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ClubGolf's Summer Festival inspires next generation

The programme helped to introduce a large number of youngsters to the game over the holidays

AS the country’s schoolchildren reluctantly return to lessons after one of the best summers in recent memory, it’s the perfect point to reflect back on ClubGolf’s Summer Festival during which a record number of youngsters were introduced to golf.

While Phil Mickelson’s victory in the Open Championship at Muirfield may have been the highlight of the season for many, for children, the fortnight preceding golf’s oldest major was undoubtedly just as big.

ClubGolf Camps were first on a jam-packed agenda and saw nearly 1000 children attend a week-long coaching programme at 68 clubs across the country, many of whom had never picked up a golf club before.

Organised at Scottish clubs far and wide, camps gave children then chance to get to grips with golf from a fun, games-led approach, designed to inspire their imagination for the game.

“They all really enjoyed it which was great to see,” said Blairgowrie pro Sam McLaren, who entertained 20 children during camp week at the 2014 Junior Ryder Cup venue. 

“A lot of the children enjoyed the games which aren’t golf specific, games that aren’t using balls or clubs but are for balance and coordination, that seems to have gone down well but they loved their time on the range as well.”

Hundreds more young golfers enjoyed an extra special visit to Castle Stuart over the week of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, where ClubGolf provided a unique range of activities throughout the tournament to entertain and inspire these ‘VIPs’.

Proceedings started in style for almost 500 young golfers with The Big Chipping Challenge, where First Minister Alex Salmond and top Scottish pros Scott Jamieson and Martin Laird took part in a massive exhibition of short game skill.

With more than 70 teams of children involved, competition was stiff, with Mr Shabalabah (A.K.A Team 51) made up of kids from Nairn Dunbar, The Nairn and Cruden Bay golf clubs, coming out on top.

As the tournament proper began, youngsters put into practice what they’d learned from watching some of the world’s best on the Moray Firth links with a number of challenges and games within the ClubGolf Activity Zone. There was also tuition supplied by ClubGolf volunteers and Paul Lawrie Foundation PGA pros and even the ClubGolf café.

One week on at the Open Championship, the short game was again under scrutiny as children showed off their skills in the PuttZone six-hole putting challenge. Here, kids could bring their parents to compete with a short stick in hand, overseen by ClubGolf volunteers.

Learning from the best in the business was the order of the day for ClubGolfers at the Ricoh Women’s British Open. On the eve of the tournament, girls from the local area attended a special clinic, courtesy of Scottish star Carly Booth and Helen Alfredsson, former Solheim Cup captain.

A total of 20 girl ClubGolfers from Tayside and Fife and a further 20 juniors from St Andrews Links Trust Junior Golf Association descended on the St Andrews Links Academy driving range to learn some valuable swing tips and on-course advice from the professionals.

These aspiring young girls were welcomed as part of ClubGolf’s activities around the only women’s major on British soil by event organisers the LGU and IMG.

Booth was hopeful that having access to established female tour professionals can inspire these youngsters to stay with golf for the foreseeable future.

“I hope they learned a lot from us,” said Booth, who was only 14 when she played in her first LET event.

“As a ClubGolf ambassador, it’s brilliant to see more and more girls getting involved in golf. There were always very few girls playing when I was growing up and I was always playing against boys and a lot older girls and ladies, so it is nice to see so many girls out here today trying to become golfers themselves.”

The timing of these events could not have been better to build on the growing strength of the girls’ game, with First Minister Alex Salmond recently announcing that more than half of new junior girl members in Scotland (61%) have come from a ClubGolf programme.

Mr Salmond was given first-hand experience of the benefits of ClubGolf when he played with 2013 Scottish Girls Champion Connie Jaffrey in the Ricoh Women’s British Open Pro-Am.  

He was hugely impressed with the way Connie conducted herself on the golf course and equally awed with the quality of her play, which included no less than five birdies and a tee shot that earned her longest drive amongst the female pro-am competitors at the 14th.

He said: “Connie is a lovely young girl with a great swing and is full of promise. Hosting events like the Ricoh Women’s British Open is great for golf in Scotland. It’s inspirational for so many girls across the country to see the very best professionals in the world playing here in Scotland and obviously provided a fantastic opportunity for Connie, who did just great.

“This is a game for everyone and it has to be a game for everyone, for men and women, young and old, and ClubGolf does a great job in giving as many people as possible the opportunity to experience this fantastic game.”

Also in that group was top Scot and world number eight Catriona Matthew, who, as a ClubGolf ambassador, is delighted to witness talent like Connie and her North Berwick compatriot Clara Young coming through the ranks.

“The work ClubGolf is doing is fantastic. It is difficult knowing how to get girls involved in golf but ClubGolf has really got it and is getting them started at an early age and ensuring they have friends to play with, which is important.”

Further opportunities for children of all ages and those interesting in becoming ClubGolf volunteers are still available during  this year.

The SSE Scottish Senior Open (August 16-18) at Fairmont St Andrews, the Johnnie Walker Championship (August 22-25) hosted by Gleneagles and the AAM Ladies Scottish Open (August 30-September 1) taking place over Archerfield Links will each provide the chance for young girls and boys to take part in clinics, tuition and fun games, further inspiring their long-term interest in golf.

To find out more about all of the events that have taken place as part of the 2013 ClubGolf Summer Festival and how children can get involved in those still to come, visit www.clubgolfscotland.com.

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