A new scheme designed to give young Scottish golfers access to golf professionals in order to nurture their growing talent has been praised by First Minister Alex Salmond.
The creation of the ‘Roving Pro Fund’ to help children to progress through the early stages of ClubGolf, Scotland’s national junior golf programme, was announced by the First Minister during the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.
He was joined by ClubGolf Manager Jackie Davidson, RyderCup DirectorRichardHills and Professional Golfers’ Association Chief Executive Sandy Jones.
The First Minister said: “ClubGolf is doing a fantastic job in introducing children to the game as well as encouraging them to remain in the sport by providing pathways to their local golf club
“This new initiative will help develop the skills they require to enjoy this great game and I am delighted that now even more youngsters will have the chance to work and learn alongside pros, who will inspire the next generation of golfers.
“Scotland is the Home of Golf and clubs are the lifeblood of this magnificent sport – we need to introduce the next generation of players and champions of the future to the game at an early stage. ClubGolf has been doing exactly that and it is great to see that golf clubs across Scotland will benefit from the skills of some of the finest pros we have in our country.”
The fund has been created through equal investment from ClubGolf and Ryder Cup Europe (£155,000 combined, which is also supporting the creation of Coach Developer roles), and follows a review which showed ClubGolf clubs are coming under pressure as a growing number of children seek to continue coaching beyond ClubGolf stage 1 but cannot access suitably qualified coaches.
Many facilities across the country do not operate with an on-site PGA Professional while there is also a shortage of Level 2 coaches, the qualification required to teach ClubGolf Stage 2.
ClubGolf Manager Jackie Davidson outlined the way in which the Roving Pro Fund would help to address a current shortcoming in ClubGolf Level 2 volunteers, she said: “The Roving Pro Fund will support clubs in accessing funding to engage a qualified PGA Professional from the local area to deliver a 10-week block of ClubGolf coaching.
“We have identified areas in which this need is greatest, where there are very few qualified Level 2 coaches and, as such, this is where the fund will be targeted.”
It is hoped that, by allowing new clubs to host successful ClubGolf coaching blocks, money can be banked by that club to support future coaching delivery from the PGA Professional.
Davidson added: “After the initial investment from the Roving Pro Fund, we hope that clubs will be able to afford to invite the professional back to coach in future years.
“As well as providing essential funding, creating ‘Roving Pros’ is helping to facilitate engagement between clubs and local pros, which can only be beneficial to the ClubGolf programme in these areas.”
In addition to coaching, responsibilities of the Roving Pro will be to signpost suitably talented players for further coaching in Scottish Golf Development Centres and promote ClubGolf activity at the club in local schools, as well as linking into the club at committee level.
In order for a club to access the funding, a planning meeting will be held prior to any coaching taking place with the Regional Manager for that area, which will ensure plans are in place to support the club’s current coaching workforce and explore a more formal arrangement with the PGA Professional. The club and Regional Manager will then make a joint ‘bid’ for Roving Pro funding.
In year one, it is expected that 51 coaching blocks will be delivered with this number dropping to 29 in year two and 14 in year three, as clubs accessing the fund in previous years establish sustainable models for coaching.
Hills is delighted that the investment from the Ryder Cup is being utilised to make a huge impact at club level.
He said: “Along with the creation of the Coach Developer roles, which were announced last month, we are very confident that our investment will make a real difference at grass roots level in allowing more children to receive quality coaching from a PGA professional.
“One of the greatest challenges that the Ryder Cup faces in Europe is how to create a lasting legacy of hosting the match for the host countries. Through ClubGolf in Scotland, I believe that we are leaving one of the strongest sustainable models for future, through which more and more young people every year will be introduced to and begin to play this great game.”
The PGA’s Sandy Jones was equally optimistic about the creation of the Roving Pro Fund and the potential for further development for children who can now access a professional working within their local area.
“The PGA professional plays a vital role at the heart of golf, a fact that is no more evident in their ability to inspire young golfers and help them to reach their potential.
“Having a fund whereby both clubs and professionals can benefit is a terrific initiative and I’m delighted that clubs that aren’t able to have a full-time pro will now also be able to benefit from the pivotal part they have to play in the golf industry.
“The PGA Professional makes a massive contribution to the growth and development of the game of golf, and this scheme will be an important facet of this at a junior level.”