The Spyder Cup has been held in Tower Hamlets. This was a multi-racial golf event staged right in the middle of inner-city London (8th May). A group of 16-18 year-olds played the ‘Spyder’ version of the Ryder Cup, adopting many of the sporting attributes of that famous match.
Representing nations Somalia, Bangladesh, Morocco and Turkey, the 16 teenagers were enjoying their first taste of golf in an area which has suffered with unemployment (28% of young people are unemployed) and crime, including a high rate of ‘hate crime’ between different nationalities (said to be one of the highest rates in London in an area where 125 different languages are spoken).
Working with the Tower Hamlets Youth Sport Foundation (THYSF), the aim of the Spyder Cup was to improve interaction between cultural groups in Tower Hamlets, provide qualifications and vocational opportunities for young people (aged 16-21 years old), widen access to golf for young people in Tower Hamlets, particularly those from ethnic minorities, and build on the inspiration of the Ryder Cup.
While on the outskirts of London you will find some of the world’s most prestigious golfing venues hosting the top golf tournaments, this area of East London may seem a long way away from Open Championships and Ryder Cups.
But StepneyGreenPark, known locally as ‘SpiderPark’, is a green oasis of calm amid the bustle, the perfect venue for this Ryder Cup style match. Nick Cork, PGA Professional at Abridge Golf and Country Club in Essex, gave the youngsters good coaching before the event.
The winning team on the day was Bangladesh. Captain Masud and team mates Ruhin, Akram and Rahi won the Spyder Cup with 67 points scored around the specially designed golf course, using ‘Golf Extreme’ golf equipment. Masud took part in a StreetGolf event around the Olympic stadium with the Golf Foundation two years previously and said: “We love this form of golf but now want to try the real thing on a golf course.”
Brendon Pyle, National Development Manager for the Golf Foundation, said: “This was a special experience to witness a competitive round of golf being played in the middle of Tower Hamlets and to see how engaged the players were and how much they enjoyed it. There were some great ‘Skills for Life’ on show as well, which is part of the reason for running this project, such as working together to take turns, shaking hands before and after the game and the general banter between complete strangers that you would find in most golfing four balls across the world.”
Brendon praised golf coach Nick Cork for his “superb approach” with these youngsters. Nick Cork said: “There is some great golfing potential from young people in Tower Hamlets. We wish to raise awareness about the sport of golf, provide opportunity and ultimately give young people the chance to play on at real golf facilities.”
All Primary Schools in Tower Hamlets currently get access to introductory golf sessions through Golf Foundation Tri-Golf coaching provided through THYSF coaches, but less than 2% of young people have ever played golf outside of school (in the recent past one student received a scholarship at Whitgift’s School in Surrey due to his golfing talents).
This will hopefully change. The next step for this project is to set up a satellite golf club in Tower Hamlets with training for young leaders and to get the golfers onto a driving range before trying golf on a real course for the first time.
Plans are in place to bring all 16 of the Spyder Cup golfers to Wentworth for a day at The BMW PGA Championship next week, as guests of the Golf Foundation and The European Tour, which is one of the Foundation’s strongest supporters. They will be able to watch some actual Ryder Cup heroes in action so they can compare their progress!
The Golf Foundation is engaged with city golf activity up and down the country to make golf more accessible for children from all backgrounds and abilities. This is all part of the charity’s HSBC Golf Roots project which reaches hundreds of thousands of youngsters per year, as the Golf Foundation supports the golf development bodies of England, Scotland and Wales.
To achieve its objectives, the charity has a fundraising target of £3 million per year. HSBC Golf Roots is already supported by The R&A, The European Tour, the Professional Golfers’ Association, the Ryder Cup Committee and Trust, the British Golf Industry Association’s ‘Grow Golf’ Fund, Sport England and headline sponsor HSBC, who collectively contribute just under £2 million.
HSBC Golf Roots and the Golf Foundation www.golf-foundation.org