Heidi Richardson has received praise and awards for her tireless work with students. But she’s not resting on her laurels. Not even close.
BY MIKE JAMES
originally published in Southland Golf Magazine, February 2017
Heidi Richardson looked up from her home in Encinitas almost 20 years ago and saw machines plowing up the flower fields that blanketed the hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
“Oh, no, they’re building new houses up there,” she thought.
A PGA professional teaching at Torrey Pines Golf Course at the time, Richardson was the mother of a young son with another child on the way. She began investigating and soon learned that the ground was being cleared for a golf course, so she made a call to the developing course’s director of instruction, John Mason, whom she had known from her first job as an assistant and tournament director.
Since being hired, Heidi Richardson Golf and Encinitas Ranch Golf Course have blossomed together like the ranunculus flowers that brighten the hills and bluffs in North San Diego County each spring.
“I just love golf,” said Richardson, who played at UCLA before graduating in 1988. “I love being up here, I love seeing people react when they hit a good shot, I love getting women up here and sharing the game with them. … I’m not just fortunate, I’m blessed.”
Richardson, 51, has become a leader in junior golf and women’s golf in San Diego. She received the Junior Golf Leadership Award from the San Diego PGA and the Southern California PGA last year and every year tries to develop plans to encourage more people, especially juniors and women, to take up the game. Along with Jaqui McSorley, she has run the LPGA/USGA Girls Golf Program at Encinitas Ranch each spring since 2000, directs a summer camp for junior golfers and in the fall runs a “prep school” program of weekly clinics after school and gives private lessons and clinics, all designed to introduce kids to golf and keep them interested in playing.
“She’s great,” Mason said. “Heidi has a lot of students, and when you see how much they like her, how much they respect her, it really stands out.”
A gymnast as a kid who was going to be the next Nadia Comenici, a lifelong runner and a yoga enthusiast, Richardson is always looking for new ways to keep things exciting for her students, particularly the youngsters.
“We always try to make things fun,” she says, “but I want to make sure they know that we’re not just goofing around. … The kids are getting PGA instruction.”
One mission is to expand on the Heidi Richardson Golf brand, to broaden her team so she has LPGA or PGA apprentices to help with instruction and the preparation that she mainly does herself now.
One young golfer she’s had a relationship with for 15 years is MacKinzie (Kline) Peregoy, now 24. At 14, she was one of the top junior girls in the world, despite a congenital heart defect that forced her to use oxygen on the course. She’s now in the LPGA apprentice program and being mentored by Richardson.
“She is great at how she talks to her clients,” Peregoy said. “She’s never negative. She will tell them something is wrong but then emphasize all the things they’re doing right. It’s awesome watching her do it, and it’s just what I want to do.”
Richardson’s connection with junior golf in San Diego helped shaped her career. She took up the game at 5, played at La Jolla Country Club, where her parents were members, and played on the boys’ golf team at La Jolla High. She played at a high level in major junior tournaments including the state girls’ amateur.
“I played junior golf, and I wanted to give back to junior golf,” she said. “And I wanted to help more women play. … They’re still a minority on the course.”
Richardson took a couple years off to travel after graduating from UCLA and got her first job with Tom Addis at Singing Hills, now Sycuan Resort, in El Cajon. She learned the administrative side of the business under Addis, who became president of the PGA of America while she was there, and became a PGA Class A professional in 1995. She became a full-time instructor at Torrey Pines in 1995, preferring to stay closer to home with the birth of her son.
She has been at Encinitas Ranch since making that switch three years later, spending most of her time with juniors but also working to promote women’s golf. She runs a Women’s Golf Fest with McSorley and does private lessons and clinics when she can. Her Saturdays are reserved for adult lessons.
“Women frequently feel a lot of stress on the first tee, but I give them the tools to deal with that and go out and enjoy the game,” Richarson said. “I have ways to help them quickly understand that they can play the game and have so much fun, and then the light bulb goes off and they love it.”
Her PGA Junior League team, regular golf school, golf fitness program, girls golf program, working with high school and college girls and a Golf on the Go presentation offered at corporate events keeps her busy. But there are plans for more. In addition to a bigger Heidi Richardson Golf program, she envisions starting a golf yoga studio at Encinitas Ranch. A glance at her notebook during a recent visit showed a page of 25 or so items on her to-do list. Three had been checked off — including updating her real estate license. Yep, she does that in the evenings.
“Her life is filled with goals,” Peregoy said. “She’s always been like that. She loves her career and life because there’s never an end goal. I really admire that.”
And she goes to great length to get into the shoes of those she’s teaching. In the past few years, she’s been practicing and playing left-handed.