A day out Golfing 4 Life
Feature from Golfshake ambassador Andrew Picknan.
I was recently asked if I fancied representing Golfshake in an event at the newly created Centurion Club in an inaugural media event to support a golfing charity called Golfing4Life.
Having never played the Centurion I checked out the previous reviews of the golf course and it is clearly one that has benefitted from massive investment and is being tipped to become one of the finest in southern England.
Also researching “Golfing 4 life” my interest was increased further when I reviewed some of the testimonials including one from one of my all time sporting hero’s. Sir Clive Woodward.
Inspire not only performance in sport but in life itself
“Golfing4Life provide young talent with opportunity, encourage their belief and give a core understanding of human values. These three fundamentals inspire not only performance in sport, but in life itself.”
Sir Clive Woodward
Rugby World Cup winning coach
Golfing 4 Life
Talented golfers’ ambitions should not be limited by financial constraints.
That’s the belief of the not-for-profit organisation Golfing4Life (G4L) which supports the development of young golfers who have the ability and desire to reach the pinnacle of their chosen sport.
It was formed by the parents of some of the country’s most talented young golfers, G4L utilises its network and knowledge pool to identify talent that has the potential and commitment to reach great heights in the game of golf.
It was realised that many talented young golfers were finding it difficult to attain the funding that was necessary for them to compete and they were struggling to maintain their participation in the sport.
It is clearly very important to ensure that none of the strict regulations and rules regarding the amateur golfers status are breached so top legal advice was obtained to ensure that any financial support for these elite golfers would comply in all respects with the rules of golf.
All of the first beneficiaries have become regular internationals, with all funds channelled through the respective golfing unions. This ensures that any funds provided are for golf related expenses complying with R&A rules.
G4L are now looking to expand the level of support to others and are making a concerted effort to widen the public knowledge of the organisation.
They have already established close partnerships with the likes of clothing manufacturer J. Lindeberg, Goodwood golf club and leading golf marketing agency GMS to help provide additional support for the players. They have also developed relationships with some of the best and most well-respected coaches in the UK.
G4L also has an active relationship with the Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT) and Teen Cancer America (TCA), its North American cousin.
The links to the Teenage Cancer Trust are designed to give the elite athletes a true perspective on the professional game they aspire towards. They meet patients and survivors and as one of them said “When you go to the hospice or have personal experience of cancer it gives you a different way of thinking about the importance of that missed putt or bad shot"
Commenting on his involvement with G4L, PGA Level 4 England Regional and Middlesex Head Coach Alex Saary said,
“Being part of the G4L coaching team is a huge privilege and honour for me. I have dedicated my whole career to helping junior golfers of all level develop their games and characters.G4L is a fantastic project which blends a perfect balance of helping elite juniors achieve their dreams, providing coaching for those juniors who would not normally be able to afford it, and raising money for very worthwhile causes.”
My Experience - Teeing it up with Aspiring Professionals
The Media event was held in October 2016 with the course basking in the beautiful autumnal sunshine. I arrived early being greeted in the car park by a gentleman offering to clean and valet my car as I played golf. This was a new golf related experience. One of many that day.
We enjoyed an excellent breakfast and were then given the opportunity to speak to our golfing elite, parents and founders of the group.
What I found unusual was the fantastic atmosphere in the room. At this elite level this group play against each other regularly but each was greeted as a friend and golfing colleague.
I mentioned this to one of the parents and she said that this is one of the additional benefits of the group as they offer mutual support for each other in a variety of ways. As a parent of a younger golfer she has developed friendships with other parents and is able to get valuable advice from those who have had similar experiences to herself.
Following registration and announcement of the teams the inaugural Golfing4life Media day began.
Each golf media outlet representative was to captain a side made up of elite all international amateur golfers. These are the best young men and women golfers in the UK at the moment.
They all play off scratch with an individual trophy for the winner which includes entry to the Gecko Tour in Spain for the winter. J Lindeburg also provided clothing outfits as prizes for the winners.
The best media side win a trophy and tickets to the 2017 Royal Albert Hall show in support of the Teenage Cancer Trust donated by its patron, Roger Daltrey CBE of The Who.
The practice facilities at this venue are superb but I immediately started to feel inadequate. As I prepared on the driving range I have genuinely never been as intimidated by a group of teenagers in my life.
Multiple pyramids of top quality golf balls, a range master and young men and women out driving me by hundreds of yards.
The separate short game and bunker are also of the highest quality. I moved to the practice green to watch some of the most impressive putting I have ever seen. By this time I was petrified.
