Lancashire in frame for England award

LANCASHIRE and Warwickshire are the contenders for the coveted title of County of the Year at the England Golf Awards 2017.

The winner will be announced at the awards dinner at Lord’s Cricket Ground on March 16 and, as well as the prestige, they will receive £6,000 worth of bespoke research from sponsors Sports Marketing Surveys Inc.

England Golf chief executive Nick Pinksaid: “These counties are both superb. They are forward-looking, innovative organisations which put their clubs and players first, with great results.”

They will be recognised on a night which celebrates all that’s great about golf in England. Awards will be presented to leading professionals, elite amateurs, top coaches and the stars of club and county golf who do so much to inspire people to play the game.

The two contenders have impressive claims to the title

Lancashire is a forward-looking county, with a development group which combines the collective strengths of the men’s union, women’s association, the PGA and the Golf Foundation to grow the game.

It puts the needs of players and its 158 clubs and facilities at the heart of what it does – and has been rewarded with an impressive 4.3 per cent increase in membership.

Clubs have been inspired by county conferences and business growth forums and subsequently supported to improve their business. This has included help to attract £330,000 funding for initiatives.

Competition, training and coaching is offered to players at every level of the game, from beginner to the elite amateur, and successes included victory for Lancashire at the 2016 English Senior Men’s County Final.

The county is open to new ideas, hosting a range of workshops, providing £10,000 to seed fund 18 projects, and running an Innovation Awards scheme which, for example, has prompted clubs to think of new membership options to retain ageing and busy players.

It also works with partners to change perceptions of the game and attract new players. This has included support for community events and media activity to promote golf.

The future is looking good for Warwickshire Golf. The partners – the men’s union, the women’s association and the county development group – are celebrating a year of exciting new activity as they work together to modernise, grow and spread the word that golf is a healthy, sociable sport for all.

Their wide-ranging achievements cover championships, junior development, communications, governance, work with England Golf and the Golf Foundation – and the introduction of the hugely successful Warwickshire Golf Awards, which replaced the traditional county dinner.

Other innovations include a nine-hole evening league which promotes short format golf, as well as new competitions for men, women and seniors.

Warwickshire has been involved in England Golf’s pilot project to increase membership and participation and it has helped to create a club-centred approach which offers wide-ranging business support. It also pioneered the use of community coaches to take golf out of its traditional setting and into parks to generate wider interest in the sport.

Its players were also successful with county teams playing in the national finals of the Junior Champion Club and the English Men’s County Finals, while the women’s second team won their regional league.

Cheshire clubs play the numbers game

AndyLeigh.jpgCHESHIRE golf clubs are being urged to back a new drive to raise the numbers of juniors playing the sport.

The Cheshire Golf Development Group wants to build on the success of last year’s Girls Golf Rocks campaign in the county to deliver a further boost to the ranks of the next generation of golfers.

More than 50 clubs attended two special junior conferences to hear of plans to launch a new campaign at the beginning of April to attract those interested in giving golf a go.

Clubs are being urged to offer free taster sessions for juniors, a coaching programme to build on the interest and then a pathway into potential membership.

Sean Hammill, England Golf’s county development officer for Cheshire East said: “This is a rallying call to the clubs to bring more juniors into the game and make a real impact on the future of the sport and their own clubs. It is a chance to get youngsters involved at the start of the season and build a programme of coaching activity to keep them interested through the summer and beyond.

“There is a real appetite for young people to play golf and we think that by promoting what the sport has to offer and building strong partnerships among a club’s local community, we can see an increase in the number of juniors at clubs across Cheshire.”

Alison Lysons, who supports clubs in the west of the county, said: “The Girls Golf Rocks campaign was a real success in Cheshire last summer, bringing more girls into the sport with the offer of free taster sessions, on-going coaching and a celebration event at the end. The clubs involved built strong links to local schools and community groups and saw the benefit by creating the right kind of environment for the girls to come into and enjoy their golf together.”

The conferences, at Northenden Golf Club, and Macdonald Portal Golf and Country Club, Tarporley, heard from Lee Dolby, England Golf’s Young People manager, who reminded clubs that they can help “inspire a love for golf that lasts a lifetime.”

Birchwood Golf Club’s Graham McCormack, who has been actively involved in junior golf at club, county and England level for more than 30 years, offered a number of tips for running a successful junior section.

