As thousands flock to St Andrews to the home of golf and millions tune in to the 134th Open Championship, the event is being described as “the brightest and best opportunity for junior golf in Britain for half a century”. That is the shared view of Sir Michael Bonallack, president of junior golf charity the Golf Foundation, and the Foundation’s chief executive Mike Round.
With the world media’s attention focused on The Open, at its most famous and prestigious venue, and the world’s ‘fab five’ of Woods, Mickelson, Singh, Els and Goosen due to receive unprecedented coverage while battling it out on the Old Course – challenged by star European players like Sergio Garcia, Darren Clarke, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood – this St Andrews Open promises to be an unforgettable golfing event and a potentially massive influence on young people.
But there is more good news for juniors who attend the event itself. Thanks to support from the R&A, the Golf Foundation together with the PGA will be running the Junior Golf Centre at St Andrews – bidding to attract well over 3,500 children (the figure from last year’s Open at Royal Troon) during the course of the week.
Boys and girls from four years-old and up can enjoy their first ever taste of golf. The younger children will enjoy fun golfing challenges, while older children will benefit from free coaching – courtesy of a number of dedicated PGA professionals. Children from the region’s schools, starter centres and golf clubs have also been invited to attend.
At this year’s event, for the first time, the Golf Foundation will also be profiling ‘clubgolf’, the national partnership for the development of junior golf in Scotland that brings together the SGU, SLGA, PGA, Golf Foundation and sportscotland. A ‘clubgolf’ putting challenge will be the main focus at the centre during the Saturday and Sunday of The Open Championship.
Britain’s greatest ever amateur player, Sir Michael Bonallack will be just one of the game’s big names who will be supporting junior golf by appearing at the Junior Golf Centre. It is hoped a number of Tour players will also visit the centre – last year the defending champion Ben Curtis and Paul Casey came and gave tips to the children.
Sir Michael said, “In terms of the excitement, high standard golf, the media attention the event will receive at this wonderful venue, and given the organisation and effort that the Golf Foundation, the PGA and ‘clubgolf’ will be putting in to the week, all supported by the R&A, this is arguably the brightest and best opportunity to attract new golfers in Britain for half a century. I hope we can make this a week to remember for junior golf.”
Chief executive of the Golf Foundation Mike Round said, “I would endorse this view 100 per cent. When you consider the scale of the tournament, the growing excitement generated by dynamic stars of the game, from Tiger Woods to the young British players like Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Nick Dougherty, this is a fantastic draw for youngsters.
“This great event inspires many new golfers and also the Open Champions of tomorrow. There will also probably be more families here than at any other golfing event in the world and this is inspirational in itself. For these reasons The Open Championship is a massive opportunity for the Golf Foundation and by the same token for junior golf as a whole.”
The Golf Foundation will follow up this exciting week by a summer of exciting activities, programmes and events for youngsters. Apart from its work with hundreds of schools, starter centres and golf clubs, the Foundation will be busy organising golf festivals and, of course, the newly introduced ‘Golf Roots’ programme – sponsored by ‘The Daily Telegraph’ and Marriott – which is taking the game into nine inner cities and urban areas, introducing golf to thousands of children from many different backgrounds.
Mike Round concluded, “I believe the Open Championship could create serious momentum and make this a summer to remember for golf in Britain and that junior golf can benefit hugely. Sir Michael and I, and the rest of the team at the Golf Foundation, look forward to seeing many friends of junior golf during Open week at St Andrews.”
The Golf Foundation will be running the Junior Golf Centre from Monday, July 11 (also open 12-3pm Sunday, July 10), for the whole of Open week. All visitors are welcome to come and meet members of the Golf Foundation team.
Golf Foundation www.golf-foundation.org