The Golf Foundation Presidents’ Awards at Wentworth on Wednesday (25th of May) celebrated the “incredible work” of volunteers and professionals in offering their time and commitment to help young people to enjoy all the benefits of golf.
Thanks to support from The European Tour, the ceremony was held in Wentworth Club’s elegant Ballroom, where the event’s largest ever audience heard the stories of ten award winners and their projects, which all help to develop the golfers and golf stars of the future.
The Golf Foundation is a nationally recognised charity that works with national partners to encourage young people to ‘Start, Learn and Stay’ in the sport. Its HSBC Golf Roots programme reaches 500,000 youngsters a year, creating a pathway from discovering golf in schools and the community to enjoying regular golf at golf clubs and driving ranges.
As a charity the Golf Foundation relies completely on the exceptional efforts of hundreds of junior organisers and ‘young leaders’ who mentor children new to golf, hundreds of PGA Pros who take the game into schools and welcome children back for club coaching, and the many families whose youngsters are discovering the game. In addition, the Foundation has trained a great many enthusiastic teachers who have embraced golf as a sport as part of the school curriculum.
The Presidents’ Awards ceremony was teed up perfectly by Ali Jodiyawalla, a 17 year-old from Birmingham who won the 2015 Gallacher Award for Best Volunteer. After being a hit with the audience last year and his continued excellent support of younger golfers at Hatchford Brook Golf Centre in Solihull, Ali was given the honour of opening this year’s awards – to much applause – as a symbol of all that is good about the junior game.
The warm and generous atmosphere at Wentworth was further enhanced with live music from a pop band playing their first public gig, boys and girls from Claydon High School in Suffolk; the school itself having strong ties with golf and the Golf Foundation’s work.
The Golf Foundation’s new President, Sandy Jones, presented the ten awards, while the charity’s Chairman Stephen Lewis thanked The European Tour and Wentworth Club for staging the event and all the Foundation’s core funders and supporters for backing the charity throughout another year.
Stephen Lewis said: “It is a great honour to represent the Golf Foundation which works with so many people who care deeply about the game. We thank all the volunteers, PGA Professionals and all the golf clubs up and down the country who are inspiring the next generation of young golfers. Congratulations to all the very worthy winners of our awards and it is a privilege to hear your stories today.”
Foundation Chief Executive Brendon Pyle talked the audience through the ten Presidents’ Awards winners and their “incredible work”, which includes the following:
The Critchley Award celebrates a project that has taken golf into the community and encouraged more young people to take up the sport. The deserving winner this year is the 3 Hammers Golf Complex, Near Wolverhampton.
Using a team of five PGA coaches, a par 3 golf course, 20 bay driving range and purpose-built 10,000 sq ft ‘Learn to Play Zone’ for children, the 3 Hammers has provided over 3,000 local youngsters with a taster session at the facility over the past year. An impressive 42% were girls.
More than 400 youngsters have completed the club’s six-week after-school programme as the venue acts as a successful feeder for the junior sections of local golf clubs.
Some 20 of past students have gone on to become PGA Professionals, while in 2015 the facility hosted the first ever National StreetGolf final in partnership with Sport England and Premier League 4 Sport.
3 Hammers owner Ian Bonser flew his team of Pros and two academy members to Wentworth by helicopter to pick up the award (one of these, Will Dunn, had sat his Maths A-Level that morning). “It’s a great honour,” said Academy Director Rob Bluck. “The youngsters doing so well are living proof that what we’re striving to do really works, so we’re all very proud.”
Ingleby Barwick Golf Academy led by Ross Jackson, was winner of the Bonallack Award, presented to a project that has demonstrated a successful pathway from schools into club membership.
PGA Professional Ross Jackson is at the heart of this scheme which works with the Golf Foundation, England Golf, Stockton SSP (school partnership), and Tees Valley Sport in order to grow the junior membership of his club.
• Over 3,000 pupils were taught in schools over two years;
• 200 of them received coaching at the golf facility;
• the club hosted 54 junior competitions over the course of 2015;
• a new junior specific teeing system was devised;
• and juniors were allocated their own area in the Bistro where they could ‘hang out, play games and have fun’.
The result – the club’s junior membership has grown from 20 to 60 in two years, with a target of 100 by December 2016.
Ross Jackson said: “What an honour! When we started this there wasn’t much junior activity but we created a new vibe and really changed the dynamic of the club. I dedicate the award to the young people we work with and everyone who has supported us.”
