Torvean Golf Club Junior Convenor Shirley Murray has been rewarded for her dedication to junior golf over the past 12 months by being named the RBS Volunteer of the year at the glitzy 2013 Scottish Golf Awards.
The prestigious event at the Hilton Glasgow also saw Stirlingshire club Strathendrick presented with the 2013 RBS Junior Club of the Year prize after startling recent success in its first year of delivering Scotland’s national junior golf programme, ClubGolf.
Murray, who qualified as a ClubGolf Level 1 Coach at Inverness-shire club Torvean in 2008, overcame the challenge of fellow volunteers Jean Leitch (Strathendrick GC, Central), Louise Murray (Elgin GC, Moray) and Keith Renton (Thornton GC, Tayside & Fife), each thoroughly deserving of recognition for their selfless efforts.
With her 70th birthday just around the corner, Murray has shown no signs of slowing down in her continued efforts to enhance Torvean’s junior programme.
Since becoming Junior Convener in 2009, the former matron has played a pivotal role in developing links with primary and secondary schools in and around Inverness, driving junior development and incorporating children within the social care system into the club.
According to club manager John Robertson, Murray’s influence has been nothing short of revolutionary for all children involved at Torvean.
He said: “Our junior section two or three years ago consisted of one or two kids whose parents were members of the club and weren’t really doing very much. Since Shirley decided to take this on that number has grown massively. I think last year we had something like 64-70 juniors.
“We’re obviously highly delighted that she has been recognised for the work she does. I think that if every club in the country had someone with the same enthusiasm as Shirley, they would get on better. She is a wee star.
“She is full of enthusiasm, full of energy and is a bubby, bright, sparkly kind of person. And, most importantly, she is great with the kids. She is one of those rare kinds of people.”
Murray, whose tremendous contribution to youth sport was also acknowledged when she was presented with the 2012 Young Persons Coach of the Year Award for Highland by sportscotland, was honoured to receive the highly-coveted prize ahead of her distinguished challengers.
“I’m absolutely over the moon, thrilled to bits,” she said. “I didn’t realise that we had packed so much into the year and I wasn’t expecting it. I’d had the award in October for coach of the year from sportscotland and I thought that was my lot.
“The big challenge was making it work but, with all of the facilities and potential we had at Torvean, I knew it was possible. I had to get the structure in place and make things happen and I think I have achieved that.
“I don’t need a lot of motivation but this award has really given me extra impetus to get more people involved in the coaching. There is great potential with our junior programme and things are starting to come together and work well.”
Having received a cheque for £500 to be reinvested into the club, with an additional £100 awarded for personal spending, Murray already has several projects earmarked for improvement with the junior section in particular set to benefit.
“We don’t have a resident professional at Torvean but I think that some of my kids are at the stage now where their game needs some fine-tuning,” she added.
“Probably most of the monetary award will go towards getting a pro over and getting these kids set-up with some lessons. That is the important thing for me.
“We have done our jobs as coaches. We have got the kids along to the club, we have got them their handicaps and they know what they are doing, but now they need a bit of input from a professional.”
Strathendrick, meanwhile, qualified for the four-strong shortlist for the RBS Junior Club of the Year as the leading facility to bring in ClubGolf coaching in the past 12 months.
Also competing for the increased first prize of £1,500 for return investment into junior golf were: Durness (Highlands and Islands), Falkirk (Central) and The Whitecraigs (West). Each runner-up receives £500 to go towards junior matters.
Having been described as a club “dying on its feet” even as recently as the start of the 2012 season, strengthening the junior section has offered Strathendrick a lifeline, which it has grabbed with both hands.
“We’re absolutely delighted and gobsmacked but very humble that we did win,” said David Hood, the club’s Junior Convener. “When you see the competition we were up against, the likes of The Whitecraigs and Falkirk, they are synonymous with junior golf, so it was highly unexpected.
“Standing back now and looking at things in hindsight, it was such a team effort and it’s made me realise how good a team we do have. It has been a team effort from the coaches, the people who have been administrating it through to the parents. I now realise we’ve got something great going there.”
After agreeing to establish its programme with ClubGolf Regional Manager for Central Scotland, Mandy Martin, Strathendrick contacted local teaching pro Barry Campbell and volunteer coach Jean Leitch to deliver it.
Children were attracted through a membership marketing drive in nearby West Dumbartonshire and the club quickly achieved its target of signing up 15 ClubGolfers in 2012. A total of 42 children took part in ClubGolf coaching in year one, many going on to take advantage of a much discounted annual junior membership rate.
This has had an incredible effect on the club, which has become a focal point for the local community.
“ClubGolf has helped Strathendrick tremendously,” said Hood. “It has reinvigorated the club and has brought spirit back to the club and it will help us create a legacy for the club.
“It has made a huge difference to the community, so much so that the local high school have approached us and asked us if we could do an after school club. It has had a huge impact on the community where the individuals would normally be out-priced for golf but now have an opportunity to come along and take up the sport.”
With significant funds to be re-invested into junior development at the club now at its disposal, Hood is confident Strathendrick can build on all that has been achieved so far and create a legacy that will see many more youngsters pick up the game at the Drymen venue.
He added: “It will go straight towards club facilities, such as a training area and a putting green. We have outgrown what we’ve got and if we can increase that, it means that we can benefit more kids in the community and get more kids involved. Anything that we’ve won is just going to get reinvested back into training facilities.”
The RBS Junior Club of the Year and Volunteer of the Year awards are sponsored by The Royal Bank of Scotland. Each award winner is selected following a review of all applications by an independent panel of judges.
Bruce Cook, Head of Group Sponsorship at RBS is pleased that the bank’s support will once again help enhance the development of golf in the community and encourage children to stay in the game. He congratulated this year’s successful candidates on their notable achievements over the previous 12 months.
“Tonight’s ceremony was a great curtain-raiser for the 2013 golf season and it was fantastic to see all of the work being done to develop the game at youth level. We are delighted to be part of that through our relationship with ClubGolf,” said Cook. “RBS is very proud to sponsor the Volunteer and Junior Club of the Year awards as it is so important to recognise the community and individual efforts like these that ultimately drive the game from the grass roots level.
“Both of tonight’s winners have shown what can be achieved when people have commitment and work together. With a model programme like ClubGolf, as well as individuals like Torvean’s Shirley Murray and those involved at Strathendrick, the future of the game is certainly in good hands.”
Using the occasion as an opportunity to thank all of those who contribute their time and effort to the development of the youth game in Scotland, ClubGolf Manager Jackie Davidson said: “Volunteers are absolutely pivotal to the ClubGolf programme and presenting the RBS Junior Club of the Year and RBS Volunteer of the Year awards are just a small token of our thanks for their invaluable work.
“Congratulations to everyone involved in the programme at Strathendrick, Shirley Murray’s club Torvean and, indeed, all of those that made the shortlists for this year’s awards.
“I’m sure their achievements will provide inspiration to many more clubs about the benefits of ClubGolf and welcome others to embrace the programme just as enthusiastically as they have. We look forward to hearing about further success from each club in the future and hope, with the generous support from RBS, they can reach out to even more young people in the years to come.”