The BIGGA the better at Royal Port Rush

THE British & International Golf Greenkeepers Association has unveiled the line-up for the volunteer support team that will be heading to Northern Ireland for the first time ever as The Open Championship tales place at Royal Portrush Golf Club.

The BIGGA members who have gained a place on the team are given unprecedented access to golf’s greatest championship and they will assist with maintaining bunker presentation throughout the duration of the tournament.

Each year The R&A requests BIGGA’s assistance with the championship, meaning BIGGA members have been on hand to witness some of the greatest moments in the history of the game, including Francesco Molinari’s incredible bogey-free final round in difficult circumstances that brought Italy its first major championship in 2018.

The 62 bunkers that will be in play is the lowest total of any current Open venue, but the team members will hope players stay out of Royal Portrush’s famous Big Nellie bunker, measuring a massive 25-feet high, which has been recreated on the 7th hole.

Every Full BIGGA greenkeeper member is eligible to apply for a place on the team, but with The Open being hosted on Irish shores for the first time since 1951, there is a large contingent of Irish and Northern Irish members who have joined the team.

Among them is Aaron Small, course manager at Belvoir Park in Belfast, who will be joining the support team for the first time in 10 years.

Aaron, 42, said: “The Open is brilliant for Northerm Ireland in general, but as a golfer and a greenkeeper, it’s the ultimate. When I found out I was on the team I was absolutely elated, I couldn’t be happier.

“For a golfer at my club to say to me ‘will you be watching The Open?’ and I can turn around and say ‘no, I’m working at it!’ will blow them away. It might not be a big role in the grand scheme of things, but it’s just great to be able to play your part.”

Members of the support team may also be called upon at short notice to assist Course Manager Graeme Beatt and his team with early morning preparation work and divoting duties. With early tee times and golf being played until nightfall, the week is intense and physically-demanding. But it’s also an opportunity to get inside the ropes at this once-in-a-generation tournament.

BIGGA Chief Executive Officer Jim Croxton said: “Excitement is building for The Open at Royal Portrush and having spoken to Course Manager Graeme Beatt, I know he’s looking forward to welcoming the BIGGA members to the course for the duration of the event.

“Royal Portrush is going to be a stern challenge for the world’s best golfers and I’m delighted that BIGGA members have played such a vital role in preparing the course. Graeme and his team have been working hard for a number of years to ensure the Dunluce is in world class condition, with a lot of restructuring and course improvement taking place. The pressure to perform will never be higher, but they’re a fantastic example of what a talented, passionate team can achieve.

“The Open is a long week and everyone works extremely hard, but the rewards are incredible. Everyone at BIGGA is looking forward to giving our all to make sure the 148th Open is a tremendous success.”

The BIGGA Volunteer Open Support Team will be provided with accommodation, food, refeshments and uniform for the event.

The 148th Open Championship is on July 18 – 21 July.

 

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Four-way tie as Alliance get into gear

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ON THE BALL: Mark Smith, Darren Bidwell, Olly Smith and Ollie Whiteley

THE Manchester and District Golf Alliance began the second half of its winter season at Hart Common with a full field.

And they maintained the 100 per cent record of captain Dukinfield’s Dave  Green  of no postponements during his year of office.

Top individual pro spot shared by Olly Smith (Ashton-on-Mersey) and Ollie Whiteley (Bramall Park) both on 40 points, one ahead of  Andy Palmer (Chorley).

It was also close in the pro-am with three pairs locked on 44 points, Stamford pro Mark Smith and Brookdale partner Darren Bidwell prevailing on countback.

Am-am winners were Charles Herbert (Styal) and Ross Birch (Northenden) with 44 points.

SkyCaddie and PGA go the distance

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PUT IN THERE: Liam Greasley, PGA Executive Director – Commercial, pictured with James Holmes, SkyCaddie general manager UK and Europe

SkyCaddie, the brand that walks every golf course to ensure the maps on its distance measuring devices are accurate, has taken another step forward by extending its PGA Partner agreement for two more years.

Under the agreement, in its 13th season, it is the official PGA Partner for distance measuring devices, mobile swing analysers (SkyPro) and launch monitors (SkyTrak).

The agreement also includes title sponsorship of The PGA’s popular and keenly-contested Pro-Captain Challenge, which SkyCaddie has sponsored since 2017.