The Burroughs Award this year was presented to an individual who has made particular progress in golf in the face of personal challenges. Jordan Rosser, aged 16, has been recognised for thriving at his golf, playing with physical and learning disabilities, while as a volunteer he has also helped to make the sport more accessible for other young people in the community and at his golf club.
• Jordan has been Junior Captain at Rhondda GC and Junior Vice Captain at Bryn Meadows GC;
• he is a volunteer coach, who is highly respected by juniors and PGA coaches alike;
• he is a valued member of Golf Development Wales’s (GDW) Youth Panel;
• Jordan is part of the Swansea Inclusive Futures Project and was an inspirational speaker at this project’s camp.
According to Hannah McAllister of GDW, Jordan’s “commitment, enthusiasm and team-work has positively changed perceptions of disability amongst his non-disabled peers and we are very fortunate for his continued support of golf in Wales.”
On receiving his award, Jordan said he “really wanted to put something back into the game. It’s great for me to see a youngster picking up a club for the first time, and helping as they develop into playing regularly and competitions.”
As a charity, the Golf Foundation relies on the support of golf clubs. The Gus Payne Award is presented to the golf club that has donated the most money to the charity in the last year and for 2015 this was Walton Heath Golf Club in Surrey.
Members at Walton Heath clubbed together to make voluntary donations and raise an impressive £3,746. The club is no stranger to the Golf Foundation awards stage having last won the striking Gus Payne trophy in 2007.
Brendon Pyle, Foundation Chief Executive, said: “The Golf Foundation is extremely grateful to the members, committee and club officials for their support. This is a club that really understands how a great club can make a great contribution to the future of the game.”
The club’s Junior Organiser Andrew Lee said the club works hard “to offer young people an environment where they can thrive and develop their golf”, and stressed the importance for all clubs to encourage the grass roots of the game.
The Montgomerie Award is given to a young volunteer who has helped inspire other young people into golf and this was presented to Emma Allison, aged 17, who volunteers at weekly coaching sessions at Morpeth Golf Club in Northumberland, alongside the PGA Head Professional Martyn Jobling.
Emma also supports Martyn’s outreach work in schools using Golf Foundation ‘Tri-Golf’ and helps out at the local driving range during winter months.
As well as playing for Northumberland County Emma is also happy to assist with Northumberland County junior coaching sessions.
Emma said of her coaching: “I really like volunteering as I was their age when I started so it’s really good to help them through the stages I have experienced. I feel like a friend as well as a coach.”
Foundation Regional Development Officer Ian Harvey said: “Emma is seen as very much a role model to many youngsters and has made a huge impact in her home county of Northumberland. This talented golfer and generous volunteer is highly deserving of the inaugural Montgomerie Award.”
The Mackenzie Award is presented to a project that demonstrates how golf can be used to promote positive life messages to children and young people and even help change lives.
Alan Leason, of Sand Martins GC in Berkshire, used an HSBC Golf Roots Plus grant to tackle vandalism to the golf club by welcoming the young people involved into the club and making them ‘ambassadors’ for the venue.
Alan set up a Feel Inspired project, linking Sand Martins GC to a local Special Educational Needs (SEN) school. As a result, the club now offers a free scholarship to children with SEN.
The Feel Inspired programme has now been expanded to include nine golf clubs across three counties, all with links to local SEN schools. Alan coordinates taster sessions at each club and contacts parents to invite them to bring their children along.
In addition, he has raised £25,000 to support the overall project.
Alan Leason said: “It is wonderful to be recognised in this way, a great honour for doing something I enjoy.”
Jason Sorrell, Golf Foundation RDO, said:“I’m not surprised Alan’s work is being recognised as he is so passionate about helping young people to enjoy the benefits of golf, and is so generous with his time. He is also a great personality who inspires us all.”
The Sinclair Award is made each year to a leading PGA Professional. This year, the award is made jointly to two Pros who work together, Jonathan Pearson and Paul O’Donnell, of Cookridge Hall Golf Club, Leeds. Each received an ETIQUS golfer’s watch kindly donated by Gary Butler, with their awards.
In 2015, this pair coached 1,500 children in schools and community taster sessions, 400 entered through the gates of a golf club, 360 attended at least five weeks of coaching, and 25 new young members were created.
Eleven players under the age of 14 progressed into the Leeds and District training squad as part of Yorkshire Golf.
Some 150 youngsters have weekly golf lessons, including 60 girls; there are sessions for youngsters with disabilities and a satellite club for teenagers.
