The Golf Foundation enjoyed a highly successful week at The Open Championship, and thanked The R&A for providing the stage and support to reach so many youngsters and offer a first taste of golf.
As millions watched the Championship, the Golf Foundation was given a unique opportunity to showcase its HSBC Golf Roots programme, which encourages children from all backgrounds and circumstances to enjoy golf and learn positive life skills. HSBC Golf Roots is expected to reach one million children per year by 2013.
The Championship’s organisers created the ‘R&A Swingzone’ in the tented village at Royal Lytham & St Annes for the whole of Open week. Here, the Golf Foundation team worked alongside the Professional Golfers’ Association in support of the England Golf Partnership to introduce golf to new participants.
Highlights included the presentation of the Foundation’s Spirit of Golf Award for 2012 to broadcasting legend Peter Alliss. Peter became the sixth golfer to receive the award, following Gary Player (2007), Tony Jacklin (2008), Lee Westwood (2009), Ian Poulter (2010) and the new Open Champion Ernie Els in 2011.
Golf Foundation President Colin Montgomerie presented the special silver and glass ‘claret jug’ trophy to Peter in front of a packed audience of golf fans at Royal Lytham. The crowd cheered when Colin volunteered to compete against local children in a Tri-Golf challenge, while Peter took the microphone and looked after the commentary in his own inimitable style.
Through invited school groups and family visits to the R&A Swingzone, young boys and girls played Tri-Golf and Golf Xtreme games, competitions and a special putting challenge sponsored by Titleist.
A number of schoolchildren were particularly fortunate to meet their sporting heroes. Golfers competing in The Open, including Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello, England’s Sam Walker and Australia’s Marc Leishman and Greg Chalmers (pictured), took on the children in skills games against the clock, then answered their questions and signed all their shirts to make it a day to remember.
Courtesy of Golf Roots sponsor HSBC, HSBC Ambassadors Gavin Hastings and Jonathan Davies from the world of rugby and tennis great Tim Henman joined Ryder Cup hero Colin Montgomerie to create a star-studded fourball for a Tri-Golf match with a difference. The quartet played against boys and girls from two Lancashire golf clubs, Heysham Golf Club and Euxton Park Golf Centre, both acclaimed HSBC Golf Roots Centres. The sporting giants against the young amateurs thrilled the crowd, with honours being shared in the match at one game all (the children won the putting game!).
Many youngsters also took advantage of the free lessons given by PGA professionals throughout the week. The pros were present thanks to the PGA, who sponsored the professionals to teach the young golfers as part of the organisation’s commitment to junior golf.
The week at the R&A Swingzone was completed in the best possible style when HRH The Duke of York paid an informal visit. The Foundation team was able to tell The Duke about all of the charity’s recent developments and discussed how it could build further on this positive momentum.
Brendon Pyle, National Development Manager of the Golf Foundation, said: “This was a fantastic week for the Golf Foundation team. It was a huge opportunity to highlight HSBC Golf Roots and show how this is making a great impact in our schools, communities and golf clubs. Our team is working very hard all year round to help to grow the game in support of the national governing bodies, by demonstrating to children that golf can be great fun and can include everyone.
“This week would be impossible without great help from all our partners, particularly of course The R&A. The R&A is our strongest supporter financially but the creativity that goes into making the R&A Swingzone exciting for youngsters means that boys and girls visiting The Open Championship, who are inspired by watching all the great golfers, can then enjoy a very first hit at a target with our Tri-Golf equipment. This is very important.
“Families can then learn from our team about follow-on opportunities to enjoy their golf and its ‘skills for life’ benefits in the future, and of course all this activity really helps to raise our profile as a charity which seeks to change the lives of children and young people.”
Brendon added: “It was also great to share the R&A Swingzone with all the PGA professionals who were giving lessons to new golfers. They were a highly professional group and their expert encouragement to new players was superb.”
HSBC Golf Roots and the Golf Foundation www.golf-foundation.org