A Suffolk project to encourage girls into golf was an award-winning hit during The European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship, at Wentworth Club, Surrey.
‘Girls Allowed’ is an initiative started by PGA head professional at Stowmarket Golf Club, Duncan Burl, following discussions with the Golf Foundation, the leading golf charity that makes golf more accessible to children. Christened ‘Girls Allowed’ by Foundation Regional Development Officer Katie Cooper, this is a special club where young leaders encourage younger girls to learn about the basics of the game in a safe and friendly environment, with an emphasis on fun and the social aspects of the sport.
Duncan coaches the group but the young leaders run their club. With money from the government’s ‘Sports Unlimited’ fund, and Sport England’s Small Grant Award, they take the game to new players in schools and invite them back to the Girls Allowed club to develop their golf. During the last year, 20 girls new to golf enjoyed the delights of the sport through this club and all are playing regularly.
So enthusiastic have the young leaders been that the team from Girls Allowed won one of the Golf Foundation’s prestigious Annual Awards, presented at a special ceremony last week in Wentworth Club’s famous Ballroom. Former Ryder Cup Captain and Foundation Vice President Bernard Gallacher presented four girls – Danni, Eleanor, Holly and Antonia – with their award for the best local initiative (The Laddie Lucas Award), in front of a packed audience of VIPs.
Duncan Burl said after the ceremony: “The girls were absolutely delighted to win this award and I’m delighted for them. It is well deserved. As a team we have reached out and included many girls who previously had not thought of golf as an option. Having young leaders to mentor these girls has been really successful.”
Brendon Pyle, National Development Manager for the Golf Foundation, said: “Girls Allowed shows how the imagination of a professional and enthusiasm of young volunteers can be a highly productive mix to encourage girls into golf. This is a great example of what the Foundation is looking to achieve with volunteers in support of the national golf partnerships of England, Scotland and Wales. Young leaders can be excellent mentors and really help youngsters in their development.”
Before the awards ceremony the girls enjoyed a real treat as they helped BBC commentator Ken Brown and Ladies European Tour stars Rebecca Hudson and Felicity Johnson take part in a Tri-Golf challenge with youngsters in Wentworth Club’s tented village. At the junior golf centre, which was made available by The European Tour, Danni actually teamed up with Ken Brown in the quick-fire challenge while the rest of the Girls Allowed team did the scoring for the event.
Later, out on the course at Wentworth, the girls got to meet one of their heroes, Ryder Cup star Lee Westwood, during the championship pro-am. Lee walked and talked with the girls on the fairway and signed autographs. Lee is a Golf Foundation Golf Roots Ambassador and a great supporter of junior golf.
The English Women’s Golf Association has endorsed the Girls Allowed project and is supporting the Golf Foundation’s efforts to roll out the concept to other Golf Roots projects across England.
Golf Foundation www.golf-foundation.org