Boden committed to breeding Shropshire’s stars of tomorrow

Boden committed to breeding Shropshire’s stars of tomorrow

27/09/2022

George Boden is a committed PGA Professional who has been based at Telford Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort for more than three decades. Starting as the facility’s assistant in 2000, the 45-year-old has worked is Telford’s head professional for the past nine years. Before that, Boden worked as an instructor at the Three Hammers Golf Academy in Wolverhampton.

In that time, Boden has attracted lots of young female golfers into the game through England Golf’s Girls Golf Rocks programme. Boden has also helped set up a bespoke Academy Junior League at Telford, which has propelled a number of junior players to complete at county level.

What are the reasons for you being at Telford for so long?

I have actually been associated twice in the past in different sorts of roles, my first experience was between 2000 and 2004 as an assistant coach, so I started my PGA diploma and then I went and worked as an assistant at a private club just down the road in Shrewsbury. Then I came back in 2006 as the head professional and was employed by the hotel, and then there was the opportunity to work with Piers and Andy, full-time teaching which is something that I really wanted to develop in so left again and did four years at Three Hammers. I then came back in a freelance role and full-time teaching which I prefer. So I have been here a while, and I started playing here in 1990 as a junior, so this is actually where my first experience of golf was, so it’s very much an emotional connection with the club as well, as much as a professional one.

 

Explain more about the work you have been doing with the young female golfers at the club?

Girls Golf Rocks is a programme that was started up by England Golf so it is a national campaign to increase the participation of girls in golf, anywhere from the ages of five or six, up until 16 or in theory 18, and this is across the country. So, for Telford, we did a taster session back in June, on the day of the coronation, and that went really well the Jubilee Day and from that we got nine girls signed up and we are currently coming up to the fourth week of a six-week programme which has been running from the final Saturday in July until the final Saturday in August, so I have been coaching with a couple of ambassadors who are both junior golfers themselves who have come up through the ranks themselves, and they have both been assisting me themselves. The initial commitment was two years, so the Shropshire and Herefordshire professionals’ coaches were looking for three coaches, myself included, to deliver a programme over two years, and this is the first of two years. The goal really is to be able to get more than 60 girls, including the other two venues, into golf in some form or way, whether that be a membership or regular coaching within the next two years. Our goal is to return more than 60 girls to golf by the end of 2023, so that’s where we are and we will be soon about halfway through.

Is the pushing of more girls into golf a Telford-specific focus, or a Shropshire county-wide push, or is it more national than that?

I think it is probably more across the nation than anything else, which is why England Golf has got so much behind it. I think the participation of girls in golf but also in wider sport has been a focus, I guess, so I definitely think there has been a lot of drives within the wider sport to get girls involved and to let them know, that they have a huge place in sports as well. I think golf has been a sport which is more male focussed and always really has been, so it has definitely been a national drive that this has all come off the back of.

What has the feedback been like from the girls taking part?

I haven’t actually discussed that with any of them, for me I have just tried to make it as enjoyable as possible, and over these first four weeks, just get to know the girls individually and build the rapport, because I think when there is a rapport with the coach they feel more comfortable in the environment and more receptive to the learning and they’ll associate golf with fun, so I have an idea about different sports they have done but I don’t actually have an idea, yet, about why they haven’t taken up golf yet.

Should the Girls Golf Rocks programme go well over the next two years and you deliver the numbers you want, what will be the next steps for this movement?

For me, and most importantly and urgently, there needs to be an immediate form of regular coaching that the girls can access whether that be in group coaching that we do or on a one-to-one basis, so whatever suits their schedule really. That’s the key really, and off the back of that, we have to make sure that they can grow from there in terms of getting competition on the course. Something we have done here at Telford, and that we are in our ninth year of doing it, we have what we call our ‘Academy Junior League’ which is a six-hole league, and the whole idea of that was born from the fact that the kids couldn’t go straight to the course, purely because it is such a busy complex, so what I came up with was a six-hole league, something they can do in their own time and it runs in from May to September and we have a little league table.

That to me is the most important thing, having that pathway from coaching to getting out on the course, and that is actually the most challenging thing and a lot of juniors, both boys and girls stop because there just isn’t anywhere to go from there. The league has produced players that have gone from playing in the six-hole league to the Saturday classes to being a part of the County team, for both the boys and the girls, as well as producing a lot of single handicappers.

Describe the work you have been doing with your junior academy…

The junior academy started in the December of 2013. I created a Saturday class, of which initially started with one group of up to eight juniors. That's grown to three classes at nine, 10 and 11 o'clock, each with eight juniors, so 24 total, the age of the juniors is a maximum of about 12 and under and of the 24, seven are girls, which is great. None of them when we started off, and none of them currently have handicaps but that’s what the six weeks are for. In terms of past participants, we have managed to, in the eight, nine years that we've done it, we've now had 12 boys and girls who have gone on to represent the county in boys and girls level, and also girls second team level as well, so it's been a great pathway. We do six-week courses in term time, which are all based on different parts of the game and the sixth week is a skills week. I have skills badges, we have nine skill badge levels, and on skills week, they have a chance to go for their badge level to move on to the next level in the next six weeks. They run into term time and then in the holidays, I do some summer camps. Regular coaching, and a lot of the juniors who have come through it, also have one on one coaching now. So, we've got quite a few good juniors who have come through off the back of it.

Why are you so invested in growing so many young people into the game of golf?

I've got quite an emotional connection here with Telford because this is where I started back in 1990. And back then, we were very lucky. I was very lucky in that we had two very proactive Junior organisers back then. Regular competitions, and then all my friends, you know, a lot of my friends who are now friends now I met through golf and that's very important. I don't know what I would be doing now if there hadn’t been a base there. I put myself a little bit in the junior’s shoes. I suppose the other thing as well as on the only pro here. I don't want to say no but I want to be able to offer a coaching service for juniors if they want to get involved for sure. I know what it's done for me in my life and the people I've met. I think if it can maybe change one junior, it sounds a bit deep, but if they can make golf a part of their life, whether it be coaching or playing or anything like that, and they can meet good people through it, then we've done the job.

What does the future hold for George Boden?

I am really happy. I'm 45 now and I’m thinking about that regularly. I am very happy here. At the same time, if something came along where it was an opportunity for me to develop, it might be where there's the potential to do things that change things for the family at home, then I would definitely go into it, but I'm not actively searching. I've been here for nine years and I'm very happy. As with all jobs, it's tough and it's physically draining, but there's a lot of reward from it in terms of seeing people improve and get better and be happy. I would never say never, but I at this present time I'm very happy where I am.

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