Last month an enthusiastic group of nearly 150 local children took part in a series of clinics during the Faldo Series Russia Championship, staged at the impressive Le Meridien Moscow Country Club.
The clinics, conducted by Sir Nick Faldo’s coach, Keith Wood, and a number of local professionals, including Anastasia Kostina, who plays on the Duramed Futures Tour in America, were designed to give the group of young Russians their first taste of golf and were similar to a series of other grass roots activities taking place at many of this year’s Faldo Series events, both in Europe and in Asia.
Indeed, by the middle of March next year, when the Faldo Series Asia concludes with its Grand Final at Mission Hills, China, as many as 5,000 youngsters will have attended a Faldo Series Championship and will have been introduced to the rudiments of the game.
This year, to date, in addition to the clinics in Moscow, a group of local youngsters from The Model Primary School, Enniskillen, enjoyed a clinic, supervised by Lough Erne Director of Golf, Lynn McCool, at the Faldo Series Ireland Championship at the Lough Erne Resort, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, and similar sessions are to be arranged at the forthcoming Faldo Series Europe Championships in The Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Poland and Slovakia.
Each year in Asia, large numbers of children from the local communities also enjoy free coaching and other grass-roots activities at Faldo Series Asia tournaments in several countries, including China, India, Malaysia, Japan, Chinese Taipei, Indonesia and Thailand.
A number of the events in Europe are supported by the Ryder Cup European Development Trust and other local benefactors and are part of the Faldo Series’ goal to attract youngsters of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities into the game.
“Back in 1996, when we established the Faldo Series, the goal was to nurture new generations of young champions and that has proved very successful with Faldo Series graduates like Rory McIlroy, Nick Dougherty, Marc Warren, Yani Tseng, Melissa Reid and, most recently, Florentyna Parker, all going on to win at Tour level,” said Sir Nick Faldo, the six-time Major winner and founder of the Faldo Series.
“However, we did not just want to provide a platform for the elite youngsters, but also to broaden it out and attract other children who, in many instances, might not even have played golf before.
“It’s difficult to be exact, but I would estimate that since 1996 around 10,000 children from all sorts of backgrounds have taken part in our clinics and other grass-roots activities and, with the help of our partners, that number continues to grow all the time.”
One man who has witnessed at first hand the success of the Faldo Series clinics is Faldo’s coach, Keith Wood, who has warm memories of the time he spent teaching the children in Russia.
“It was a great trip and it showed just what can be achieved with a bit of effort and organisation,” he said. “A few years ago, hardly anyone in Russia knew anything about golf but now that has changed and there is a steady stream of youngsters coming through.
“The children at our clinic in Russia represent the future. Many of them had not played golf before but they seemed to enjoy it and, hopefully, some of them will want to continue to play. “That’s what the Faldo Series clinics are all about.”
John Yapp, the man who runs the Ryder Cup European Development Trust and is also the Financial Director of the PGA, is someone else who appreciates the work done by the Faldo Series and is keen to support its activities.
“The Ryder Cup Trust is delighted to support the Faldo Series activities in Russia in conjunction with the Russian Golf Federation and its other projects elsewhere,” he said. “The objective of our charity is to increase the participation in golf and the profile that the Faldo Series provides us is a great assist to the sustainable development of the game by the Russian Golf Association in its work with the PGA and the PGA’s of Europe.
The last word goes to Faldo, who likes nothing more than to take an active role in the clinics when his hectic schedule permits.
“The Faldo Series is sometimes regarded as an elite organisation but I’d like to think it’s a lot more than that,” he continued. “We’re proud to provide playing opportunities for some of the world’s most promising young golfers but it’s just as important to me – and our partners – to know we are touching the lives of younger children who might otherwise never have any contact with the game.
“I recall back in 2008 we used the inaugural Faldo Series Vietnam Championship at Ocean Dunes Golf Club to launch a monthly grass-roots coaching programme for local children and 12 months later some of the same youngsters were competing in the actual Faldo Series tournament.
“That’s what we’d like to see in all the countries we visit and I’m delighted to report it’s starting to happen in many of the places where we play.”
Faldo Series www.nickfaldo.com.