Junior organisers, volunteers, teachers and PGA professionals all gathered at Wentworth during the BMW PGA Championship for the annual Golf Foundation President’s Awards.
As Justin Rose – who played in events run by the Golf Foundation as a boy – geared up for his title challenge outside, Wentworth’s Ballroom provided a fitting backdrop for the Foundation’s annual ceremony.
A packed crowd of VIP guests heard eight remarkable stories of commitment to grass roots golf as Golf Foundation President Ken Schofield CBE presented the awards.
Mike Round, Chief Executive of the Golf Foundation, said, “These are the people who put in all the really hard work. We try to provide the tools they will need, but without their efforts, nothing would happen. All of the progress we have made through 2006 would not have been possible had it not been for the commitment and enthusiasm of the teachers, club volunteers and PGA professionals running junior development programmes at the local level.”
Eight President’s Awards were presented. These were as follows:
- The Gus Payne Trophy is awarded to the club that raises the most money for the Golf Foundation’s golf initiatives. For 2006, the award went to Walton Heath Golf Club which raised an excellent £1,966 to help grass roots golf funding.
- The Gallacher Award for the volunteer of the year was presented to Mr John Poole, a member at Weston-Super-Mare Golf Club, who made an outstanding contribution to junior golf development in his local area. John created a regular coaching programme that sees over 60 children coached every week, he encouraged his club to reduce junior membership fees significantly and organised the training of more than 20 junior golf leaders who now support the PGA professional.
- The Critchley Award for teamwork was presented to the West Norfolk Partnership which, using Golf Foundation Tri-Golf and Golf Xtreme equipment, involved 96 primary schools in golf. It trained more than 60 teachers and two PGA professionals to deliver these initiatives and forged links with two golf clubs. This has transformed the opportunities for youngsters; 65 juniors have joined Swaffham GC from 14 different schools and the club is offering eight free scholarships to youngsters who show potential.
- The Bonallack Award for a great golf programme was presented to the Tone Sports Partnership. The team here delivered a comprehensive junior golf programme that linked schools, leisure centres and golf facilities, seeing a big increase in youngsters taking up golf. Highlights included Tri-Golf and Golf Xtreme being played as part of a major multi-sport festival involving around 2,600 children over two days.
- The Laddie Lucas Award for the best area project certainly embraced what the Golf Foundation means in its slogan ‘Skills for Life’. The Bournemouth Parks Project reacted to the problem of young people playing golf in an anti-social or dangerous way in the town’s parks by encouraging them to join an organised golf programme. After consultation with the Foundation they trained their parks officers as Tri-Golf activators and golf leaders so they could offer help to youngsters rather than be seen as ‘policing’ the parks. PGA pros joined in and 40 youngsters took part, none of whom had felt able to join a golf club. Follow-on opportunities have been made available so they can continue in the sport.
- The Sinclair Award for the best PGA professional goes to Mr Neil Matthews, professional at Pontypool Golf Club and Talywain Driving Range. Neil holds weekly Tri-Golf sessions in the primary schools and he organised the Golf Roots scheme on behalf of the Golf Foundation and Golf Development Wales (nearly 200 children from 10 different schools took part). He’s also been the driving force behind a new pay-and-play club at the Talywain Driving Range, where over 80 juniors, a third of whom are girls, receive regular coaching from this inspirational professional.
- The Burroughs Award, for an individual or group who has made particular progress in golf in the face of adversity, was presented to Wirral’s ‘Road to the Open’ project. Led by PGA professional Chris Gill, this progressive project was a celebration of golf on the Wirral in the run up to The Open Championship itself at Hoylake. Along with all the work in mainstream schools, Chris delivered four weeks of coaching in five Special Needs Schools and then brought 80 special needs youngsters together for a Tri-Golf Festival. Some of the youngsters were also invited to take part in activities in the R&A Junior Golf Centre at The Open Championship.
- Finally, this year’s Sir Henry Cotton Award for meritorious service to junior golf was won by Mr Hylton Thomas, Vice-President of Pontypridd Golf Club. Hylton established junior sessions held twice a week at the club. These are open to non members and encourage children from all backgrounds. Pontypridd is one of the most deprived areas in the Welsh Valleys, but now thanks to considerable effort, up to 50 children take part in coaching each week and are working their way through the Golf Foundation’s Junior Golf Passport. Hylton and his team of volunteers created a par 29 short course for those juniors who are yet to achieve a playing handicap and if it rains, they can continue the sessions in the indoor academy that was built by Hylton and a team of volunteers.
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