Former Open Champion and Ryder Cup hero Darren Clarke has been presented with the Golf Foundation’s ‘Spirit of Golf’ Award at Royal Liverpool Golf Club.
An appreciative audience watched the presentation in the Wirral sunshine at the R&A Swingzone in Royal Liverpool’s tented village on Tuesday, a stage for the Golf Foundation provided by The R&A to help the charity inspire a great many youngsters new to the game during Open Championship week.
Darren Clarke teed-up proceedings in the best possible style by playing a ‘Tri-Golf’ challenge, captaining a group of children from St Bridget’s Primary School in West Kirby against their classmates led by their own captain, BBC golf reporter Rishi Persad.
The Northern Irishman then took part in a Q&A answer session with the boys and girls before making a considered speech about the value of golf as a game for young people, which was greeted with spontaneous and prolonged applause by the watching family groups, golf fans and VIP’s from the world of golf.
The Golf Foundation works to make golf more accessible to children from all backgrounds through its HSBC Golf Roots programme in schools, clubs and communities. Every year the Spirit of Golf Award is presented to a golfer considered to be inspirational to junior golfers, thus helping the Golf Foundation and its partners to grow the game.
Darren follows a stellar list of Spirit of Golf Award recipients. This includes Gary Player (2007), Tony Jacklin (2008), Lee Westwood (2009), Ian Poulter (2010), Ernie Els (2011), Peter Alliss (2012) and Tom Watson (2013).
On receiving the finely-crafted silver and glass trophy from Foundation Chairman Charles Harrison, Darren Clarke said: “This is a great honour for me. Golf has been very good to me and I try to put something back into the game and play the game in the right way.”
The Darren Clarke Foundation raises funds for cancer charities and supports junior golf in Ireland, showing youngsters that golf can be a great game to take-up. The Darren Clarke Golf School is a growing international academy programme, started in Northern Ireland.
Darren Clarke told the children present: “Golf is a very special game and a game you can play your whole life. It demands honesty and you learn a great deal about yourself as a person as you learn to play.
“My parents encouraged me to start playing golf for all the best reasons. It offers you lessons in how to behave, how to play with adults and how to respect your opponents at all times. These attributes developed in golf can then help you for the rest of your life.”
Chairman Charles Harrison said: “While we all remember Darren’s great feats in six Ryder Cups and his wonderful Open Championship win, it is worth remembering the effect such performances have on young people experiencing the sport for the first time, which can be truly inspirational.
“Darren’s career as a golfer has been great, as is his exemplary charity work for his Foundation, raising money to beat cancer, and his progressive work to help new players in the Darren Clarke Golf School.”
Mike Round, Chief Executive of the Golf Foundation, said later: “Today Darren Clarke spoke brilliantly to the youngsters and his words about his love and respect for the game will have struck a cord with everyone present. He was very giving of his time in his Tri-Golf challenges with the youngsters and didn’t leave until he had signed every hat, notepad or shirt front offered. No surprise that the boys and girls shouted their approval for Darren as a potential winner this week.”
The Golf Foundation is a highly progressive development organisation which is increasing golf participation in schools and creating stronger links between schools and golf clubs and driving ranges in support of the national bodies for England, Scotland and Wales.
The Foundation’s HSBC Golf Roots programme reaches hundreds of thousands of youngsters in England, while the Foundation supports Scottish and Welsh golf development projects through strategic funding. HSBC Golf Roots Ambassadors include Lee Westwood, Ken Brown and Alison Nicholas.
The prestigious Spirit of Golf trophy was designed, made for the Golf Foundation, and kindly donated by Derek Burridge.
HSBC Golf Roots and the Golf Foundation www.golf-foundation.org