The Golf Foundation enjoyed a successful Open Championship in promoting its work in grass roots junior golf. By working closely at the event with The R&A, The PGA and clubgolf, the leading golf charity believes it has helped to bring the sport to a new generation of youngsters during a full week of activity at Turnberry.
Championship organisers The R&A created the R&A Junior Golf Centre in the tented village for eight days, allowing the Golf Foundation to showcase its initiatives to all visitors (the many families and parents interested in junior golf) and the golf, news and education media.
An estimated 4,000 youngsters visited the junior centre and this year enjoyed two putting challenges, a chipping challenge using Foundation Golf Xtreme equipment, Tri-Golf sessions involving local club and school groups, and daily competitions with lots of prizes.
The main putting challenge was sponsored by Titleist and on every day of the week a youngster won a Titleist Scotty Cameron putter in a prize draw after first holing three consecutive 12-foot putts.
Championship competitors gave up their time to encourage the visiting boys and girls. Ben Curtis, Rory McIlroy, Ryuji Imada, Soren Hansen (arranged by Titleist), JB Holmes (arranged by Cobra), Graeme Storm (courtesy of TaylorMade-adidas Golf) and Lee Westwood (courtesy of PING) all enjoyed quick-fire Tri-Golf challenges with youngsters while offering tips on how to hit the colourful targets.
Lee Westwood began his unforgettable Open week by accepting the Golf Foundation‘s Spirit of Golf Award, which recognises his contribution to, and support of, junior grass roots golf. Previous winners of the award include Gary Player and Tony Jacklin.
Lee Westwood said: "I am very honoured to receive this award. I certainly owe a debt of gratitude to the Foundation for helping me as a youngster. Encouraging juniors is very important and it‘s great to see some youngsters here today who could one day be an Open Champion or Ladies‘ Open Champion."
During his visit, Rory McIlroy said: "I really enjoyed playing Tri-Golf. It‘s great for youngsters to get that first experience of hitting golf shots. Full credit to the Golf Foundation and all the work they are doing to get more youngsters involved in golf."
The Foundation was sharing the R&A Junior Golf Centre with the PGA. A team of PGA professionals gave free lessons to visiting youngsters for the whole week, as part of the organisation‘s commitment to junior golf. Golf Foundation development officers also teamed up with Scotland‘s clubgolf staff to welcome families to the junior centre.
Elsewhere, the Golf Foundation worked closely with IFM Sports Marketing Surveys and the British Golf Industry Association to stage a special lunch at Turnberry to help raise awareness of the need to grow the game and protect its future. Golf Foundation Chief Executive Mike Round thanked both organisations for their continuing support of the Foundation and golf itself.
An innovative profile-raising project involved the Golf Foundation assisting BBC Sportsround in setting up a unique television piece in which two local youngsters got to play Tri-Golf with first Soren Hansen and then Paul Casey, before interviewing the English star about how he started in golf. Another famous name, BBC Radio‘s Chris Evans, enjoyed a visit to the junior centre and interviewed children and Golf Foundation staff about their activity in Turnberry for BBC 5-Live.
The week at the junior centre was completed in the best possible style when HRH The Duke of York paid an informal visit. The Foundation team was able to tell The Duke about all the work they are involved in throughout the year in support of the national golf partnerships of England, Scotland and Wales; initiatives that see more than 700,000 youngsters a year enjoy a taste of golf and a pathway to take their game further.
Mike Round, Chief Executive of the Golf Foundation, said: "The week at Turnberry was a hugely successful one for the whole team. We were able to demonstrate so much about what we do as an organisation to make the game more accessible to youngsters from all backgrounds and abilities. The range of activities we provided for youngsters was a real hit and we hope we have helped to inspire a new generation of young players.
"Lee Westwood was our star of the show and we were delighted with his performance at The R&A Junior Golf Centre. He spoke very well and gave so much time to the children present. All the players who visited were fabulous in their interaction with the children. A huge thank you to them and to all our partners who helped us this week. In particular we would like to thank The R&A, who provided us once again with a wonderful opportunity here at Turnberry to raise the profile of junior grass roots golf."