The Golf Foundation has thanked The R&A and key golf industry individuals and companies involved in the Open Championship for helping to raise the profile of this national child-centred charity at an exciting time for the sport.
Some 15,000 of the record 235,000 attendees at The 146th Open were aged 16 and under; young people who were able to visit free-of-charge as part of The R&A’s ‘Kids Go Free’ initiative, many watching one of the most dramatic wins in the Championship by Jordan Spieth.
The Golf Foundation opened its junior area at Royal Birkdale on the first Sunday of Open week (16th July) and welcomed a growing tide of young people and their families, many completely new to golf, with more than 6,000 visitors experiencing fun golf with the Foundation team in the ‘R&A Swing Zone’.
From a first smiling 5 year-old on Sunday to thousands of kids cheering a new golfing superstar on the following Sunday, The Open became the “perfect pitch” for the Golf Foundation and partners to show a wide audience that golf can be a wonderful sport for young people – offering ‘Skills for Life’, a game for life, and a healthy life.
The R&A is one of the charity’s leading supporters and positioned the R&A Swing Zone in a prime spot in Royal Birkdale’s spectator village – a place where youngsters could play fun ‘Tri-Golf’ games and hit their very first shots at colourful targets under the safe supervision of the Golf Foundation team, while the whole family could putt for prizes.
The Foundation’s Putting Challenge was also free to play and enjoyed nearly 4,000 visits from two-year-olds to grandparents – prizes were donated by Titleist, the #1 Ball in Golf. Successful putts earned Titleist balls and caps while holing ‘3 in a row’ booked a place in a daily prize draw to win a top-of-the-range Titleist Scotty Cameron putter.
The Golf Foundation shared the Swing Zone space with a select group of 22 PGA Professionals, the PGA present to support The R&A by providing free golf lessons for all-comers, giving more than 3,000 lessons during Open week. Twenty-five school and golf club groups of children made the visit to be welcomed by the Foundation to play team Tri-Golf, while the Foundation staff of nine Regional Development Officers (RDO’s) reported that this year interest from families ‘new to the game’, who wanted to learn and play together, was a key talking-point of the week.
Lee and Louis support the youngsters
In the Swing Zone the Foundation team supported the UPS ‘Bags 4 Birdies’ campaign in which for every birdie Lee Westwood and Louis Oosthuizen score in the 4 Majors this year, UPS donates a set of golf clubs to a deserving youngster in one of 8 international territories. The Foundation has been entrusted to donate 14 sets to British kids and Lee made a personal appearance to present two of these to pupils from local Waterloo Primary School.
Louis Oosthuizen meanwhile was guest of honour for the Foundation’s National StreetGolf Final at nearby Formby Hall on the Monday, an initiative run with the Premier League which through projects with 11 Premier League and Championship football clubs encourages kids from typically non-golfing communities to get into golf. Louis joined in the fun and presented the prizes to the boys and girls who were all wearing their home football club shirts.
Brendon Pyle, Chief Executive of the Golf Foundation, said: “The StreetGolf Final – and the Tri-Golf for younger kids – shows how the Golf Foundation is making the sport more accessible to young people. We then work hard to ensure that all of our projects have a link to a local golf club through our network of 400 child-friendly HSBC Golf Roots Centres. Louis was absolutely fantastic and generous in the time he gave us, as was Lee the following day; both really encouraging to the youngsters, a day I’m sure they’ll remember for years to come.
“The fact that Sky TV filmed the StreetGolf Final in detail was great for us and as the week progressed we became aware of a real spike in interest across social media for our efforts as a charity that offers ‘Golf for All’. We were delighted with how this media interest raised our profile significantly during the week and we now need to build on this momentum.”
Sports Minister takes the Tri-Golf challenge
Brendon Pyle praised in particular Government Sports Minister Tracey Crouch who attended the Swing Zone and, as someone new to golf, wanted to learn more about opportunities for young people in the sport. Then, the talking done, Tracey also took on the kids at Tri-Golf and posted a top-10 leaderboard score in the 30 second challenge!
A feature of The Open was the Foundation’s support of the ‘HSBC Hour’, in which more than 250 golf clubs in England, Scotland and Wales staged an HSBC Hour during Open week to welcome new golfers to the club environment. HSBC Ambassadors Brian O’Driscoll and Tim Henman returned the favour by making visits to the Golf Foundation area to encourage the boys and girls; Brian even became an honorary ‘Tri-Golf Coach’ and led a session to the delight of all.
Brendon Pyle concluded: “We would also like to thank all those who attended the annual golf industry lunch, organised by Sports Marketing Surveys INC., the British Golf Industry Association and the Foundation. Here, representatives from international golf companies and national development organisations shared ideas about how best to grow the game and help more juniors to enjoy golf, while challenging our team to keep innovating.
“Many of these influential individuals visited the Swing Zone and saw our highly committed team of RDO’s in action, encouraging families new to golf. This is work they carry out all year round in golf projects up and down the country of course but Royal Birkdale really offered us the perfect pitch to show golf can be a fantastic game for everyone, for families – and it all has to start with the youngsters.”
Golf Foundation www.golf-foundation.org