Henni Goya: “I don’t miss being a pro at all”
After a successful career that included several top 10 finishes, she retired in 2015 and swapped her clubs for a microphone when she joined the presenting team at Sky Sports Golf.
After a whirlwind summer of working at some of golf’s biggest tournaments, she tells Harriet Shephard why she couldn’t be happier with her new life…
Have you had a busy summer with Sky?
I really have. The last two months have been crazy and I haven’t actually been home for seven weeks. So I’m making the most of my week off and sleeping in every day just to try and recover.
How was working at the Solheim?
It was amazing, such a good tournament and the whole spirit of it was brilliant. Some of the American fans were even cheering for Georgia Hall, Anna Nordqvist and the other European players. Annika Sorenstam also had a lot of American fans supporting her; I’m not sure that many other European captains would have been shown that level of respect over there.
Does working at events like that make you miss being a pro?
No, not at all. I just love my life so much at the moment so I don’t think anything could make me miss it.
Did presenting come naturally to you or were there parts you struggled with?
I guess having a camera around me felt natural, but that was the only thing. I’ve had cameras around me since I was 12 and if you play well then you get used to being interviewed.
But the presenting itself involves so many different skills. You can’t possibly have those skills unless you’ve learnt them.
What’s been your best experience with Sky?
I’ve been to so many amazing events. This is my first full year with Sky but last year was fairly full as well; I went to the Ryder Cup, the Open and the British Masters. Then this year I was at the Solheim and the Ricoh Women’s British Open. It’s been such a whirlwind, so it’s hard to pick out any individual moment because they’ve all been special. Even my first time presenting in a studio was special. I seriously have to pinch myself sometimes.
Do you get on well with the rest of the team at Sky?
I do and that’s one of the best parts of the job. We’re like one close family and I’ve already made some amazing friends. When we’re on site or even in the studio, it’s just like going to an event with your mates to chat about golf. We work long hours but it’s so fun that it doesn’t actually feel like work. I’m lucky to work with such a nice group of people who all get on really well. I think that’s quite rare in any work place.
Did you have a good group of friends when you were on tour?
Yes, I was really lucky. We always travelled together and had lots of fun. But at the end of the day golf is a very selfish and competitive sport, and you’re there to play against each other. So it was very different to what I’m experiencing now at Sky.
I’ve probably stayed genuine friends with only three of the 10/15 girls who I was friendly with on tour. I guess it’s like being at school where you have to get on with people in your class, but naturally you won’t get along with everyone.
What do you think needs to happen now to improve the LET?
That’s a good question, but I don’t know if anybody really knows. It’s hard to know what’s going on because the players haven’t been given much information. I think this why a lot of them have been speaking out about it. Obviously we know that Ivan Khodabakhsh has left but we don’t know why, and we don’t know why the tour is losing tournaments. Everyone is just guessing. You could say it was Ivan’s fault, the economic climate, or the sales pitch that was wrong, but nobody knows for sure.
But I would like to see the LET trying different formats. I think that’s one thing that the European Tour has done well with the GolfSixes. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea or be perfect straight away, but at least it’s something different.
Do you think it would help if the LET joined with the European Tour?
Possibly, but again I haven’t been given enough information to say for sure. All I can say is as someone who has played on the tour and who loves golf, it would be heartbreaking if the tour didn’t exist anymore. I want the next generation of girls to be able to live their dreams like I did. A lot of players don’t want to have to move to America to earn a living playing golf.
I would love to see the tour flourish, it doesn’t really matter to me how that happens.
How did you get involved with the Heritage Resorts Mauritius?
Well my mum is Mauritian and my grandparents and cousins still live there. So we always used to go to Mauritius a lot growing up.
I love that Heritage isn’t a typical resort course, it’s challenging but fair and in brilliant condition with great practice facilities.
I also love the hotel and I genuinely go there on holiday. It just has the most relaxed feel to it and it’s not too pretentious. It’s understated luxury and really down to earth. Mauritian people in general are also so friendly. I’ve had a relationship with them for years and I’m so excited every time I go back there.
One of my favourite parts is the coconut shack on the beach where you can get a Pina Colada served in a coconut. Even when you’re playing golf they’ll bring you out a fresh coconut after nine holes.
Why did you decide to get involved with our This Girl Golfs campaign?
For me, I believe that golf’s biggest problem is golf clubs.
If I go to Topgolf I can wear my ripped jeans or even sweatpants and just have fun hitting golf balls. But if you’re a young girl who loves golf, I think your passion for the sport dies the moment you step foot in a golf club. There are just so many rules about what you can and can’t wear, which for parents means spending hundreds of pounds on a new wardrobe.
There are also so many rules when you’re playing, and you’re not told about these in a polite manner. They’re generally just barked at you, and it’s not just the men, the women are just as bad, if not worse!
But the This Girl Golfs campaign involved women and girls of a variety of shapes, sizes, ages and ethnicities. It showed that it doesn’t matter who you are, where you’ve come from or what you are wearing, you can still have fun playing golf. I think that’s such an important message to get across to young people, because unfortunately that’s not the impression they get when they go to a golf club.
I think that until that changes mass participation isn’t going to increase.
Where did you get the idea to start writing a blog?
I’ve always liked writing and I’m a massive bookworm, I’ll have about three books on the go at any one time. I also really liked English at school and if I wasn’t a golfer I think would have gone to study English at university.
So I thought I would start writing a blog for myself and if other people like it too then that would be brilliant.
I couldn’t decide what to write about but I’d been talking to my husband about my retirement and I realised that it was nice to reflect back on it two years on. So on the way to the Solheim I had my laptop with me so I just started writing about the difficulties of retirement. For me it was the perfect place to start but I have no idea what the next one will be about.
Was it therapeutic to write it all down?
It was and it wasn’t. It was because I always get asked about why I retired and now it’s out there if anyone wants to know.
But then later in the week I started to worry that I had set myself up for failure by writing about how I had overcome the difficulties I had at the start of my TV career. It was just a very honest blog, so I felt a bit exposed and I think that takes a bit of getting used to. I’m a very private person so it was out of my comfort zone.
But it’s been nice because I’ve had nothing but good feedback from everyone.
Do you enjoy caddying for your husband?
I do, I caddied for him (Tano Goya) recently in Ireland. I caddy maybe once or twice a year, because it’s nice to spend that extra time together. It’s not very intense caddying though, we just wander along and talk about nonsense.
Were you on air when he won the Challenge Tour?
I was and I got really emotional about when he won. But when I spoke to him afterwards he was really chilled about it all. He was like, “Yeah I’ve won but it’s not really life changing.” Which I guess he’s right about but I was just feeling emotional about the journey that he’d been on to get back into that winning position.