Competitors in the most recent Pro-Captain Challenge final, staged at Arabella Golf Mallorca, negotiated the resort’s Golf Son Muntaner course aided by SkyCaddie’s newest range-topping GPS device, the SX500.

The tournament was won by Five Lakes Golf Club pair, PGA Professional Gary Carter and Nigel Popper, the club’s captain. The former insisted the SX500 played a key part in their victory.

He said: “If you’re serious about your golf you’d be a fool not to have a SkyCaddie SX500 – especially on an unfamiliar course.”

The new SkyCaddie SX500, which has the ability to give distances to today’s pins, is bringing serious golfers and PGA pros back to GPS with its powerful game improvement features.

And SkyTrak, the company’s personal launch monitor and simulator, has also been highly popular with PGA Professionals and keen amateurs since its introduction in late 2015.

Commenting on the two-year extension and the brand’s enduring relationship with The PGA, James Holmes, SkyCaddie general manager UK and Europe, said: “We are delighted to be entering our 13th successive year as a PGA Partner.

“We are also happy we will be helping to raise awareness for Prostate Cancer UK in this year’s PGA Pro-Captain Challenge.

“The tournament is perfect for us – just as The PGA is at the heart of golf, the Pro-Captain Challenge is at the heart of the golf club.

“Through it, we speak directly both to the head PGA pro and the captain, which connects us with the people at the core of the club.

“Both SkyCaddie and SkyTrak are deeply embedded in life at UK golf clubs; we visit hundreds of them annually whether to update their course maps for SkyCaddie customers or talk about how they are using SkyTrak.”

The accuracy of SkyCaddie’s devices is achieved by using professional mappers who walk every course recording critical target information with sub-yard precision.    

PGA Members can benefit from this technology thanks to an exclusive retail offer which is an integral part of the partnership agreement.

Liam Greasley, PGA executive director, commercial, added: “I’m delighted our partnership with SkyCaddie has been renewed and that they will continue to be title sponsor of the PGA Pro-Captain Challenge.

“SkyCaddie has been at the forefront of the development of GPS technology in golf that has had such a positive impact on the game.

“The introduction of the SkyTrak launch monitor and the brand new WiFi-enabled SX500 undoubtedly offer both coach and golfer cutting edge tools to enhance both performance and enjoyment of the game.”

 

Exceptional volunteers are awards finalists

EXCEPTIONAL members from four clubs who inspire children and new players to have a great golfing experience have been shortlisted for England Golf’s Volunteer of the Year Award

Lancashire’s Mark Feeney has revitalised a junior section. Berkshire’s Susanne Lesley and Owen Davis have smoothed the way for more than 200 new members. Cheshire’s Judith Sandford has given a new lease of life to her club’s ladies’ section. And Newmarket’s Marcella Tuttle is combatting dwindling women’s membership.

England Golf chief executive Nick Pink said: “These volunteers are quite exceptional. They put in countless hours to help other people have a great golfing experience and our game is the richer for them, and the many thousands of other volunteers across England who do the same.”

The winner will be announced at the England Golf Awards 2019, sponsored by adidas Golf, on  March 21. The glittering black tie event will be hosted by BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker at the Royal Lancaster London. Tickets cost £90 per person and include a drinks reception and a three-course dinner with wine.

The finalists:

Mark Feeney has transformed the junior section at West Derby Golf Club in Liverpool in just a couple of years.

Despite having a full-time job and a young family of his own, he’s put his heart and soul into the section and been rewarded with a rapidly growing membership of very happy young golfers.

He’s won the praise of the parents for the way he encourages children of all abilities, even setting up a short course for beginners. He runs weekly competitions, holds a Ryder Cup event and put on a presentation evening which attracted 120 people.

The section has grown from just two or three juniors to over 40 members – and some parents have joined the club as well.

One of his nominators summed up: “Mark’s philosophy on golf for junior players is brilliant: let them play and have fun and they will love the game and only get better…Thanks Mark for making my boys love golf  – and I think that comes from everyone associated with this club.”

Susanne Lesley and Owen Lewis have smoothed the way for over 200 new members at Royal Ascot Golf Club.

They created and run the club’s buddy scheme, settling in new members with the support of others who know the ropes.