I was overhearing conversations from those who had played the course before describing how dog legs could be taken on with a 280 yard high draw.
I recognised that this was to be a real golfing challenge off my handicap and I decided to try and play my own game.
I ran back to the car and interrupted the valet. I stashed my driver in the car as she has become a temperamental beast of late and took out the trusty mini driver that has a maximum carry of 250 yards on a good day with the wind and downhill.
We had a team conference and I volunteered my “Mr Magoo” nickname requesting team guidance on reading putts should I ever reach a green. At this point I really did mean if I ever reached a green at any point in the round.
My first job as Captain was to delegate the job to Danny who accepted it with relish! I was nervous on the tee. That doesn’t do it justice. I was terrified!
Camera crews and advertising boards do not feature in my usual rounds of golf.
I explained about my handicap of 20 and one of the lads kindly offered the information that he was 9 years old when he last played off 20. Psychologically, I was spent before I even walked onto the tee box.
I realised that a gallery had developed waiting to see our team begin the event.
Names announced, order of play declared. Thankfully no mention of my handicap was made. My name was last called. No pressure there then.
My team mates were Conor Gough (14 yrs) Danny Daniels (17 yrs) and Harrison Ottley-Wood (17 yrs). All international standard players and superb golfers.
Remember the names as I am convinced all will go on to become Tour professionals. 14 year old Conor currently holds the course record at Stoke Park Golf club (9 under gross)
I had been told that the first 6 holes were very reminiscent of Woburn with tight tree lined fairways. The opening hole, a par 5, is a stunning hole visually. My team mates hit great shots, and then it came to my turn on the tee.
I could feel my heart beating in my chest. I could hear it outside of my body. It was a surreal moment. I breathed out and said internally to myself “rhythm”.
Apparently, from the tee, this sounded like a tennis type grunt as I lurched into the ball. Miraculously the ball sailed forth and landed in the middle of the fairway I actually got applause from the watching gallery and we were off.
I made nett par on each of the 5 first holes playing off the tournament tees hitting some of the most consistently accurate shots I had played all year.
This was wonderful. This was my golfing nirvana.
Clearly it is what I have needed all year. I need to be playing in an elite golfing environment to bring out the best in me. Tournament Tees that's what I need. How do I tell my usual golfing buddies?
Then I came back to earth with a bump as I sliced the next tee shot (and then a provisional) into an adjoining county!
This round of golf was nerve racking, but fantastic fun. Having been initially intimidated by the quality of the field it quickly became just another round of golf on a magnificent golf course with some fantastic people.
My children are no longer teenagers but I know from personal experience what a challenge they can present to both parents and themselves.
I was truly inspired by the young men and women golfers I met at the event. They were communicative, confident, humorous and superb company. Our spectator gallery reduced as our round progressed until just friends and family remained. Still many more spectators than I am used to.
It brought home to me the level of commitment made by these families when they automatically dropped into the role of course marshals, ball spotter, scorer and chef de partie (Talking of food, If you ever get the chance to play at this venue ensure that you visit the half way house. It’s an absolute belter).
The commitment needed by the elite golfers is matched by that of the parents as they also take on the additional roles of chauffeur, secretary, psychologist and mentor.
After a short time they were winding me up for fun. It was incredible to listen to their conversations. Hitting a particular area of green in order to generate backspin is not a conversation I usually hear from my playing partners.
“280 yards to carry the bunker on the right but there is a good run out after” is a conversation I have never heard before!
I learnt lots about green reading from them, they were all superb putters.
My own game? I had 9 pars, 2 birdies and an eagle. I still only got on the card 5 times!
Danny played brilliantly to record 5 under par gross being narrowly beaten by an excellent birdie in the play off for the individual first place prize.
These young men were fantastic company and we had a wonderful time. If these young people, supported by G4L, are the future of golf in the UK then it is in a good place.
As a 4 BBB team we recorded 91 stableford points, playing off the Tournament tees which were 6756 yards distance. And to cap off my day we were the inaugural winners of the media trophy for 2016.
My speech on behalf of the winning team was well received and that is yet another rare experience for me.
The sacks in the picture all contain a cushion that proudly bears the logo of the Teenage Cancer Trust. These cushions are given to patients and survivors and I imagine that they provide real comfort at an impossibly difficult time. Mine is proudly displayed at home as a permanent reminder of an inspirational day on the golf course.
For more information about Golfing4Life visit www.Golfing4Life.com
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