Andy Leigh, Golf Foundation regional manager (pictured), pinpointed the work that can be done in schools and community groups to encourage young people to get involved and how clubs can encourage them to “start, learn, stay.”

Clubs now have to express their interest in joining the programme in March with the first taster sessions from April onwards to coincide with the first Major of the year, the Masters at Augusta.

Get into golf is a national campaign run by the England Golf Partnership through its network of County Golf Development Groups, supported by Sport England and National Lottery funding.

Get into golf opportunities include FREE taster sessions and low-cost beginner courses with PGA professionals. They are a fun and sociable way to start golf – and a great way to make new friends. To find your nearest centre visit getintogolf.org and look at the activity map or call 0800 118 2766

You can follow Get into golf on Twitter twitter.com/getintogolf or on Facebook at facebook.com/Getintogolf

For more details on the work of the Cheshire GDG visit http://www.cheshiregolfpartnership.com

North West girls bid to reign in Spain

BRITISH stroke play champion Sophie Lamb from Clitheroe will team up with Georgia Price and Prestbury’s Bel Wardle for the Nations Cup at the Spanish women’s championship. The team event will be played alongside the two stroke play qualifying rounds of the championship, at Sherry Golf, Jerez, from  March 1-5.

Sophie, 19, won the England Golf Women’s Order of Merit and helSophie Lamb.jpgped her country clinch the Women’s Home Internationals. This year she’s already had a top ten in the Harder Hall Invitational in Florida.

Georgia, 23, from Bude and North Cornwall, was runner up on the 2016 England Golf Order of Merit after results including second place in the English stroke play and third in the British stroke play. She tied for the Royal Birkdale Scratch Cup and was second in the Liphook Scratch Cup.

Bel, 17, was runner up in the 2016 British girls’ championship and was eighth in the World junior girls’ championship. She tied with Georgia Price for the Royal Birkdale Scratch Trophy and was third on the England Golf Girls’ Order of Merit.

 

Sophie Lamb is pictured, courtesy of Leaderboard Photograph

Heysham GC lands innovation award

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Tony McMunn (centre left), a past president of the Lancashire Union of Golf Clubs, presents the winner’s cheque for £750 to Phil Foster, the Heysham president, surrounded by other club officials involved in the award-winning initiative

A Lancashire club with an ambitious approach to encouraging more people into golf has earned an award for its efforts. Heysham has won the top prize in the Lancashire Union of Golf Club’s Innovation Awards.

This is the second year for the awards which seek to recognise clubs taking a proactive and innovative approach to attracting new players, retaining more members and building a strong organisation. Heysham will receive £750 towards future projects to promote the sport.

It launched a series of initiatives aimed at promoting golf over the past 12 months, including investing heavily in new practice facilities which could be used not only by members but by visiting golfers or local residents.

As well as allowing regular players to practice throughout the year, the Swing Lounge and short game area are used to help those returning to the sport or absolute beginners, while it is also wheelchair friendly.

With the help of Sport England Inspired Facilities funding and investment from Clubfit Golf, the club has benefited from £100,000 worth of improvements with the short game area including synthetic mats and greens to allow year-round use. It features two chipping greens, with eight chipping stations and a bunker, while the slopes of the large putting surface challenge players of all abilities. A pitching area allows players to try finding the green from distances up to 100 yards.

The Swing Lounge includess an indoor golf simulator which allows players to tackle a variety of courses from around the world.

It was opened by European Senior Tour player Gary Wolstenholme, a former England amateur international, who conducted a short game clinic at an event attended by 200 people, including local MP David Morris.

The new facilities support the existing floodlit driving range.

PGA professionals Ryan Done and Trevor Newsham,  who were supported in the development by course manager Dave Hutchinson, his team and the club as a whole, have been visiting local schools and hosting Tri-golf events with local community groups in the north Lancashire area.

Activities have included a golf festival for more than 120 primary school pupils, while Heysham High, Morecambe High andMorecambe Road schools regularly visit the club for group coaching sessions.

The club hosts the local Mencap group every week and has staged “Learn to play golf in a day” sessions alongside longer, five-week Get into golf programmes.

