The Golf Foundation believes its team of playing Ambassadors all contributed to an Open Championship which can create a genuine legacy for young people, but there is a need for the whole golf industry to invest now in the next generation to protect the future of the sport.
During the week in the ‘R&A SwingZone’ playing Ambassadors, Ladies’ European Tour golfers Meghan MacLaren and Felicity Johnson and the European Tour’s Graeme Storm, all made special contributions to the Golf Foundation’s cause as the national charity seeks to help any young person ‘Start, Learn and Stay’ in golf and benefit from learning the life skills the game offers.
Golf Foundation activity appeared on BBC Breakfast, Sky TV, Open TV and Radio, BBC Online and BBC Regional and even Chinese TV. Meanwhile The Telegraph printed a major feature on a new Golf Foundation programme (Unleash your Drive) that aims to provide young people with wider life skills that can benefit them away from the course and in their wider lives. The Government’s Sports Minister, Mims Davies MP, also visited the SwingZone and spoke to the Foundation team about the importance of golf in schools and getting more girls involved in the game.
Having been provided with this perfect shop window for junior golf, the Golf Foundation team has stressed that it will continue to develop its school, community and club delivery of golf that reaches 500,000 young people each year, and last year introduced more than 50,000 boys and girls to golf club playing opportunities for the first time. But the charity also calls for more people in the golf industry to join in to help raise the bar, to invest in the future of the sport and benefit the lives of young people.
With the backing of its strongest supporter The R&A, the Golf Foundation team supported colleagues all week from the Confederation of Golf in Ireland (CGI), working together to grow the game further for young people in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. These two bodies shared the R&A SwingZone with 23 PGA Professionals who gave free lessons to all ages for the whole week.
Graeme Storm completed the week by playing in a Tri-Golf game called ‘Drive for Show, Putt for Dough’ with the youngsters before recording the top score in the against-the-clock Tri-Golf Challenge, beating the likes of HSBC Ambassadors Brian O’Driscoll and Tim Henman, Open player Ashton Turner and Felicity Johnson.
Felicity and fellow Foundation Ambassador Meghan MacLaren made a special guest appearance in the SwingZone to help this charity promote its added focus on girls’ golf. The pair’s encouragement of a group of girls from Royal County Down Ladies GC was much appreciated by all present.
This positive message was reinforced on ‘Open Saturday’ at nearby Portstewart GC, where local boys and girls showed off their new golf skills to help promote the ‘HSBC Hour’. This is a special initiative run with Golf Foundation sponsor HSBC which promotes open access to more than 550 junior-friendly golf clubs in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland; when juniors and family members are asked to bring along a friend to experience golf and their golf club.
And it wasn’t just about the kids at Royal Portrush: every day hundreds of golf lovers of all ages in the family had the chance to win one of eight top-of-the-range Titleist Scotty Cameron putters in a unique putting challenge supported by Titleist, along with Titleist golf balls and caps.
Meanwhile, the Golf Foundation presented the charity’s ‘Spirit of Golf Award’ to former Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley. This award is given each year to a leading international golfer who has inspired juniors by the way they have played the game. On receiving the award, Paul said: “This is such a wonderful sport that you can play all your life with all generations of the family together. Golf teaches its players so much about respect and character while it also provides great opportunities as young people grow up.”
The opportunity created at The Open for the Golf Foundation follows The R&A’s recent decision to strengthen its support of this charity’s work, including an investment of £2 million over the next four years.
Golf Foundation Chief Executive Brendon Pyle said: “The considerable support of The R&A reaches all aspects of our work, all year round. However, by backing our team so well during The Open Championship, this has presented a wonderful and unique opportunity to inspire the next generation of young golfers; a challenge which we are really excited to pursue in the time ahead.
“We are hugely grateful to all three of our playing Ambassadors, Felicity, Meghan and Graeme, for their amazing ability to inspire watching youngsters, and the SwingZone was a very exciting place to be in Portrush all week. Working with the CGI and PGA we all loved welcoming the wonderful golf fans. It is our job to use this excitement to help grow participation, but we are showing we are good for young people and good for the sport. We now need the whole golf industry to back grass roots junior golf to change how the sport is viewed and get more people playing golf. We want people in the industry to think, ‘How can we help the Golf Foundation from here?”