The Golf Foundation enjoyed a successful Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, showcasing its progressive development work in junior grass roots golf.
The R&A provided the R&A Junior Golf Centre, right next door to the Championship practice ground, where Golf Foundation development officers were able to introduce visiting children to Tri-Golf, the fun, modified golf game for youngsters aged five and up. Organised groups came from Lancashire, Merseyside, Cheshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire, and many children had their very first hit with a club.
An estimated 4,000 youngsters visited the Golf Foundation team at the centre during the week. A number were lucky enough to be present when five of the Championship’s competitors were welcomed. Germany’s Martin Kaymer, Portugal’s Jose-Filipe Lima, England’s Ross Fisher, Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal, and Australia’s Scott Strange all played Tri-Golf games with the children, which involved relays and quick-fire shoot-outs.
Another key attraction was the Titleist sponsored England Golf ‘Putting Challenge‘. For the whole week children had the chance to show their putting skills while raising money for the Golf Foundation. Each day a top-of-the-range Titleist Scotty Cameron putter was won by a youngster who could hole three consecutive 12-ft putts after donating £1. More than £4,000 was raised in this way. Similarly, a spot-the-ball competition raised just under £200, as visitors studied a photographed shot of the soon-to-be-crowned double Open Champion Padraig Harrington, hoping to win a special set of Cobra Golf J-Speed junior golf clubs as the prize.
Away from the course, the Golf Foundation held a highly successful gala dinner at the famous Aintree Racecourse, attended by VIPs from the world of golf and sponsored by Bauer, publishers of Golf World and Today’s Golfer. The highlight of the night was hosting former Open and US Open Champion and Ryder Cup hero Tony Jacklin as guest of honour. The Foundation presented him with its prestigious ‘Spirit of Golf Award‘, to recognise his inspiration and contribution for youngsters to take up the game.
Golf Foundation President Ken Schofield said, “Tony was a very, very special Open Champion. He carried the hopes of his nation and what would later be the hopes of European golf, and he never failed to deliver. What Tony achieved inspired others to follow and culminated in the success of the European team in the Ryder Cup.”
The rest of the evening was a fundraising hit for the Foundation, as games, an auction and a raffle helped reach a net income for the night of £25,000. The Foundation’s Gala Dinner has now become a fixture in The Open Championship diary.
Earlier, Tony Jacklin had watched two teams of three boys and three girls from the Southport area give a Tri-Golf demonstration. The children had taken part in their very own Tri-Golf ‘Road to the Open‘, which involved 50 local schools and the training of teachers, volunteers and PGA professionals to bring golf into schools. The Foundation has introduced Tri-Golf and Golf Xtreme to 7,000 schools and 700,000 youngsters in the last year.
Much of the week was about supporters helping the Golf Foundation in its cause of attracting as many youngsters to the game as possible and helping them to stay in the game.
DJ Spoony is the ambassador and main funder of the Foundation’s Golf Roots project, a scheme that introduces sustainable golf projects to 16 inner city areas this year, providing golf opportunities for children from all backgrounds and abilities. After receiving a special award himself at the Gala Dinner, Spoony visited the junior centre, led a session of Tri-Golf with the youngsters and also talked to a gathering of golf journalists about his desire to offer sporting pathways to inner city youngsters.
Spoony also took part in a discussion with Golf Foundation chief executive Mike Round and sport psychologist Professor Stuart Biddle, from the Institute of Youth Sport at Loughborough University, who is conducting research into the positive benefits and ‘skills for life‘ that golf can offer young people learning the game..
Mike Round said, “I would like to thank everyone who has contributed so well in making this a very special Open Championship for the Golf Foundation. The visiting players were fantastic and have inspired both the children and our own team and we must thank Titleist and Titleist’s player manager Jonathan Loosemore for their great help here. Professor Stuart Biddle and DJ Spoony provoked a great deal of interest with their thoughts on how youngsters can benefit from golf, and, of course, Tony Jacklin helped to create a hugely memorable evening at Aintree.”
Mike added, “Our final thank you goes to The R&A, which provides us with the excellent facility of the R&A Junior Golf Centre each year. The R&A is our largest supporter and we are highly appreciative of this opportunity to welcome so many youngsters to the centre, who will hopefully embrace golf as they grow up and enjoy the sport for life.”
During The Open, 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 www.golf-foundation.org