From Carlisle to Portsmouth and Wrexham to South London, teams of children from cities all over England and Wales converged on Loughborough University last week for a celebration of the largest ever school and community golf project in the UK.
The atmosphere and vibrancy of the Golf Foundation’s first National Golf Roots Festival exemplified official national figures that show golf to be a major recent success in schools and communities (golf is currently the second fastest growing sport in schools).
Golf Roots targeted ‘hard-to-reach’ youngsters in 16 urban areas in 2009, demonstrating that Golf Foundation Tri-Golf and Golf Xtreme can be played anywhere – from the classroom to the shopping mall – to encourage a new generation of children from all backgrounds and abilities to have a go at golf. Golf offers both technical skills and ‘skills for life’ – positive benefits like honesty, respect, perseverance and concentration.
As the leading golf charity supporting the national golf partnerships, the Golf Foundation is then able to provide a ‘player pathway’ for many of these youngsters to pursue their new sport at golf clubs and driving ranges under qualified supervision. Local deliverers of the project have worked with school sport partnerships made up of teachers, volunteers, PGA professionals and the children themselves to create the huge Golf Roots project that is helping the Golf Foundation to reach more than 700,000 youngsters a year through golf (final figures for Golf Roots 2009 will be released in the near future).
The first National Golf Roots Festival was the culmination of a year of this activity. Each Golf Roots region held area Tri-Golf competitions and the winning teams of 10 boys and girls won a place in the grand finale at Loughborough University.
In a packed Loughborough sports hall the youngsters, aged 9-11, went through a quick, noisy warm-up with the Foundation’s team of regional development officers to the beat of the ‘Tri-Golf Rap’ before playing 15 quick-fire Tri-Golf games that put their putting, chipping, driving and also teamwork to the test.
Gareth Jenkins, Golf Foundation Regional Development Officer, co-ordinated and ran the event. He said: “The high-energy games showed how children can be enthused by golf. Everything here and with Golf Roots generally is about fun and opportunity to play while also learning golf’s fundamentals. The children here took their shots in relays under the pressure of the clock, worked as a team and produced a score – no referees needed! This is golf at its most basic but Golf Roots offers a pathway to take their golf further. Champion golfers here could be champions on the fairways in the years to come, and many of these boys and girls would never have considered golf without Golf Roots.”
Carlisle was the winning team on the day, with South London in second place and Sheffield third. Wrexham won the ‘Skills for Life’ award for the team that best demonstrated the skills for life attributes during the competition (see following notes for full list of Golf Roots cities).
Brendon Pyle, National Development Manager for the Golf Foundation, said: “As a grass roots development team, we were really delighted with the success of this festival. The youngsters seemed to have a brilliant time and that was a big objective when starting this Golf Roots project: to make the game more accessible to all children, to get them enjoying and learning important basics, to offer them an exciting national competition to show off their Tri-Golf skills and, crucially, to create better links in all 16 Golf Roots areas to junior-friendly golf clubs and driving ranges.”
Brendon added: “As a direct result of Golf Roots, more youngsters will move from schools into golf clubs and driving ranges, and more juniors from a greater range of backgrounds will enjoy the game. We will now build on this excellent momentum for Golf Roots 2010.”
Leading representatives from golf’s national governing bodies and the organisations which help to fund the sport joined with teachers, young volunteers and all those who have helped make Golf Roots a success to watch the children put on their show.
An important feature of the day was the work of young volunteers. Working closely with England Golf and Golf Development Wales, the Golf Foundation made it a top priority in every Golf Roots region for local organisers to encourage young volunteers to mentor children as they start in golf. The three bodies have identified the importance of encouraging more volunteers into golf to help the junior game at club level and create bridges from school to clubs, and at Loughborough University two young volunteers from each of the 16 regions were present to mentor the youngsters taking part.
Helen Tang, a young volunteer from London, said: “I think young volunteers can have a really important part to play in encouraging children. The youngsters relate to us well and we understand what they’re thinking. Many youngsters don’t really understand golf at all when we first speak to them and we can help break down some barriers. We can also bring our own fresh outlook to golf clubs while at the same time getting more confidence ourselves through volunteering.”
Golf Foundation www.golf-foundation.org