Exceptional Junior Golf Initiatives Thriving Across Scotland
With the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews, 2022 is set to be a major year for Scottish golf, and more schoolchildren across the nation will receive PGA quality coaching thanks to a pair of charities who have received funding from The Golf Foundation.
The Children’s Golf Trust and the Stephen Gallacher Foundation have been awarded grants totalling over £30,000 from The Golf Foundation. This is the UK charity that introduces children from all backgrounds to golf, helping to change young lives through the sport. The initiative is backed by Scottish Golf as part of its new junior framework in the ‘Home of Golf’.
The Golf Foundation’s investment will help the Children’s Golf Trust to support a further 20 schools through its progressive community coaching project.
The Children’s Golf Trust, based in Troon, is a charity which provides PGA Professional coaching delivery in primary schools around Ayrshire during the winter months (including across all seven years of a primary school). This creates interest among a new audience of children and families, which can then be pursued further in the spring and summer via the Trust at a choice of around 20 golf clubs in the region.
This innovative work means all the pupils across seven years of participating schools can enjoy learning golf together over a five week period, thus embedding the sport throughout the school, creating a spirit where older pupils and teachers are inspiring the younger ones.
Golf Foundation funding means that this winter, 30 schools could be in the programme (an extra 20 schools). With more than 250 youngsters in some schools taking part, introducing nearly 10,000 boys and girls of all abilities this winter is the target.
Kieron Stevenson, the PGA Head Professional at Royal Troon, is driving the initiative and says the funding will help the Children’s Golf Trust expand into areas around Glasgow, parts of Edinburgh, Perthshire and Fife, and Dumfries and Galloway.
Kieron said: “Many children only get into golf if their parents play. Taking the game into schools and making it part of the curriculum opens the eyes of youngsters and families who might otherwise never think of trying the game. Experiencing a sport at primary school age makes it far easier to enjoy later.
“Our projects also get the whole school playing together. This creates a fabulous, inclusive atmosphere and encourages kids from all backgrounds and of all abilities to enjoy a new game, at their own pace, together. We are delighted and grateful that the Golf Foundation has chosen to support us expand this successful method further over the next two years.”
The Golf Foundation is also awarding a grant to the Stephen Gallacher Foundation (SGF), based in Edinburgh, a charity that aims to give children the opportunity to learn and enjoy golf in a fun and welcoming atmosphere at local golf clubs. The winning formula here is created by transporting groups of 15 children and teachers from schools to golf clubs via minibus, there meeting an accredited PGA Professional for six weeks of group coaching; with many families then choosing to enrol their youngsters as junior members of the clubs involved.
An all-abilities competition structure is also key to the Stephen Gallacher Foundation. There are 40 informal ‘flag competitions’ for new players up to the age of 14 (with no minimum age), while competitive year group events reach Under 18 level, with some promising young players also being mentored. The 60-plus leading players qualifying from age group competitions contest the popular end of season ‘Race to Dunbar’.
Four-time European Tour winning golfer and Ryder Cup star Stephen Gallacher has been supporting Scotland’s young golfers through his Foundation since 2013. In normal years the charity would stage a popular end of season dinner to help raise funds for the programme but this hasn’t been possible for a second year due to Covid-19.
The Golf Foundation’s grant is thus a hugely welcoming investment, says Stuart Johnston of the SGF.
“We have created a simple, effective and very popular way of encouraging schoolchildren along to the great golf clubs we work with,” said Stuart. “Kids love to be able to make the trip with their teachers from school to experience golf for the first time at an actual golf club. They all love this and it’s great that at the end of their six weeks of coaching that many want to join the club.
“The Golf Foundation’s grant is really important and comes at a crucial time, and will mean that 16 new school groups will be able to take those first steps in golf at their local golf club. This is a fantastic contribution.”
The latest Golf Foundation investment comes from a funding pot the charity keeps to support junior activity in Scotland. The Foundation is particularly grateful to Scottish Golf for bringing together the various key junior bodies in Scotland as part of the national organisation’s new Junior Golf Framework.
Brendon Pyle, Chief Executive of The Golf Foundation, said: “The Golf Foundation is delighted to be supporting the Children’s Golf Trust and the Stephen Gallacher Foundation, who are both carrying out exceptional work to inspire more young people to take up golf through their school to golf club pathways.
“The delivery model is slightly different for each charity but importantly, PGA Professional coaches are at the heart of the work for both organisations, ensuring that thousands of primary age pupils in Scotland receive a high quality introduction to the sport with long-term opportunities at golf facilities. We would like to thank Scottish Golf for helping us connect with these charities who are both dedicated to making the sport more accessible for young people from all backgrounds.”
Inspiring Girls at Carnoustie Golf Links
Elsewhere, Carnoustie are one of the newest venues to share their golf development story with Scottish Golf. Working with Jill Duke and the Empowerment Academy for Girls, Carnoustie’s PGA Head Professional, Keir McNicoll, and his team deliver a programme that aims to address the drop off rates particularly of girls participation within golf.
Keir said, “At the start of this programme we were very aware of the drop-out rate of young golfers in their early teens, we wanted to address the issue, and in this case, particularly focusing on girls within the sport. Working with Jill has meant that we can create a virtuous cycle of girls inspiring girls within the game. We teach them not only how to play golf, but also about the wealth of other career and social opportunities available within the sport. In doing so, we hope that we can inspire a new generation into the game, those who are creative thinkers and strong leaders who will see the game grow and improve far into the future.”
Michael Wells, Chief Executive of Carnoustie Golf Links said, “Our Golf Development programme here at Carnoustie is something that we are very passionate about. We believe in growing the game in a sustainable way, making it accessible for anyone who wants to play. We want to break down the barriers that either stops people entering into the game or sees them drop-out in their early teenage years. This innovative new programme at Carnoustie has been extremely successful and is part of a number of different golf development initiatives that we run here. We’ve seen great success in our junior golf programme - The Carnoustie Craws - which welcomes over 300 junior golfers to coaching every week with approximately 80 of them being girls.”
Jill Duke said, “By empowering and equipping our girls with skills for life and work, our Golf Ambassadors are well ahead of the game. They are designing their future now by being admirable teenage role models and creating positive impact on culture change - surpassing our initial joint aims. They are a credit to themselves and this was evidenced by their developed resilience when we pivoted online during lockdown. The success of our leadership programme is evident here in this fantastic case study. Our girls are coming out of lockdown more connected, skilled, engaged and committed to collaborate. The girls within this programme are proactive agents for changing the narrative around diversity and inclusion in golf, they have learned how to keep things social and fun, care for others and lead themselves. They are exemplary candidates for their chosen career pathways and have future proofed their potential through the sport of golf.”
With three exceptional golf courses to choose from, including The Carnoustie Championship Course, it’s no wonder that young golfers are inspired to get involved.
Carnoustie has always been passionate about their junior golf programmes and golf development as a whole, however, the past few years has seen their programmes grow from strength to strength.
2022 is destined to be a milestone for golf in Scotland, and thanks to these grassroots initiatives, the future is bright.
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