General manager Ed Burrow said: “The facility has been received brilliantly, not just by members but everyone from the surrounding areas, both golfers and non-golfers.  Numbers of new visitors have increased considerably,

“All of the activity at the club has increased the visibility and access to golf around the local area and to the general public.  Membership has increased as a direct impact of the improved facilities and the outreach programmes conducted by the club professionals.”

St Helens club Grange Park received £350 after launching the 125 Club to celebrate its 125th anniversary.

The club  had been running ladies’ taster sessions since 2015 but found that while many of those taking part were interested in taking their golf further, the demands of family and work life were an obstacle.

Anne Morris,  one of the 125 Club organiserss alongside Jean Quigley, said: “The ladies who attended the Tasters typically had no previous knowledge of golf, or family/close friends who were golfers.

“The majority of them worked full time. From our discussions we knew that they felt that they did not have the time available, or the competence, to justify joining a golf club.

“So the seed for a ‘125th Anniversary Membership’ was sown. This new category of membership provides the means for beginner ladies to join Grange Park and receive organised support to develop their game. The subscription rate reflects the limited amount of golf that beginner ladies will play.”

To mark the anniversary, the membership fee was pitched at just £1.25 per day and included five free group coaching sessions with PGA professional Paul Roberts

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A group of the participants and organisers of the Grange Park 125 Club initiative, including professional Paul Roberts

Home win for Alliance duo at Stand

NORMAN Haslam and James Parton cashed in on home advantage when they won the Manchester Alliance am-am at Stand with 42 points. But they only prevailed on countback from Steve Daubney (Oldham) and Peter Barrington (Werneth) with Denis Durnian (Chorley) and Keith Liddle (Blackley) totting up 41.allistandamam.jpg

Peter McManus and his Chorlton assistant Adam Hodkinson racked up 45 points to claim the pro-am honours, one ahead of Colin Moroney and Andrew Fletcher (Bolton Old Links).

Meanwhile, Lymm’s Graham Cox was head pro with 39 points, just pipping Hodkinson, Phil Archer (Birchwood) and Chorley’s Andy Palmer who was leading assistant.

Pictured: Norman Haslam and James Parton with Stand captain Andrew McCreavey

Dream on! Chance to play in Tour pro-am

CLUB golfers will get the chance to chase their dreams this season – and could win a place in a European Tour Pro-Am, thanks to a partnership between Bridgestone Tyres and England Golf.

The Bridgestone Chase your Dream Trophy, which is being played for the first time in 2017, will be an annual event open to members of England Golf’s 1900 affiliated clubs. It features separate competitions for men and women to discover the country’s top handicap golfers of the year.

It will take them on a golfing adventure with nine men and nine women qualifying to play in the Pro-Am at the Bridgestone Challenge on the European Challenge Tour, followed by a dream outing with a top Tour player at the Pro-Am of the British Masters supported by Sky Sports.

England Golf’s chief executive Nick Pink commented: “We are delighted to partner with Bridgestone and join their campaign to inspire new golfers and put existing players at the heart of the grassroots game.”

Bridgestone’s Consumer Sales & Marketing director, Farrell Dolan, said “Joining forces with England Golf is the perfect way to connect thousands of club golfers with Bridgestone’s golf sponsorships throughout 2017”

Rory Colville, championship director of the British Masters supported by Sky Sports, endorsed the partnership, saying: “This is a great opportunity for regular club golfers to graduate to mix with the leading lights of the Tour. We look forward to seeing England Golf’s qualifying players reaching the final stages at the Bridgestone Challenge and ultimately the British Masters, supported by Sky Sports at Close House”.

Last season, England Golf and Bridgestone worked together to run the Driveguard Trophy for club golfers and made a dream come true for South West players Zack Rosen, Carl Broomfield and Peter Carr.

The trio qualified to play alongside Dylan Frittelli in the pro-am of the Bridgestone Challenge at Heythrop Park, Oxfordshire. They were victorious on the day and then found themselves as guests of Bridgestone at the British Masters supported by Sky Sports, at The Grove, playing alongside 2010 US Open winner Graeme McDowell.

Zack Rosen said: “As a club golfer, you can only ever dream of the experiences that we’ve had, and that’s down to Bridgestone. To win the DriveGuard Trophy was special enough, but to play on some of the courses during the process was something to remember forever. And of course, the round of golf with Graeme McDowell was the icing on the cake.”

