Life was a beach for 5,000 newcomers who grasped the chance to give golf a go at a PGA-backed initiative at the Olympic Live Site inWeymouth.
As Ben Ainslie was sailing into the record books by claiming his fourth gold on the choppy waters of the south coast, an influx of golf beginners were among the 90,000 visitors flocking to a local beach throughout the Olympics.
Dubbed ‘the Live Site’, the initiative was aimed at introducing people to a range of sports and in between free lessons in water sports such as rowing, kayaking and canoeing and a raft of other sports, thousands took the chance to have fun with golf in the hands of expert PGA professionals.
Dee Wood from the Dorset County Golf Partnership was the driving force behind the Get into Golf scheme with six of the region’s county development officers helping out including Simon Wood and Paul Barrington plus local PGA pros Desmond Lochrie from Weymouth Golf Club, Bridport’s Dave Parsons and Wessex Golf Centre’s Fern Grimshaw and a dedicated team of Dorset volunteers.
Bristol Golf Club’s Steve Scott-Bowen, a PGA tutor and disability coach, was also there and he hailed it as the most successful grass roots initiative he had ever experienced.
“As a former development officer I used to look after the south west and this is without doubt the most successful grass roots project I have ever seen,” he said. “It was staged on Weymouth beach, 200 yards from the Olympic sailing.
“In total 90,000 people attended the Live Site and 16,000 visited during the three days when golf was offered.
“Golf facilities included putting mats, Tri-Golf, inflatable targets and simulators featuring Pebble Beach and St Andrews among others.
“The response to the golf was excellent, they were all eager and enthusiastic and received some high quality coaching and we followed that up by signposting them to their local clubs because many were here for the sailing and had come from all over theUK.
“I was there partly in my role as a disabled coach and gave lessons to 12 disabled golfers which was great to see too.
“The idea was from the Dorset County Sports Partnership who wanted to do this event from a Dorset perspective. I don’t think anybody realised how successful it was going to be in terms of attracting 90,000 visitors but it’s a great legacy from the Olympics and perhaps something to make into an annual event.
“The vast majority of the people were new to golf and it was a great way to get them engaged.”
The scheme reflects the PGA’s coaching vision of Right Coach; Right Place; Right Time which utilises the skill and expertise of PGA professionals from grass roots golf through to elite level.
Following the success of the Olympic Live site, the organisers have been asked to run a similar event for the Paralympics where Dorset CGP planned to offer golf there during the period 1-7 September.
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