Golf can be a great game for young people and this was underlined when a total of 1,100 primary schoolchildren from Dorset took part in ‘The Big Swing’ on Friday 20th April – breaking all known UK records in the process.
Supported by leading golf charity the Golf Foundation, The Big Swing is the brainchild of Darren Stratman, an imaginative and energetic PGA professional who has a passion for introducing golf to children from all backgrounds and abilities.
Utlilising Golf Foundation funding, Darren worked with a network of volunteers and teachers to welcome 1,100 children from 36 Dorset schools for this year’s big event atCanfordParkin Wimborne.
Facing a massive logistical challenge, 200 young leaders (aged 14-17) were trained to help stage the event and Darren was also assisted by a team of students fromBournemouthUniversity’s Golf Management Studies degree course to ensure the hectic team games all ran smoothly.
The Big Swing is one of the Golf Foundation’s HSBC Golf Roots ‘City Projects’; these are partnerships in urban areas all over the country which are staging grass roots golf opportunities for children from all backgrounds, with HSBC Golf Roots funding.
Echoing the ambition ofDorset’s Big Swing nationally, the Golf Foundation aims to reach one million youngsters per year via HSBC Golf Roots, through inclusive and fun golf formats in schools and community venues, and at golf clubs with the help of PGA professionals.
Darren Stratman, PGA professional at Canford Magna Golf Club in Wimborne, exemplifies the kind of club pro who recognises that youngsters are the future of the game.
He said: “This has been an amazing day. We have been thrilled to build up the profile of golf like this in theDorsetarea. Every child seemed to enjoy themselves in an enormous competition which was all about fun and teamwork – aUK, and possibly a world record. The combined efforts of our local partnership and the Golf Foundation on the wider scale are all serving to create more opportunities to enjoy the game.
“Thanks to Golf Foundation funding and support we have been able to reach out to more and more schools and show children and their teachers that golf can be enjoyed by boys and girls of all abilities. We are now encouraging all those who like the game to take their golf further at local golf clubs and driving ranges.”
The winning team on the day was ‘The Green Golfers’ from St Mark’s School inBournemouth. They and seven other teams qualified to take part in the ‘The School Games’ final on 13th July in Bournemouth, the day that the Olympic Torch is carried through the seaside town.
HSBC is the headline sponsor for Golf Roots and has been highly supportive since joining in with the Golf Foundation last summer. Peter O’Keeffe, Premier Wealth Relationship Manager HSBC Canford Cliffs, attended The Big Swing to encourage the youngsters and present medals and the trophy to the winning team.
He said: “HSBC is delighted to support the Golf Foundation’s Golf Roots programme and help to encourage many children to enjoy the benefits that golf has to offer young people. HSBC is highly committed to this sport, sponsoring major events on the one hand but importantly offering strong support to the grass roots game. I was proud to see so manyDorsetyoungsters having a great golf experience today at The Big Swing.”
Sam Stephens, Golf Foundation Regional Development Officer, said: “Darren and his team have created a wonderful and unique event in The Big Swing. We at the Golf Foundation talk a lot about ‘skills for life’ that can be learned from golf, and despite the presence of 1,100 children today all the games took place in a friendly and generous spirit, a great advertisement for the benefits of the game.”
Appropriately for this world-beating effort, World Trick Shot Champion Geoff Swain was on hand to show off some of his best tricks for all the youngsters present on Friday. The ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ from 1,000 young voices and their spontaneous applause demonstrated how enthusiastic children can be for golf.
The Golf Foundation is aiming to reach one million children per year through its national programme, HSBC Golf Roots. To achieve this, it 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 Golf Foundation www.golf-foundation.org