Two people who have made an immense contribution to Welsh golf have taken over as chair and president of the Golf Union of Wales.
Dr Val Franklin, a research fellow in biomaterials at Aston University, is the chair of the GUW, taking over from former Ryder Cup Wales chief John Jermine, after making a massive difference as junior golf organiser at Aberdovey golf club and also at national level in the handicapping system.
While top referee Neil Niblett is to take over from Celia Bartlett as GUW president after 50 years of involvement at the top ends of the amateur game in Wales as a player and official.
Franklin helped to transform the junior set up in Aberdovey as they went from having no teams to a thriving and successful junior squad, a process kick-started by grants from Ryder Cup Wales which allowed them to improve facilities for beginners.
With golf club membership numbers falling around the world, Franklin is aware the same challenge she took on at Aberdovey is one that needs to be repeated at a national level round Wales.
“What is important is maintaining the profile of the Golf Union of Wales and Golf Development Wales within the golfing community, so that those who can contribute are put to best use,” said Dr Franklin, the second woman chair of the GUW since the men’s and women’s associations in Wales merged as part of the Ryder Cup bid, as well as a level one PGA coach.
“It is certainly going to be an interesting role and I have a hard act to follow in John. I have come up through the development side and also the handicapping processes, I have been involved with the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU) since 2008 and have attended USGA course rating calibration seminars.
“My background is as a scientist so I like numbers and number-crunching. I am very much involved in junior golf and I am a great believer in making things as inclusive as possible, encouraging everyone to participate. We will look to build on what has been done by Golf Development Wales and to expand their role in the golfing domain.
“We have advantages in Wales to build on, we are one of the most cohesive golf unions between male and female golf and everyone can bring different things to the party.
“County golf and squad golf are vital parts of what we do well, but I come from the participation side and trying to support golf at all levels.
“Some people think golf is an elite game run by fuddy-duddies, so we have to break down the barriers to help all people participate for the game to progress.
“It is a great sport from cradle to grave, so we need to promote that without losing the traditions – to bring golf into the 21st century.
“That might mean some shorter courses, a nine hole loop, nine hole competitions, things that can work for men, women, girls, boys and families. We have to remember that some people do not have the time they used to have.
“Our challenge is getting people to try the sport as well as supporting clubs who are struggling to maintain their membership numbers.”
Niblett has been a member of the Golf Union of Wales committee since 2002, but it is as a referee at most of the top events where he has become a familiar figure all round Wales.
He qualified as a rules official through the GUW and Royal and Ancient in 2005, officiating at six Home Internationals since, the European Team Championships and numerous other events.
He was also captain of Monmouthshire golf club in 2000.
“I feel very privileged and honoured to be considered for this role after being involved as an administrator and on the laws side for the last 20 years,” said Monmouthshire member Niblett, who has been playing county golf in Gwent for 50 years.
“I do not want to just be a figurehead so I want to continue to play an active part on the board, the counties and the championships to support Val in whatever way I can.
“These are challenging times. Clubs have got to be careful to retain members and the way golf is played has changed greatly – not everyone is changing with the times.
“However there are a good team at the Golf Union of Wales and Golf Development Wales so there is plenty to build on.
“However the part I think I am looking forward to most is being able to show my support for the Wales teams at events like the Home Internationals.
“In the past, being there as a rules official, you have to be impartial, so I cannot wait to cheer on our teams.”
Golf Union of Wales website www.golfunionwales.org