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.”

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