On April 6th, Shauna Wilton was elected as British Columbia Golf's 9th president since the BCGA - BCLGA amalgamation in 2004. BC Golf Communications Director Jeff Sutherland spoke with Wilton about the new role, the state of her golf game and how volunteering is core to her thinking...


So first, when did you start golfing?

Technically, I started in 1998 as part of my first professional job working in Sarnia, Ontario. I got a subsidized golf membership at Huron Oaks as part of my employment, which is the home course of Mike Weir. So a great course... But, to be honest, I actually really did not enjoy the game of golf.  I only did it because it was a good excuse to be out in green space with my colleagues every few weeks. Then, I actually ditched golf until I was working at the Vancouver Park Board in 2017. I won the long drive trophy in our staff tournament and I thought, 'Oh, maybe this is a sport that I should take up."

What sports did you play before that?

I've played soccer, volleyball, squash... Those are probably the big ones.

Then you really started playing golf.

Right. That was when I found a good golf instructor, Derek Thornley at Fraserview. He used the theory of squash and the motion of squash to teach me.

So, is the driver the best club in your bag?


Do you have any aspirations in golf to reach a certain level?

Yeah, I mean, well, I have a handicap goal, which I haven't hit yet. I’m currently a 22 handicap and I really want to be a 15 and, in theory, at one point I had the potential to do it. I don't know whether I still do or not, but I competed for the first time last year. I played in the BC Women's Open at Mayfair Lakes.

How did that go?

It was terrifying. My worst fear came true of playing terrible and I still lived to tell the tale. Still, I loved it and I learned a ton. There's a big difference between recreational and competitive golf. It was so different to be on the other side but it was like such a great experience. For me, the biggest issue is actually finding enough time - being a busy professional - to be able to improve my game and actually enough practice time to go with the lessons. It's just tough to balance those two things.

Do you always take the game seriously?

It is different when you are out for a round with friends and you take a mulligan or you do a lazy drop. It’s night and day different when you're out there and you are playing a technical game according to the rules. And I enjoy that. All the sports I played, I played more on the competitive side than the recreational side because I do like the technical side of it. I like the skills development side. I like the challenge of doing it well and doing it properly. So golf is the same for me in that respect.

You are currently trying to find the right group to play with. Talk about that.

I'm having a hard time figuring out my own schedule... that during the summer, ‘Can I consistently commit to something like a league?  Do I ultimately want to play in a league because I want that sort of structure and discipline that includes the competitive component that's going to develop my game, but then realistically, can I commit to it? Or can I still work on developing my game just playing with better players in a more ad hoc way?’. I do find that one of the more challenging elements of golf, you're either in a nine and dine or a super fun program, or it is more serious with people that have played a really long time. What’s in the middle to bridge the gap?

Shauna Wilton Is Shown Here With The 2019 BC Golf Board (3rd From Left, Back Row)


What have you taken so far from your time on the board?

You get an appreciation for the complexity of the (golf) ecosystem. It's a sport. It's a business. It’s an industry. It has things like environmental concerns, land use concerns… There's just a lot of converging interests that I feel like are not inherent in other sports. So I think we're unique in that way.

What directions do you see golf going in the next five years, and then also the next 10 years?

A tricky question… I think a lot of it for me is around the navigation of the post pandemic realities. We had this huge increase in play and volume of players during the pandemic. Is that going to continue? Is that growth going to level off? What does that mean for the industry? Couple that with the affordability issues and cost of living concerns are out there and golf is a more expensive sport to play. The cost to play has risen as the demand for tee times has gone up. Where's that going to sit in terms of availability and tee times for new players or women that are trying to get into the sport? So I think there's going to be sort of a near term focus around trying to navigate that.

What may this mean for the Association?

As an organization, we are also going to go through change in terms of ‘what does our organization look like?' We are going to be changing, I think, from a staffing perspective, people will retire in the next few years, that's going to be a significant change. As a board, we are going to get together and have a discussion because we're halfway through our current four year strategic plan right now and need to factor in how all these things impact our plans moving forward.

Do you think gender is still an issue? Is ensuring we have strong female voices on the Board still important?

Yes, I think it is still important. I think we're still underrepresented in the sport. I think there's a lot of conscious and unconscious biases that are still out there. And having representation on something like an association board is an opportunity to work through those issues.

Do you feel any pressure coming on as a female president?

I don't feel any pressure at all. I think it's a good opportunity to provide a different perspective. I think golf inherently is actually a sport that is set up well to have men and women play side by side… And that's one of the opportunities I think we have moving forward. If you think about different tee boxes and handicaps, there is a way to kind of level the playing field to play well together.

