Gunnedah golfer Taryn Maher is rediscovering the form of old and quickly proving to competitors this ‘pocket-rocket’ is a force to be reckoned with.
The former Junior Olympics gold medallist has recently returned to the competition circuit after two years away from the game to focus on study commitments.
Competing last year in her maiden Gunnedah women’s club championship, Maher won with impressive rounds of 83, 82, 82 and 84.
“It was my first women’s championship and to win was pretty amazing,” Taryn said.
“It was fulfilling knowing I still had it in me to still take the wins.”
The 21-year-old, who plays off a handicap of six, admitted feeling nervous teeing off in one of her first competitions since picking up the clubs again last year.
Her preparation included a few tournaments in Tamworth and a women’s team event in Bonville alongside fellow Gunnedah club member, Tammy Sheridan.
As proud as she is of her Gunnedah championship win, Taryn said it is hard to beat her career highlight when she won gold at the 2016 West Coast Junior Olympic Games in California.
Taryn captained the Australian girls’ golf team to a win in the 15 years division and later gifted her medal to tour supporter, Colby Speare. Colby lives with a disability and is brother to a fellow Australian squad member who was also part of the tour group.
“I don’t think anything could compare to my win in the States – obviously that one was big by winning a gold medal and giving it to Colby who has been through so much and was the true winner in my eyes,” Taryn said.
Since that US tour almost seven years ago, the pair has kept in touch although with more health concerns for Colby.
“He has battled cancer from a very young age and is now in remission – he’s doing amazing ,” she said.
“I followed up with him just before Christmas … we’re still in touch, he messages me all the time.”
No surprise either that the prized gold medal has pride of place at home with Colby.
“He still loves it [his medal], yeah he’s rapt with it … has it framed on his wall,” she said.
Originally from Dysart, a small mining town in central Queensland, Taryn said the golf genetics were influenced by family but it was an unassuming hit-out at a country pro-am that really sparked her interest to pursue the sport seriously.
“I wasn’t a dancing sort of girl when I was younger – I was more sporty … played football with my brothers,” she said.
“My dad and brother played golf and I was at a pro-am in the children’s event, and one of them said I had a very natural swing for a six-year-old.
“My dad kept me in it and I have been playing ever since.”
She continued on the junior golf competition circuit after moving to Gunnedah and has contested everything from local to international tournaments.
Taryn enjoys golf’s camaraderie but said it is the tactical, mental side of the game which she relished most.
“Most people would say it’s very frustrating but it makes you stay focused and really think about everything,” she said.
Now working at Hennessy Real Estate in Gunnedah, Taryn first pursued university interests after finishing school but later decided the course in physiotherapy was not for her.
“I realised it didn’t fit with what I wanted to do,” she said.
Her career change and return to Gunnedah also presented the opportunity for a renewed interest in golf.
She was offered a flexible working arrangement to train and practice before tournaments and for a while, contemplated a return to the professional golf circuit. But with competing priorities again in play, Taryn opted to put that move on hold – at least for the immediate future.
“Golf is definitely something I want to keep playing but I’ve put a halt on it at the moment to focus on my career,” she said.
“I’ve also just bought a house with my partner, so I want to make sure I have a stable job to keep paying the bills.”
But for Gunnedah’s social golfers out there, don’t expect a reprieve from Taryn in the weekend competition stakes.
“I will still come out for a hit every now and then,” she said.
Gunnedah golf professional Luke Ryan said the “pocket rocket” has a powerful long drive and can easily mix it with some of the best players around – even the blokes.
“She plays a bit on Saturday and although she is not very big, she can definitely hit it out there – a lot of guys think ‘why aren’t I hitting it like that as well?’” Ryan said.
The local pro commended Taryn on her ability to balance family, work and sport and excel no matter her pursuit.
“We don’t see enough young women players anywhere in the North West, let alone players of her calibre hitting off a handicap of single figures,” he said.
“It’s great having a player of her ability here in the region.
“She has done great things in her junior golf, ducked away for a few years and to be back playing again, winning a club championship – it’s pretty special.”To order photos from this page click here