Irish Open champion Jamie Donaldson has been rewarded for his excellent season by winning the Golf Union of Wales tour professional of the year award for the second year running.
European Amateur champion Rhys Pugh and Curtis Cup star Amy Boulden shared the Amateur Golfer of the Year award, also for the second year running, as once again their achievements were considered inseparable at the Future Financials 2012 Welsh Golf Awards held at the Vale of Glamorgan hotel and resort.
Welshpool were the Welsh Golf Club of the Year, with their successes including bringing in around 100 new members, while Rhyl’s Anthony Middleton was the Wales PGA Professional of the Year for his work which includes running three junior academies.
Donaldson fought off the close competition of Ladies European Tour winner Lydia Hall as they both picked up their maiden titles, but the Macclesfield golfer had greater consistency through the season which included getting into the world’s top 50.
Andrew Ingram, chairman of the Teams and Performance committee who judged the award, said, “It was very close between the two who both had great wins this season, but in the end Jamie did enough to earn the award once again.
“It is nice to think back to when he was in the Wales amateur teams coming up through the ranks and to see how well he is doing now.
“He had an excellent win at the Irish Open, was seventh in the US PGA, forced his way into the world’s top 50, finished a career-high 19th on the Race to Dubai with more than 1 million Euros in winnings.”
Pugh was on home ground at the Vale of Glamorgan hotel where he is a member and the club have played a large role in his development, but he was delighted to receive the award again on the back of becoming the first Welsh golfer to win the European Amateur title.
“It is an honour to be recognised by the Golf Union of Wales,” he said. “It was very exciting to win the European title. I look at the leaderboard with a few holes to go and thought I had a chance if I could push on.
“I finished birdie, eagle, par, birdie at the end which helped. I was tied for the lead at that stage so I hid in the clubhouse, it was painful but worth it in the end.
“It means I am in the Open Championship next year which is all I have worked for, it is my dream since I was young to play in the Open, so next year will be amazing and I am just trying to soak up everything.
“I have never played Muirfield but obviously it is a great course. Being in college in America has given me another dimension, I think I am a better player overall because of those experiences.”
Welshpool were on the shortlist last year, with Golf Union of Wales chief executive Richard Dixon commenting, “This year has seen the strongest entry list for the Club of the Year that we have ever had.
“Langland Bay, Pennard, Pontypool and Trefloyne were the other candidates, but Welshpool’s list of improvements are certainly impressive. They have increased subscriptions by almost a third with general income up 20 per cent, allowing them to employ a secretary five days a week.
“They have achieved the highest Golf Development Wales certification for their junior section, got involved with social media, improved facilities including a fleet of buggies, improved the course and embraced the Equality Act.
“Also their ladies team are the Montgomeryshire Team of the Year, a member has been selected for the Wales Girls team and junior member Frankie Jones is a two-time winner of the British Junior Disabled Championship.”
“It is wonderful to receive this award,” said club captain David Rowlands. “It has been a lot of hard work, but it has been great to be part of this today. It is great for the club, we are not a big club but we are very, very hard-working. Other golf courses have sprung up and taken our members over time, but those members are coming back.
“The opening up of our course with buggies means our elder members are coming back, we have more younger members and our disabled members find access to the course much easier. We have increased our membership, we have not been afraid to introduce fresh members on to our committees with young people to take up the mantle up which has been very important.”
Middleton has enjoyed a remarkable few months since taking over the role as head professional at Rhyl in the summer. North Wales Golf Development Wales officer Dilwyn Griffiths described him as “the Pied Piper of North Wales golf.”
The 30-year-old also works out of the Ryder Cup Wales Legacy Fund facility in Llanfrog, Flint golf club and Ruthin Pwllglas golf club. He runs three junior academies across North Wales, the numbers at Rhyl alone have multiplied massively, while his adult beginner sessions have brought more than 50 new golf club members.
“I just love being involved with golf,” is his explanation. “I worked out that I have had three days off since the summer – and I used those to go and watch or play golf. It is very rewarding to see the development and see people enjoying the chance to play and improve. I want to introduce this great game to as many people as a possible and one day I would love to produce a Welsh European Tour player from one of the academies.”
Golf Union of Wales www.golfunionwales.org
Golf Development Wales www.golfdevelopmentwales.org