Heroes of grass roots junior golf: volunteers, PGA professionals, junior organisers, schoolteachers and local authority officers were honoured at Wentworth Club during the Golf Foundation President’s Awards on Wednesday, 25th May.
Shaking hands with each of these award winners was the new President of the Golf Foundation, Colin Montgomerie, who was performing his first official duty for the leading golf charity. Colin supports the Foundation’s aim to make the game more accessible to children from all backgrounds through its ‘Golf Roots’ programme, and he commended the good work of all the award recipients.
Nine awards were presented in front of a packed audience in Wentworth Club’s magnificent Ballroom courtesy of Golf Foundation supporter The European Tour. This was on the eve of the BMW PGA Championship. It was noted that the vast majority of players taking part would have once benefited from a mentor’s support as a youngster themselves, demonstrating why committed people at the grass roots are crucial to all levels of the game.
Colin Montgomerie said later: “All European Tour players need a start as a youngster and we are all thankful to a friendly PGA professional, a kindly club member or one of the family who gave their time to encourage us to play. The award winners here today are great examples of this breed of people. Their efforts will help discover future Open Champions, Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup players, but also the many more young people who just love the game, and that’s a fantastic achievement.”
Charles Harrison, Chairman of the Golf Foundation, said: “This ceremony offers the opportunity to thank these tireless individuals and groups who are doing a great deal to change the golfing landscape. These are people the Golf Foundation relies on but never takes for granted. Their selfless work helps youngsters to learn not only the mechanics of the golf swing but also important life skills that can really help them in later life.”
The President’s Awards were presented as follows:
The Mackenzie Award is earned by a project that shows how golf can be used to promote positive life messages, and this year it was won by North Worcestershire School Sport Partnership (SSP). In three years, this project has gone from no golf in schools, no equipment, no competition, no community links, and no leadership, to a successful 28 school and school/club link project with Bromsgrove Golf Centre. More girls have been encouraged to play and also pupils from special needs schools, and the project offered life skills such as ‘friendship’ – by mixing the pupils from different schools at golf festivals, and ‘respect’ – by encouraging the pupils to consider the needs of others.
The Gus Payne Award is awarded to the club that raises the most money for the Golf Foundation’s golf initiatives. Royal West Norfolk Golf Club has raised funds for the Foundation for many years and the team is extremely grateful to the committee, the PGA professional and the membership for their unwavering support. The club is absolutely committed to grass roots junior golf and tries to make youngsters feel welcome and comfortable while realising the benefit of supporting national programmes like Golf Roots. This club led the way in terms of club fundraising last year, donating an excellent £2,597.50 to the Golf Roots cause.
The Bonallack Award for a great schools programme was presented to the Croydon Schools and Addington Court Golf Centre. Twenty-four schools within Croydon were offered structured activity sessions, festivals and coaching at Addington Court and over 900 school children took part. Among other projects, the PGA professional delivered blocks of coaching sessions using Tri-Golf and Golf Xtreme equipment, and emphasis was placed on promoting ‘Skills for Life’. The area has few public sports opportunities, and with the Golf Centre backing onto a large estate, Addington Court has been a real winner with local parents.
The Laddie Lucas Award for the best local initiative went to the World of Golf ‘Schools Go Free’ campaign, in Surrey. Two years ago, Richard Morris, working together with the World of Golf facility in New Malden and the Kingston SSP, embarked on a new and exciting project under the heading ‘Schools Go Free’.
He invited classes of school children to an hour on the dinosaur-themed adventure putting course, followed by a 30-minute session on the driving range, where the children got a lesson on the basics of the swing. Through this project, over 3,000 children aged 7-11 years have been given a fun introduction to golf, with follow-on golf provided.
The Critchley Award for the best major project was awarded to Birmingham City Council. The Birmingham Junior Golf Development Partnership was formed in September 2009 to raise the profile of golf and to challenge and improve perceptions about the sport. Six weeks of coaching was delivered to every school in the Birmingham area – to 350 schools and over 5,500 children. All the activity was linked to one of the 15 golf clubs that agreed to be part of the programme. Training opportunities were organised for teachers, PGA professionals and young leaders and competition was a key part of the delivery plan.
The Gallacher Award for volunteer of the year was presented to Angela Eadon, of Leamington and County Golf Club. Highlights of Angela’s work include applying for and winning grass roots funding, running Tri-Golf sessions, introducing PGA professionals to local schools and staging family Tri-Golf fun days. Angela set up coaching courses at the club for youngsters, including some for children with disabilities. She created a practice course and designed scorecards for the youngsters, marked children’s cards for handicaps and played a major part in improving subscription rates for juniors. In addition, by encouraging more girls to play, coaching numbers have swelled to more than 100.
The Sinclair Award for the PGA professional who has carried out junior development work of real excellence, went to Darren Stratman of Canford Magna Golf Club in Dorset. During 2010 in Poole alone, Darren ran activity sessions for 44 classes spread across 18 schools, and 263 children took part in a festival called ‘The Big Hit’. In the just-completed 2011 edition of The Big Hit this number had grown to 600. Darren runs a golf academy involving more than 200 juniors, works with Bournemouth Football Club on a ‘Kick ‘n’ Swing’ initiative, and has teamed up with a local charity to offer opportunities for disabled children.
The Burroughs Award is awarded to those who support young golfers as they deal with adversity. This was won by another PGA professional, Craig Thomas, from The Range, in Essington, Staffordshire. Craig started coaching children with special needs and disabilities in the summer of 2010, travelling long distances to offer free sessions and gain experience. He has since been appointed as the Disability Coach for the Staffordshire County Golf Partnership and has helped design a programme for young children in special schools and community schools. Craig has secured funding to support special needs youngsters to become members at Cannock Park and Greenfield Golf Clubs, and hopes to form a special needs team.
The Sir Henry Cotton Award, for long-term service to junior golf, was presented to Chairman of Golf Development Wales, Andy Morgan, who will now receive a grant kindly provided by the Stanley Morrison Charitable Trust.
Golf Development Wales is a successful strategic partnership between the Golf Union of Wales, the Golf Foundation and Sport Wales, supported by Ryder Cup Wales Ltd and The Professional Golfers’ Association. During Andy’s tenure as Chairman:
- Golf in schools across the country has grown tremendously
- Specific initiatives have been introduced that have targeted women and girls, families and inner city areas successfully
- Hundreds of teachers, volunteers and PGA professionals have been trained
- The support and resources available to clubs has improved
- New facilities have been built including five Regional Centres of Excellence.
Golf Foundation Chief Executive Mike Round said: “Andy Morgan’s vision, commitment and dedication ensured that the Ryder Cup did have a lasting impact in terms of the scale and quality of golf provision in Wales.”
Golf Foundation www.golf-foundation.org