You are on record as being very strong on boards being involved in governance, as opposed to operations. Can you speak to that?

Fundamentally, there are different models of boards and some of them are more operational due to the size or resources of an organization. But I have sat more often on boards, like BC Golf… one where it is meant to be more of a governance board model.  And in that case, it's incumbent on the board to fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities of making sure that the organization is accountable to its members, that it's financially healthy, that risk management issues are addressed, and that the board carries a complement of people on it that have the skills and experience to support staff and the needs of the organization. People that represent either a variety of different business functions, different life experiences, which bring a perspective that helps move the organization forward. A good board should be having a longer term view and allow the staff to do the operational day to day execution of work.

Wilton Briefs Players Before They Tee Off in The Recent U.S. Women's Open Qualifier At Vancouver GC


You've got a strong background in volunteering. What motivates you to get involved?

I think the big thing is I was really raised with an ethos of volunteering. As a role model, my mom in particular volunteered for a lot of things when I was growing up, and I watched her do that. Then in my early corporate culture, you were expected to contribute back. If you had the resources, the time and expertise to do something then you gave back in that way, so it has been a really long term philosophy of mine to do that in organizations and areas that I'm passionate about.

One of those is Big Sisters…

Right. So I had very strong mentorship in life and felt the need to give back on that level. So, I got involved with Big Sisters in Ontario back in 1999 and served on the board there for a number of years, including as board chair. And then I was also a mentor in one of their programs and then when I moved here to Vancouver, I was also invited to join the board here, and then subsequently became a Big Sister here too. After that, I was also on the national board for Big Brothers / Big Sisters of Canada.

You are going to be the chair for the U.S. Women's Open qualifier next week (note: held April 15th) at Vancouver Golf Club. Is that your first time being a chair of a tournament? Do you feel ready?

Yes, it is my first time but the Golf Canada staff is really strong. It is easy to volunteer in their events because they're very well set up.

You also volunteered for the Canadian Men's Amateur Championship. What did you do there?

I worked as a starter / scorer. I really enjoyed it, I think because I'm like obsessed with timeliness and punctuality so I actually really, really loved being a starter. I'm making a commitment to be a long term golf volunteer.


You worked at the Vancouver Park Board in a senior management role that involved the municipal golf courses. Was there anything that experience taught you?

Yes, I had oversight of the golf operations as part of the commercial team that I managed. That led to developing good relationships with the head pros at each of those sites and I became aware of the important role that municipal golf courses play in the golf ecosystem in terms of accessibility and providing access to quality green space for recreation. The ability to learn and develop and play golf in that setting is unique.  It was my favourite part of my portfolio.

You said earlier that it was here that you sort of discovered you liked golf…

Yes, actually one of the reasons I started golfing after that long drive at the staff tournament. I thought, ‘Oh, like this is a sport.’  I also knew It was a good opportunity to really get to know the golf course staff and operations if I started playing. And so I began to play at Langara, McCleery and Fraserview. Everyone made me feel so welcome. It actually really kind of fostered my love and growth in the game. It's just such a great environment to learn to play.

With respect to your work history, what do you see as being beneficial to your role on the Board?

Two things. One, I've been in very senior managerial roles for a long time and so can bring that general management and leadership experience… financial management, people management. I have also been on both sides of the board table, I have reported to a board myself and sat on several boards.


As the incoming President, do you have a vision for British Columbia Golf at this time?

I haven't really thought about this but part of it is we're viewed as a leader I think across Canada in terms of pushing the boundaries on growing the game and increasing accessibility in the game. We've got this rich history of putting things into place like the public player program. That started in British Columbia. So I think a lot of it is actually continuing to push the boundaries where we can on those sorts of things in service of the game, and so I do think there's still room to grow. In that vein, when it comes to women and golf, we signed on to the R&A with their golf charter, and we did some of the commitments as it pertained to that but I think there's definitely more that we can do. Also, we just started with the All Abilities Golf Championship last year. I think we have to continue to drive that. So I want us to continue to push the boundaries. That would be my big picture vision.

How do you see yourself positively influencing the sport that you love so much?

How do I see positively influencing the sport that I love so much? That's a great question. So, there are two things…  One, I'm a big relationship builder, and collaborative, so I think of the sport as a complex ecosystem. And so I'm committed to that. And the other one is that I get a voice at the Golf Canada table as part of the Provincial Council, so I think there's an opportunity to work alongside other provinces to drive a more grassroots agenda with Golf Canada.

Shauna can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For more information, email Jeff Sutherland at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.