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Daughter’s Memory Spurs on Charity Efforts of PGA Award Winner

8.42am 24th July 2013 - People - This story was updated on Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

John Watson, centre, with PGA captain Neil Selwyn-Smith, left, and Waren Sunderland (courtesy of Matt Lewis at Getty Images)
John Watson, centre, with PGA captain Neil Selwyn-Smith, left, and Warren Sunderland (courtesy of Matt Lewis at Getty Images)

PGA Professional John Watson has admitted to being overcome with emotion after winning a national award in recognition of his charity work.

The 44-year-old professional, based at Styal Golf Club in Cheshire, was presented with the Toby Sunderland award, which celebrates the charitable efforts of PGA Professionals across Great Britain and Ireland, on the eve of the Open Championship at Muirfield.

He has raised close to £250,000 for Childflight over the past four years via charity golf days, which he started in response to his youngest daughter Amy being diagnosed with brain tumours.

Amy lost her battle last spring aged just 10, but her father was urged to continue the fundraisers by his elder daughter Megan, 14.

“We’re only slowly coming to terms with things but Megan felt we had to keep Amy’s name alive,” he said. “She also said the day brings a lot of joy to the many people who support it.

“This year’s event raised £47,000 to take the total close to a quarter of a million pounds and never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to raise that amount of money. We also know that 99p in every pound goes to the charity, which we heard about through the Macmillan nurse who cared for Amy.

“These funds help to change children’s lives and make a difference. It enables them to take ill and deserving children on holiday or to see Santa. They went to Florida last year and we know that our efforts enabled them to take everyone on that holiday to Animal Kingdom, which is something they have never been able to do before.”

This year, a proportion of the amount raised will go to support the recently-launched charity Millie’s Trust by her parents Joanne and Dan Thompson. The trust will fund free first aid training for people looking after young children. It follows the tragic events of 10-month-old Millie who died while at nursery.

“Dan and Joanne live very close to us and after we learned what happened we have become very close friends. They attended the golf day and we are looking to support them,” added Watson.

In addition to the golf day, a further £7,500 was raised for Childflight in May when John, his wife Lydia, her sister Patricia and her husband Richard Frost cycled 145 miles coast-to-coast. This experience has even spurred him on to organise a new fundraising event.

He said: “This was more of a challenge to organising a golf day and very rewarding when you consider you have travelled from one side of the country to another on a bike, especially as I hadn’t been on a bike since I was a kid.

“On the back of this, I am looking to organise a charity sportive in Manchester and hopefully get in the region of 300 to 400 people taking part in aid of Childflight.”

Reflecting on the award, Watson, who is vice chairman of The PGA in England & Wales (North), said: “As a PGA Professional I am very honoured to have received this and it is great that The PGA recognise the fundraising and charitable work that PGA Professionals carry out.

“I must confess that when I received the letter, I thought it was going to be a request for my subscription. But when I read the letter, I confess that I did start to cry as it had been a very emotional time.”

In recognition of the award, presented to Watson by Warren Sunderland, he also received £1,200 for Childflight.

Sunderland said: “John is a very deserving winner of the award especially because his charitable efforts came on the back of such personal tragedy for him and his family.

“I can’t imagine how difficult it has been for John having lost his youngest daughter Amy but it is testimony to him and his family that despite such personal heartache they have used the memory of Amy to spur them on to raise valuable funds for other families suffering a similar plight.”

PGA chief executive Sandy Jones said: “The PGA is extremely proud of John who during such a difficult period in his life has shown tremendous bravery and integrity by selflessly raising thousands of pounds of charity.

“He is a very worthy recipient of the Toby Sunderland Award and the efforts of he and his family will be invaluable to the chosen charities they are supporting.”

Also earning recognition for their charitable work were the following regional nominees who each received £250 to give to a charity of their choice:

East – Kevin Carpenter (Hintlesham Golf Club). Golf Trick shot expert Kevin, aged 39, has helped many charities raise considerable funds over the past six years by performing his show not only in the UK but also in India and Middle East. In addition, in 2012, he donned his running shoes for the London Marathon raising more than £3,000 for Breakthrough Breast Cancer. Kevin will donate his cheque to Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

Midland – Nevil Bland (Brocton Hall Golf Club.)  Nevil, aged 40, raised in excess of £6,400 by running the London Marathon in aid CLAPA (Cleft Lip and Palate) and Birmingham Children’s Hospital. The causes are close to Nevil to as his son Simon was born with a cleft lip and palate in 2003 and has subsequently undergone a number of operations and speech therapy. His cheque is donated to the Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

South – Mark Roberts (Queenswood Golf Club).  Mark, aged 44, has raised more than £23,000 for Fight for Sight, as his daughter Rose has been diagnosed with a rare genetic condition, leaving her with peripheral vision. Mark ran the Brighton Marathon, his additional inspiration coming after having a pacemaker fitted after collapsing at work. His cheque will be donated to Fight for Sight.

Scottish – Billy McCondichie (Honorary Member). Billy, who turns 73 on Monday and has cancer, assists with the organising of the charity pro-am at Eastwood Golf Club. In addition, he sources prizes for charity golf days and assists at a number of other charity functions to raise funds for the Friends of Beatson Cancer Charity.  He also runs a ball in aid of Renal Cancer Research. His cheque is donated to Myeloma UK.

West – Mike Smedley (Thornbury Golf Centre). Head Professional Mike, aged 52, helped raise more than £5,000 for Cancer Research UK after undertaking a nine-day 175-mile trek of the Great Wall of China with head chef Mark Brooks.  His cheque will be donated to Cancer Research UK.

Irish – Gavin Kavanagh (Delgany). Gavin, aged 43, took a prominent role to help raise funds to build the Down Syndrome Centre in Dublin from scratch, which has now purchased a property to be operational this year. In total, through a variety of initiatives including golf he has raised close to €80,000. Gavin will donate his money to the Down Syndrome Centre.

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