24 May 18
The important role of the PGA Professional in growing the game at junior level was highlighted again at the annual Golf Foundation Presidents’ Awards.
Staged in Wentworth Club’s elegant ballroom on the eve of the 2018 BMW PGA Championship, the awards celebrated the volunteers and professionals who selflessly give their time to help young people enjoy the benefits of golf.
It was an emotional afternoon for Tom Bowen, of North Wales Golf Club, and his family after being presented with the Gallacher Award.
Bowen, whose father passed away in February, overcame a debilitating mental illness thanks to golf and, after passing his PGA Level 1 volunteer coach award, he is currently on the path to becoming a fully-fledged PGA Professional.
“I’m over the moon,” said Bowen. “To win an award after Bernard Gallacher who had a great playing career and who is someone I watched as a kid, I’m massively honoured.
“It culminates a great year with me starting with The PGA and my dad fought his illness long enough to see me start it, so he knew I was on that journey towards a career in a sport that he loved.”
Darren Game, PGA Professional at Bourne Golf Centre, Lincolnshire, was presented with the Burroughs Award for creating opportunities for those with special needs.
“It’s quite overwhelming really,” said Game. “Being given my PGA certificate and joining the Association was the best moment of my life.
“Playing golf gives confidence, self-belief, a bit of everything really and it’s an opportunity for young people to develop as individuals.
“I worked very hard for that and I’ve worked hard for this award as a PGA Member so it’s right up there. It’s a special moment and one I’ll remember for years to come."
The Sinclair Award is given to a PGA Professional who has made a significant impact in the development of grass roots junior golf.
This year it went to Zachery Marsh from Mark Janes Golf Academy at Tonbridge Golf Centre in Kent who has introduced more 1,500 youngsters into the sport over the last 12 months.
Marsh commented: “I’ve played golf from a very young age and to be able to help as many youngsters as I have since I’ve been based at Tonbridge Golf Centre, it’s just been amazing.
“It isn’t about getting an award for me, it’s for helping youngsters. It’s an award for all of the hard work I put in and all of the hard work the juniors put in too. To hear some of the kind words the juniors say about you, it’s really nice.”
The 'Laddie' Lucas Award celebrates a project that has created more opportunities for girls and this year’s winner was a partnership between Elsham Golf Club and ‘This Girl Golfs’ Project in north Lincolnshire.
PGA Professionals Dane Duffin and David McNicholas are based at Elsham which links to three local secondary schools. The club offers taster sessions for 400 girls followed by a six-week StreetGolf satellite club. To date, 51 girls have completed the course.
“It’s been a good year for us but the hard work doesn’t stop there,” said Duffin. “We’ve got a lot going on this year as we try and get more girls into golf with the projects we’re doing in schools and introducing that into the curriculum.”
McNicholas added: “We saw the importance of golf coaching for juniors and how it offered opportunities; how to develop not just golf skills but life skills too. It’s really pleasing to see juniors develop those under our tuition.”
There was also cause for celebration for Tom Hide and Scott Rusbridge after the Coastal Golf Academy at Frinton Golf Club won the Bonallack Award.
The duo have played an integral role in increasing junior membership at the Essex club, with Hide in particular highlighted for embracing a number Golf Foundation initiatives.
He said: "After ten years working in the business at Coastal Golf Academy, it’s great that we’ve got some recognition for the second time after Scott won the Sinclair Award in 2012.
"We’ve got a great team around us, two Assistant trainees and two other fully qualified PGA Professionals, so we’re very pleased but there’s still lots of hard work to do.”
The Golf Foundation is the nationally recognised charity that works with national partners to encourage young people to ‘Start, Learn and Stay’ in the sport.
The charity offers boys and girls the opportunity to enjoy all aspects of the sport with an emphasis on ‘Skills for Life’ learning to support young people as they develop, both on and off the course.
Find out more about the charity by visiting www.golf-foundation.org.
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