The Bridgestone Chase Your Dream Trophy will replace the women’s Grand Medal and the men’s Gold Medal competitions. Each year the club players who had the best medal scores of the previous season will qualify for regional finals, where the leaders will go forward to men’s and women’s national finals. So, the stakes are high in 2017 club medals!

Graeme McDowell with the winners of Bridgestone’s 2016 amateur golf tournament, from left,  Peter Carr, Carl Broomfield and Zack Rosen.

This year’s grand finale will take place in England Golf Week at Woodhall Spa in August. There, the players will be the overnight guests of England Golf and be treated to the full championship experience. The individual winners will be England’s handicap golfers of the year and the top nine players at each final will play in the Pro-Am at the Bridgestone Challenge on 6 September.

The most successful team there will play in the Pro-Am at The British Masters supported by Sky Sports, at Close House Golf Club, Northumberland, on Wednesday 27 September.

Bridgestone is the world’s largest tyre and rubber company and all players in the Chase Your Dream Trophies will have the opportunity to receive tyre offers from Bridgestone as well as additional opportunities to win golf tickets and hospitality prizes.

McIlroy and Giggs will take ‘tee’ at Wentworth

MANCHESTER United legend Ryan Giggs will partner four-time major winner Rory McIlroy as the Welsh wizard is the first name to be announced for the Celebrity Pro-Am on Wednesday May 24 before the BMW PGA Championship.

The footballer, who made a record 963 appearances for United during the most glittering of Premier League careers, will tee it up at Wentworth Club alongside the  World Number Three, a lifelong Red Devils fan.

The Celebrity Pro-Am has fast become one of the highlights of the week, with a fun atmosphere and fantastic access to the professionals and amateurs as they tackle the testing West Course, with tickets for the pro-am available from £16.50 , as well as general admission tickets, onsite parking and grandstand seating.

Giggs will join a long and illustrious line of famous footballers to have competed, including his former team-mates Paul Scholes, Peter Schmeichel and Dwight Yorke, adding to the excitement of an eagerly anticipated week, as the BMW PGA Championship launches the European Tour’s new Rolex Series.

For once McIlroy’s haul of 13 European Tour victories, three Race to Dubai wins and many other accolades will be eclipsed by his playing partner, with Giggs’ trophy cabinet featuring 13 Premier League titles and two UEFA Champions League wins, as well as countless individual honours.

Though famously left-footed, Giggs swings a golf club right-handed, and despite being used to performing on the biggest footballing stages, the 43 year old admitted to some nerves ahead of his debut in the BMW PGA Championship curtain-raiser.

“It’s a great honour, although a slightly scary one, to be asked to play with Rory,” he said. “I’m a big fan of his so I’m looking forward to catching up with him and seeing for myself how he plays the game.

“I play a lot of golf myself and really enjoy it, but it’s quite a different thing to go from just playing with your mates to partnering one of the best players in the world in front of thousands of people so I am a bit nervous – I’ll have to practise a bit before May!

“The BMW PGA Championship is always a great tournament and it will be one of the highlights of the summer to be involved in it.”

McIlroy is making his return to the BMW PGA Championship, a tournament the Northern Irishman won in 2014, and said he was thrilled to share the stage at Wentworth with Giggs after watching him for years in his element at Old Trafford.

“There are few bigger Man United legends in the history of the Club than Giggsy so to be able to tee it up alongside him for the pro-am at the BMW PGA Championship is going to be awesome. He is one of those players who is hugely respected in sport for everything he achieved at the highest level,” McIlroy said.

“Ryan’s professionalism and ability gave him a Man United career that was almost as long as a pro golfer’s career which is incredible. Not many sportsmen or women can say they were at the very top for decades but he is one of the special few. Hopefully I can give him a bit of help with his golf!”

Jamie Birkmyre, championship director, said: “To have someone of Ryan’s stature as the first name for this year’s Celebrity Pro-Am is fantastic news for the event, which has become a real fixture on the social calendar.

“He and Rory are sure to be a huge draw for fans, one of many, and we look forward to announcing more star names .”

For further information regarding Official Hospitality and VIP Packages, or to book please click here.Alternatively, contact the Tour’s dedicated Hospitality Sales Team, who will be happy to answer any queries and discuss the various hospitality options, on enquiries@europeantourhospitality.com or +44 (0) 1344 840550.