The Golf Foundation has thanked The R&A for the “great opportunity” to showcase its HSBC Golf Roots programme that encourages children from all backgrounds and circumstances to enjoy golf.
The ‘R&A Swingzone’ welcomed young people in the tented village at Muirfield for the whole of Open week. The Golf Foundation team held sessions in ‘Tri-Golf’ (for youngsters), ‘Street Golf’ (for teenagers) and a special ‘Putting Challenge’ sponsored by Titleist for all young people. Children enjoyed a combined total of just under 5,000 attempts to tackle the golf challenges on offer.
The highlight of the week was the presentation of the Foundation’s Spirit of Golf Award for 2013 to Tom Watson. Tom became the seventh golfer to receive the award, following Gary Player (2007), Tony Jacklin (2008), Lee Westwood (2009), Ian Poulter (2010), Ernie Els (2011) and Peter Alliss (2012).
Golf Foundation Chairman Charles Harrison presented the ornate silver and glass ‘claret jug’ trophy to Tom in front of a packed audience of golf fans at Muirfield.
Charles Harrison said: “Nobody in the game embodies the spirit of golf better than Tom Watson. From the constant excellent example he has set the rest of us as a golfer through the years to his own considerable charity work back at home, he is a wonderful ambassador for this sport and highly deserving of this award.”
After playing a Tri-Golf challenge with children from Ratho Park Golf Club near Edinburgh, the five-time Open Champion answered questions from the youngsters. Asked why golf is such a great game he said: “Golf is a wonderful game that you can play for your whole life. It provides a great lesson because you earn credit for your good shots and learn to accept the blame for your bad shots.”
Golf Foundation President Colin Montgomerie was present to applaud Watson and the pair enjoyed a Tri-Golf match of their own, much to the pleasure of the crowd.
This year a number of the Open competitors also made a great gesture and played in golf games against groups of local children and took part in the ‘Professional Tri-Golf Challenge’. France’s Gregory Bourdy, Sweden’s Oscar Floren, America’s Brooks Koepka, Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scotland’s Lloyd Saltman all joined in the fun, with Brooks Koepka winning the title of best Tri-Golfer.
Gregory Bourdy clearly enjoyed the experience. He said: “I started playing at about aged four as my family love golf. I think it is important to really encourage children if they wish to play, to help them get started. I enjoyed the Tri-Golf, it’s a great game.”
Courtesy of HSBC, HSBC Ambassadors Gavin Hastings and Jonathan Davies from the world of rugby and tennis great Tim Henman all visited the Golf Foundation team to highlight the Foundation’s HSBC Golf Roots initiative.
HSBC Golf Roots reaches hundreds of thousands of youngsters in schools and creates stronger links between schools and golf clubs. The initiative also seeks to offer youngsters the ‘Skills for Life’ benefits for which golf is known, attributes such as respect, honesty, perseverance and good sportsmanship.
Gavin Hastings, Tim Henman and Jonathan Davies were a big hit with the children and watching families and demonstrated how it is possible to be highly competitive whilst having a smile on your face at the same time.
Elsewhere in the R&A Swingzone a special Putting Challenge sponsored by Titleist was held for plucky putters among visiting families. Titleist caps and golf balls could be won and on every day of the week each child who could hole three successive putts entered a daily draw to win an excellent Titleist Scotty Cameron putter.
Many youngsters also took advantage of the free lessons given by PGA Professionals throughout the week in the R&A Swingzone. The pros were present thanks to the Professional Golfers’ Association, who sponsor the professionals to teach the young golfers as part of the organisation’s commitment to junior golf.
Mike Round, Chief Executive of the Golf Foundation, said: “This was a great week and a great opportunity to promote the game to new youngsters, thanks to The R&A who are one of our greatest supporters. The Golf Foundation team is working very hard all year round to help to grow the game in support of the national governing bodies.
“The R&A Swingzone really does make a difference, helping us to reach a great many families, demonstrate our initiatives and raise our profile with the media. It means that The Open Championship can inspire young people through the play of a great champion like Phil Mickelson, but many other elements of Open week are also there to help grow the sport for the future.”
Mike added: “It was also great to share the R&A Swingzone with all the PGA Professionals who were giving lessons to new golfers. Their expert encouragement to new players was superb all week.”
HSBC Golf Roots and the Golf Foundation www.golf-foundation.org