Susanne and Owen contact each new member personally and introduce them to the ways of the club, help them to meet other members and join in social roll-up groups. They’ll also play with new golfers and mark their cards for handicap.

The buddy scheme has its own website page, has raised the club’s profile locally and helped it recruit and retain members. It has been so successful since it started in 2015 that new members have recommended it to their friends, who have also joined the club.

Susanne and Owen also host a range of events for new members, such as rules and etiquette evenings and new golfers’ competitions.

Their nomination comments: “Susanne and Owen have committed a huge amount of their time to buddying new members and supporting them through their initial weeks of membership.”

Judith Sandford used Get into Golf to give a new lease of life to the ladies’ section at Cheadle Golf Club in Cheshire.

Back in 2012/13, when Judith was ladies’ vice-captain, she realised that membership was declining and feared that section would fizzle out in five years.

But in the last six years, she’s helped introduce 60-70 women to golf, and over half have joined the club, making the section a vigorous, growing group.

She got together with the club’s professional to launch Get into Golf beginner lessons and create a pathway into membership for the new golfers, working with a new group of beginners every six months.

Jacquie Popplewell, the 2019/20 Lady Captain was a member of Judith’s first beginner group. She said: “Without Judith’s passion to get ladies playing golf, her enthusiasm, patience, encouragement and commitment to help me play golf, I would not have had the smooth transition from total beginner to competitive golf and would certainly not be next year’s Lady Captain.”

Marcella Tuttle is described as a “tornado of a driving force” and she’s used that energy to attract 60 women to try golf at her club – and to persuade 40 members to support them as buddies.

Her three-level academy programme is her answer to dwindling women’s membership at The Links, Newmarket. And, of the 60 who attended the tasters, 50 signed up for the second stage and it’s hoped all of them will move on to stage three and membership.

Marcella’s commitment, enthusiasm and can-do attitude was summed up in her nomination: “She organised the club professionals; wrote, printed and distributed hundreds of posters and flyers; redesigned the club’s website to include a “New to Golf” drop-down page; galvanised 40 existing lady members to be mentors to welcome and befriend the new ladies; purchased 50 golf ball tubes to give to the new ladies; encouraged existing members to part with 500 golf balls to fill said tubes; and laid on glasses of bubbly and buffets after the practice sessions.”

Myerscough students warm to training

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A GROUP of higher and further education golf students travelled to Portugal for warm weather training.

They headed to the excellent facilities at the Dom Pedro Vilamoura Resort for the annual development camp which is a large part of the college’s winter provision ahead of a hectic year of competition both at home and abroad.

The travelling party comprised of 31 higher education students, 15 further education students and six members of Myerscough College and University Centre staff.

They played rounds on various Portuguese courses including Laguna, Millennium, Old Course and Pinhal, while also enjoying world class training facilities and expert technical playing advice from a quality support team.

Rick Daniels, Myerscough College and University Centre’s Golf Performance Director, said ‘’We’ve now completed more than30 development camps in 15 years, and once again our players followed an intensive programme of coaching and playing. This is a continuation of Myerscough’s plans to ensure our students are given the most advanced and thorough preparatory schedules available.

‘’The coaching focuses on all aspects of their game in conditions conducive to good golf, including warm up preparation, long and short game practice and gym sessions. Players also experience a number of rounds of golf over differing courses that the resorts have to offer, whilst staying in luxurious accommodation.’’

Myerscough College and University Centre golfers have three sides who compete in the British Universities & Colleges Sport Northern Leagues under the banner of UCLan, with teams playing in the BUCS Premier Division and Division 1A. The students also successfully play on the Collegiate & Prospects Golf Tours.

Golf is child’s play at Whalley

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WHALLEY Golf Club has revitalised its junior section over the past three years thanks to the support of members and volunteers.

The nine-hole parkland venue gives over the entire course to its junior section for 26 weekly coaching sessions with PGA professional Jamie Hunt.

The result is that junior numbers top the 50 mark at the club – with a strong contingent of girls – with youngsters getting involved from the ages of five to 18.

“We had a good junior team a few years back, but then numbers fell away to as low as half a dozen before we made a concerted effort to grow the section three years ago,” explained junior organiser Carol Fletcher.