Around 120 youngsters use the Junior Golf Passport on a weekly basis.
On top of this, the coaches ran a new competition structure supported by the Golf Foundation which saw five tournaments in the area, accommodating 147 juniors from a variety of clubs and academies.
Brendon Pyle said: “For me, PGA Professionals are at the heart of golf. Our two winners perfectly demonstrate how PGA coaches can use HSBC Golf Roots initiatives to grow the game.”
Paul O’Donnell said on receiving the award: “We are lucky to have the support of a great team at Cookridge Hall. The owner deserves special thanks and all the volunteers who help us also, and I’d like to thank my Dad for his great support for the project from the start.”
The Laddie Lucas Award celebrates a project that has created more opportunities for girls with a strong link to the golf club.
Girls Golf Rocks in Essex saw the Golf Foundation, England Golf, Essex CGP, Essex County Girls, and Active Essex work together to encourage more beginner girls into golf.
Over 90 girls were welcomed at weekend taster sessions. From this simple start, 31 girls played in a par 3 competition, 20 girls progressed into regular club coaching and six became a club member.
PGA coaches at four golf clubs across Essex (The Rayleigh Club, Little Channels GC, Playgolf Colchester and Crowlands Heath GC) delivered the project with the support of 12 Essex County girl players who volunteered to act as role models/ambassadors based on their own experiences in golf.
The County girls’ backing was crucial to the success of the project, which is now being rolled out in eight new counties in partnership with England Golf.
The Foundation’s Regional Development Officer Katie Moggan interviewed four of the girls on stage at Wentworth, and their views on how golf can cement “great friendships, increase confidence and focus” and the small matter of “beating the boys”, went down very well with the audience.
The Gallacher Award acknowledges the work of the unsung hero, the willing volunteer, who commits so much of their own time and energy to ensure that young people love playing golf.
Judith Thornell, of Oswestry Golf Club, became the club junior organiser in 1999.
Her excellent work means that:
• some 50-75 juniors regularly attend the club’s Junior Friday Night, coordinated by Judith and her team of volunteers;
• Judith then helps with the junior lessons for five to six hours on a Saturday;
• Judith promotes golf in the local community including a golf scheme with a girls’ football club, often funding activities out of her own pocket, e.g. team uniform, entry fees into competitions and prizes for junior competitions.
One parent summed her up: “A fantastic junior organiser”.
On receiving her award, Judith said: “I’d like to thank the Golf Foundation for its support and also the many people at the club who help me, and the many families in the community who see Oswestry Golf Club as such a friendly venue.”
The Sir Henry Cotton Award is the Foundation’s most prestigious award, presented to an individual who has made a significant contribution to junior golf over a sustained period of time. This year’s recipient is David Owen of Knowle Golf Club, Bristol.
Along with the fine trophy, David receives a special grant generously provided by the Stanley Morrison Charitable Trust and an ETIQUS golfer’s watch kindly donated by Gary Butler.
David Owen became Junior Organiser of Knowle GC in 1999, when his daughter Sally joined as a junior member.
There are now 23 girls in the junior section, compared to 22 boys, which certainly bucks the trend in golf clubs around the country.
Over 40 children under the age of 10 attend a Monday night academy session run by our recipient.
With the club situated beside one of the most deprived areas of the UK, David set up a support fund with the help of Knowle members, which ensures that finances are not a barrier to any child playing the game at this club. Five pupils from a local secondary school have been given free membership.
David is committed to introducing more players to the game and some of these players have gone on to enjoy success at the elite level. Players such as Hannah Barwood (England international and Curtis Cup player) and Jo Hodge (England international and multiple County Champion).
For five years David was also chair of the Children in Golf Panel, which led the way in showing how the national bodies could work together to safeguard young people.
In 2011, he joined the EWGA Trust advisory panel, and helped to modernise the Trust. He is now a valued trustee for the newly established England Golf Trust and provides excellent support.
On receiving his award, David Owen said: “I would like to thank the Golf Foundation on behalf of all those children out there who have received support and encouragement from the charity. As you can imagine, I am totally passionate about encouraging children to take up golf.”
David said being a Junior Organiser isn’t always easy but is always worth it “when you see that sense of joy and achievement on the faces of the children when they hit that ball for the first time in the air, straight and long, or when they hole an outrageous 30 foot putt.”
David added: “One final and very important thank you goes to my wife Jennifer who has shown me so much support.”