing a lot of stableford or team events. My handicap should drop soon if I start to enter those ones too.

You’re from a team sports environment whereas golf is usually quite an individual effort. Have you ever played golf solo, or do you prefer playing with others?

I don't mind being put with people that are exceptionally good golfers. In one of my first games at PK, I was playing with two people off scratch and someone else that was playing off one, and at that point, I didn’t even have a handicap. I wasn’t too nervous playing with them, but I also knew that if I hit a bad shot, it was just on me, I wasn't letting anyone down.

But I think that's the joy of the different styles of golf. If you're playing Stableford or Ambrose's, it is a team game and I know I can contribute crack and drive if I need to. An Ambrose format is very forgiving, so I love playing that style in a team.

Some of my best mates from high school are playing golf with me these days. One of them is not sporty whatsoever but within the last year I've made both sign up to a club and we all go out for a hit.

At Richmond, we've got a group of self-appointed golf lovers called the Golfing Greats. There are about 15 of us and it’s a mix of AFLW players and a couple of the staff. Depending on the numbers, we might travel further out of the city to play different courses. That way we can have eight rolling through at once. It's a lot of fun.

Do you get into golf fashion?

I love finding golf outfits. The selection out there is getting a lot better. When I first started to play, I'd Google golf outfits for inspiration. I must admit that I looked at some of it and said, I can't wear this. Instead, I found myself going to a lot of opp shops, trying to find different looks that suited me. I like colour, so I was trying to find polos that popped! In fact, during Covid, I had a bit of free time and I sat down and explored the possibility of starting my own range of golf clothes. Mainly because the golf outfits I did like either, didn’t quite fit right, were uncomfortable and/or awkward lengths and cuts. That sort of stuff. As golf surges in popularity, there’s a huge market for it. Hopefully, the current brands can get some better flex materials happening. I know that adidas and Puma have been but there are still way more options in men’s golf apparel.

Do you mix up your equipment much or do you stick to the same setup?

I'm all Callaway. When I first came into golf, I walked into a pro shop and they sorted me with a set of ladies’ clubs. I quickly found they were way too light and I'm not pumping my own tires up but as a footy player I’m strong and it just wasn’t working. Anyway, I went and grabbed a set of Callaway instead and immediately noticed a massive improvement. I booked in to get fitted, they decided to put more weight in my clubs and overall, it's made a huge difference in bettering my game. My approach shots have been more precise and the extra weight in the clubs is making me follow through properly.

What's the most beautiful golf course you've ever played?

I'd be biased in saying Peninsula, when it's in good nick, it's beautiful. I recently played the RACV Royal Pines on the Gold Coast. The weather was amazing, and the backdrop was beautiful, I loved everything about it.

What international golfing destination is on your bucket list?

I'd love to go to Hawaii and New Zealand. But the number one is Augusta. It's funny because dad always said that everything in his will will go to me if I can get him to play at Augusta. It’s been a running joke since I was young when dad would always tell my sister and me that that’s all he wanted to do. When I got into golf and I was getting to play at all these different courses, dad was like, "You little shit, you’re probably going to play it before I will”.

What programs does the AFLW have to encourage girls to play their sport and what do you think the trick is in keeping them involved?

Providing clear pathways for a beginner right through to a professional career is the key to maintaining longevity in women’s sport. The Auskick program is super successful in getting primary school kids involved in AFL. When I started playing that wasn’t around. At 10, I remember going down to join a training session and asking if I could play that weekend and I was told no, sorry, the girls can't play AFL. And I was fine because I played every other sport I could anyway. But in hindsight not having that accessibility and opportunity to play juniors is frustrating. You watch, within the next five years, the girls that come through the AFLW ranks will be another level ahead.

To keep kids active and interested in any sport, you've got to take the barriers away. One of the barriers to getting into golf is probably the cost of a new set of clubs, especially when you're not sure if you want to commit to it or not. Another one is changeroom facilities (or lack thereof) for women at regional golf clubs. You want women and girls to be comfortable right?

The AFLW is doing a great job in providing more funding for community clubs to improve their female facilities etc. I think these barrier topics are something we can bounce around between different sports and together help find solutions for.

Words: Roxanne Andrews