Tom Sparks is the RDO for the South West, and our charity’s lead in supporting Communities. Read on to find out what he loves about his job, whether he supports City or Rovers, and what he really thinks about sandwiches….
How long have you been with the Golf Foundation?
I’ve worked for the Golf Foundation for six years now. Time flies when you enjoy your job!
Best thing about working for the GF
The people. Both inside the organisation within our team and the people we work with in clubs, communities, volunteers, teachers, coaches – they all make the job so enjoyable and rewarding. No day is ever the same and covering such a beautiful region in the South West – it’s a real pleasure.
What do you love about golf as a sport for young people?
Golf is a game you can play individually and challenge your own personal best, but can also be played in a team format, bringing out the social side of people. For young people, the lifelong learning from the game will never stop – both in terms of mastering those shots but more importantly those skills we take into our everyday lives to help us combat challenges and overcome obstacles. These life skills can help for all of your life.
Best Golf Foundation memory?
The best moments are often delivering at community events or training workshops for youth leaders – the people directly in front of young people on a daily or weekly basis. It gives me real pleasure to know we are enabling golf to be enjoyed in communities that don’t access golf in a typical way, at a golf club, as yet. The game can be enjoyed by any child and they are equally as much a ‘golfer’ by playing in their own environment; they are helping us to grow the game in a different way.
What does community golf mean to you?
This is a real passion of mine ever since my sports development officer days in local government. For me, sport should be accessible and welcoming to any young person, regardless of their background or situation. Golf isn’t necessarily a sport always seen as accessible or reachable for some communities. It can be perceived as expensive, elitist and unwelcoming for beginners. I’m proud to work for a charity that is always looking to challenge these barriers and develop opportunities for everyone to have a go.
We also know that golf brings people together. Our work supporting ‘Bring it on Brum’ in inner city Birmingham, as well as London Youth, has made a sporting difference, but also made a real impact on the children themselves: fantastic opportunities for children on free school meals to access fun, inspiring golf activity alongside a healthy lunch as part of their holiday provision. We have not only engaged children but also trained leaders, coaches, teachers and parents in how to safely deliver golf in any setting – truly creating opportunities for anyone to take part – just as our strategy sets out.
What is floating your boat at the moment?
It is really exciting that our golf is so well received within community groups that have never played the game before. The creative ways of using Golfway equipment really help to unlock the game for any type of environment – be that a skate park, tennis court or football pitch. Just playing golf for fun, what a starting point!
Outside of golf, what’s your favourite sport?
I’m a big football fan. I grew up just outside of Bristol and was fortunate enough to be on the red side of the city. My family are big Bristol City supporters and although I still play (more of a utility player these days), I try and get to as many City games as possible.
Who are your heroes/inspirations?
My biggest inspiration is my Mum, who we lost at the beginning of the year. She was my best friend and instilled all the values I need for life going forwards, particularly as a Dad to Imogen. Mum faced a truly challenging battle and dealt with it with not only amazing strength, but with positivity and a smile. She taught me that you must always keep trying to laugh and have fun, even during the tough times.
I’ve been inspired to run the Loch Ness marathon in October to raise money for the incredible hospice that looked after Mum so wonderfully. On 1st October my sister, best friend and I will be taking on the 26.2 mile route from Loch Ness to Inverness to raise as much as possible to help others receive the same incredible care in their time of need.
Favourite memory with the RDOs?
There are so many great memories to reflect on. I think my favourite time is when we’re all together at big events like The Open or BMW PGA Championship. I enjoy being with the whole team including HQ staff. It’s a close team and I really value sharing those moments with everyone when we’re busy engaging children and families on stand.
Which RDO is…
Most likely to be late? We are a very punctual team actually and pride ourselves on being early. Probably Stacey though.
The worst dressed off the course? Tough question that. We’re all a very stylish bunch – in our own ways. I mean if you pushed me for an answer… it certainly isn’t me!
The funniest? Andy Leigh.
Thinks they’re the funniest? Andy Leigh.
The best at golf? Ian Harvey is some player from what I’ve seen. Also known to don the goalkeeping gloves to be the GF’s very own Shaka Hislop! Being an all-round skilful lad and great RDO – to him they’re not mutually exclusive.
Most likely to order the weirdest thing on the menu? That’s probably me, unfortunately. I get plenty (too much) stick for being a fussy eater and not liking sandwiches. Luckily Linda at HQ takes pity on me and tends to look after me well!