“Unlike most clubs we take juniors from as young as five as it is never too soon to start playing golf as shown by Rory McIlroy, who was hitting 40-yard drives at the age of two!”

One of the highlights of the coaching sessions is the Beat the Pond contest at the end of each week, when players take on the water at the club’s signature hole, the 9th, right in front of the clubhouse.

“The youngsters just can’t wait to take on the challenge,” said Carol.

Whalley believes that by getting the youngsters out on the course at an early age it helps them enjoy the game with friends, develop their skills and – thanks to the support of a pool of 24 volunteers who ensure every coaching group out on the course is accompanied – helps them pick up the etiquette of the game.

“The volunteers have been an integral part of the success story,” Carol added. “It is not just about the coaching we offer through Jamie, but the volunteers help the youngsters to get comfortable out on the course, to understand simple things like where to stand when someone is putting or where to leave their bag. It all helps reduce any feeling of intimidation that a youngster might have about taking up the sport.”

Whalley is a GolfMark club, with strong safeguarding policies in place and a club welfare officer – all strong signals to parents that this is a safe and welcoming place to bring their children.

Carol added: “It is great to see the junior side doing so well, but that has had a knock-on effect in attracting new adult members, whether that be parents, grandparents or even uncles.

“We hold seven competitions through the summer for the juniors, each with a presentation afterwards.  It is lovely to see the end of season presentation packed out with juniors and their families. We have quizzes, games, food and all the winners have to take the microphone and address the room, even if it is just to say a quick thank you, which adds to the confidence they are gaining out on the course.

“We have created special junior tees out on the course, while events like the Christmas Turkey Shoot or our Halloween competition offer the chance for families to play together, too.

“And we try to ensure everyone involved knows what is going on and available with regular emails throughout each week.”

Youngsters are encouraged to continue their interest in the sport by going on to become adult members of the club, with a special category of Intermediate, aimed at the 18 to 35-year-olds who can often be lost to the sport, offering a value-for-money membership fee.

A number of the youngsters are involved with Lancashire coaching paths for both boys and girls while 17 years-old Bethan Andrew, daughter of former England international and Curtis Cup player Kim, is a Lancashire county player.

Helen Searle, club support officer for the Lancashire Golf Development Group and England Golf, said: “It is great to see the hard work of a club that has taken such a proactive and positive approach to encouraging the next generation of players into the sport paying off with a thriving junior section.

“While it takes time and effort to invest in developing and maintaining a junior programme, the spin-off benefits can be new faces coming into the club and another element of a strong social side to the club.

“With the arrival of the successful national campaign – GirlsGolfRocks – to Lancashire in 2019, this is another opportunity for clubs to raise the profile of golf and attract new players.”

Wallace Belfry Hotel brand ambassador

INTERNATIONALLY renowned The Belfry Hotel & Resort has announced four-time European tour winner, Matt Wallace, as a brand ambassador.

Wallace begins the year in the top 50 Official World Golf Rankings and will be at the forefront of campaigns for the iconic resort, voted ‘World’s Best Golf Hotel’ and ‘England’s Best Golf Course’ at the World Golf Awards 2018.

Wallace, who has won a total of 10 titles in the last three years, announced his partnership with The Belfry as he prepares for a 2019 season that will see him play The Masters at Augusta for the first time.

Upon the announcement, Wallace commented: “It’s a real honour to be representing The Belfry and I’m proud to be associated with one of our country’s most iconic venues.  The Belfry has hosted the Ryder Cup on four occasions as well as numerous European Tour tournaments and one of my first sporting memories is Tiger Woods playing here and Phillip Price beating Phil Mickelson in 2002.  The courses, hotel and all the facilities are first class, so I am looking forward to our partnership and an exciting year.”

James Stewart, resort director at The Belfry,  said: “It’s fantastic to be able to name Matt Wallace as our ambassador.  Matt’s rise over the last three years has been remarkable and we’re delighted to be part of what is sure to be a bright future.  The Belfry continues to go from strength to strength and we’re thrilled to be working with Matt and wish him the very best of luck this year. “

The Belfry Hotel & Resort is also represented by the England cricketer Stuart Broad.

For further information on Matt Wallace and The Belfry Hotel & Resort, please contact Graham Chase on 07584172095.