The finale of perhaps the largest ever school and community golf project in the UK is to take place at Loughborough University on 16th September with the first National Golf Roots Festival.
Leading golf charity the Golf Foundation has captured the imagination of children, parents, teachers, volunteers, golf club members and PGA professionals this year through the Golf Roots 2009 project – bringing golf to hard-to-reach youngsters from many different backgrounds. Golf Roots has been taking place in 16 urban areas of England and Wales (see following notes for full list of Golf Roots cities).
Through this major Golf Foundation initiative, thousands of boys and girls have been enjoying golf in school and community venues before being offered the opportunity to progress with their new sport at golf clubs and driving ranges. Many youngsters have struck their very first golf shots by playing Tri-Golf, a miniature, safe starting game for younger children, and Golf Xtreme, a funky modified golf game for 11-16 year olds. Golf Roots is helping the Golf Foundation to reach more than 700,000 youngsters a year through golf, working to grow and protect the sport in support of the national golf partnerships of England, Scotland and Wales.
As a celebration of this activity the National Golf Roots Festival will welcome teams of golfers from all 16 cities to Loughborough University. Every team of 10 boys and girls is already a winning team, having triumphed in an organised Tri-Golf competition in their area. Their reward is a place in the final of Tri-Golf Skills Challenges in a packed Loughborough sports centre.
Leading representatives from golf‘s national governing bodies and the organisations which help to fund the sport will join with teachers, young volunteers and all those who have helped make Golf Roots a success to see these children put on a show of their newly learned golf skills. It will be high-energy, noisy and fun and will demonstrate the unique focus the Golf Foundation has brought to making golf such a successful sport in schools in the last seven years – starting virtually from scratch.
Brendon Pyle, National Development Manager for the Golf Foundation, said: "Since we launched Tri-Golf as a game to help youngsters take first steps in golf, it has been a major hit and transformed golf delivery in schools. Currently golf is the second-fastest growing sport in schools behind cycling [according to government figures] and that is because it‘s fun, easy to play anywhere and easy for teachers to deliver in the curriculum.
"As Golf Roots has been a big success in the last few years in appealing to hard-to-reach youngsters in predominately urban areas we took the ambitious step this year of inviting teams from all 16 areas to compete in a Tri-Golf final on the 16th September. This day should be hugely exciting for all the children involved and will showcase everything the Golf Foundation is about in making golf more accessible to youngsters everywhere.
"As a direct result of Golf Roots, more youngsters will move from schools into clubs and driving ranges, and more juniors from a greater range of backgrounds will enjoy the game."
A key focus of Golf Roots has been to promote attributes of golf like honesty, respect, co-operation and self-motivation – ‘skills for life‘ – which can help in the development of young people. On the day of the National Golf Roots Festival, apart from the prizes for the teams who achieve the best scores in the Tri-Golf Skills Challenges, there will be a special ‘Skills for Life Award‘ for the team that conducts itself in the most sporting manner.
Another important feature of the day will be the work of young volunteers. Working closely with England Golf, 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. Both 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 volunteers will travel from each of the 16 regions to take charge of proceedings. They will help to make the event a day to remember for grass roots junior golf.
Golf Roots is designed to create sustainable golf projects, so that the youngsters can keep playing and, in future years, new youngsters can be introduced to the game. Golf Roots events can be held anywhere in the community because of the flexibility of Tri-Golf and Golf Xtreme, from the sports field to the shopping mall.
The 16 Golf Roots areas for 2009 are: South London, Portsmouth, Carlisle, Preston, Newcastle upon Tyne, Sheffield, East London, Westminster, Derby, Leicester, Birmingham, Dudley, Bournemouth and Poole, Truro, Cardiff and Wrexham.
Sport England, through the National Sports Foundation (NSF), awarded £88,000 in order that the Foundation has been able to enhance and expand Golf Roots for 2009.
The £88,000 has been matched against recent Golf Roots contributions from the Ryder Cup Trust, from Golf Roots Ambassador, BBC radio presenter DJ Spoony, and friend of the Foundation Colin Mackinnon. Other significant supporters going forwards are The European Tour and England Golf, and a further amount of money has been made available from the Ryder Cup Trust for Golf Roots activity in Wales.
DJ Spoony has been a driving force behind Golf Roots during the last five years. As the project‘s Ambassador, Spoony has met and worked with youngsters, young and adult volunteers, teachers, PGA professionals and Golf Foundation staff to boost the initiative.
The Foundation is hopeful that this year‘s figures for Golf Roots will rival or improve upon last year‘s results. Across 16 cities for Golf Roots in 2008, 5,930 children from 155 schools played Tri-Golf or Golf Xtreme. Some 477 people were trained to introduce young people to Tri-Golf and Golf Xtreme, and more than 7,000 boys and girls tried golf at public venue events.
More than 1,150 youngsters enjoyed follow-on coaching at Golf Foundation approved golf clubs and driving ranges. Fifty-seven per cent of the children involved in Golf Roots were boys, and 43 per cent were girls.
Golf Foundation www.golf-foundation.org