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Challenge tour pros inspire future stars

Highlands pupils learn from professionals ahead of the Scottish Hydro Challenge

SOME of Europe’s top golfers were on hand to teach over 130 schoolchildren from local primary schools when the Scottish Hydro Challenge rolled into town at MacDonald Spey Valley Golf Club.

Meeting a professional golfer who plays on tour is one sure-fire way to inspire youngsters to keep up their involvement in the game and this opportunity, which was set up by ClubGolf, Scotland’s national

junior programme, allowed the children to take part in coaching clinics delivered by European Challenge Tour professionals.

The lucky local children that got the chance to go along to the Scottish Hydro Challenge were also delighted with the chance to put their own golfing skills to the test with a number of challenges after carefully watching professionals including Jamie McLeary.

“Having kids attend events like this is important,” said McLeary, who won the event back in 2009 and is a current member of Team Scottish Hydro. “I stopped playing golf for years and the reason I took it back up is because I watched the Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island in 1991 and I still remember it to this day.

“It’s good for kids to come along and see the work that professionals put in and it’s important that we encourage them into membership. If they do take up membership at a young age, they will then be more likely to stay in the game.

“It’s not just about unearthing the next superstar but about getting more people playing. The more people we have playing, the more likely golf clubs will stay open and the more likely it will be that we'll have the next generation of golfers coming through.”

The youngsters were also given the opportunity to get within touching distance of the Ryder Cup and have their photo taken beside it, just one of the many reasons Grantown Primary School teacher Heather Potter was happy to make the 15-mile trip with a group of children and get involved with the event with ClubGolf.

She said: “We get invited to come every year and the kids always have a great time. We really get a lot of golfers coming through because of the programme. They golf in school for four weeks before they come here and this finishes it off for them and gives them a taste of what it would be like to play golf properly and a lot of them are going to take up the opportunity to receive free tuition during the summer holidays from ClubGolf coaches.

“Usually afterwards the kids are eager to get out onto the golf course and they ask their parents if they can go out to the practice area. It is really excellent and I hope it continues. It’s great to see the kids getting to try it out.”

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