The Golf Foundation has thanked all concerned for creating a “wonderful environment” in which to welcome new youngsters into golf during the 144th Open Championship.
The ‘R&A Swingzone’ was created for young people, including school groups, in the tented village at St Andrews for the whole of Open week. The Golf Foundation team held sessions in ‘Tri-Golf’ (for the younger children), ‘StreetGolf’ and a popular Putting Challenge supported by Titleist.
Feedback from families was highly positive all week as children enjoyed a combined total of more than 4,000 attempts to tackle the golf challenges on offer.
All of this energetic activity showcased the Golf Foundation’s HSBC Golf Roots programme, which encourages young people from all backgrounds to try golf and find a pathway to regular club golf. During the week the team was also supporting ClubGolf Scotland and the Professional Golfers’ Association. Twenty-two PGA coaches gave upwards of 3,000 free lessons to members of the public in the R&A Swingzone.
A big highlight of the week was the presentation of the Foundation’s ‘Spirit of Golf’Award for 2015 to Justin Rose. Justin became the ninth golfer to receive the award, following Gary Player (2007), Tony Jacklin (2008), Lee Westwood (2009), Ian Poulter (2010), Ernie Els (2011), Peter Alliss (2012), Tom Watson (2013) and Darren Clarke (2014).
On receiving the award Justin said: “The Golf Foundation does a great job in getting more youngsters from all backgrounds to enjoy a great game that they can play all their lives, and it is up to all of us to encourage the next generation of players. I am also impressed that the charity focuses on the life skills that golf can offer young people.”
He added: “I hope I can keep playing the game in the right spirit and my message to young players is that you don’t have to have a plus handicap by the age of 14. All players progress at different rates and if you work hard and enjoy the game you will succeed.”
Open play-off competitors Zach Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen (in 2010) and Marc Leishman (2007) have all given up their time in the past to play Tri-Golf with Golf Foundation youngsters at The Open. Echoing Justin Rose’s comment about golf offering life skills, who says nice guys can’t succeed?
A lucky group of youngsters from Pitlochry Golf Club first played Tri-Golf with the Golf Foundation and then received some bunker playing tips from Bubba Watson in the HSBC Golf Zone at St Andrews. Bubba’s presence was to help highlight that 300 golf clubs, made up of HSBC Golf Roots Centres in England and Wales and ClubGolf Centres in Scotland, were staging an ‘HSBC Hour’ during the week to welcome brand new golfers to the club environment, with support and resources from IMG.
HSBC have a number of the world’s greatest sportsmen and women as Ambassadors and many children were thrilled to play Tri-Golf and StreetGolf with Brian O’Driscoll and Jonathan Davies from the world of rugby, tennis great Tim Henman and golf stars Laura Davies, Sam Torrance and Colin Montgomerie; the latter also being President of the Golf Foundation.
Through the whole week and well into the extra ‘manic Monday’, youngsters were able to put their putting skills to the test in a Putting Challenge supported by Titleist. Successful putting strokes were rewarded with Titleist golf balls and caps and each day a premium Titleist Scotty Cameron putter was won by an ace player. This was a highly popular element of the R&A Swingzone and Titleist’s support in providing prizes was a great way of encouraging families into the golf area.
Brendon Pyle, Chief Executive of the Golf Foundation, said: “The Open Championship was won by a man who exemplifies the word ‘sportsmanship’, as does our Spirit of Golf recipient Justin Rose, and it is something we value highly as we bring young people into the game. The star players out on the course will have inspired the youngsters with their brilliant play and I’d like to think our team and our partners at St Andrews have inspired the young people further, helping to create new players at the Home of Golf – perhaps some of whom will be champion golfers themselves one day.
“Let us offer a huge thank you to all the families who lit up the R&A Swingzone with their sense of fun and enthusiasm and their love of golf, and a particular thank you to The R&A, HSBC, ClubGolf Scotland and the PGA for together creating a wonderful environment in which to welcome so many enthusiastic children into golf.”
Golf Foundation www.golf-foundation.org