Ciaran Carroll wins Toby Sunderland Award for community work in Ireland

Ciaran Carroll wins Toby Sunderland Award for community work in Ireland


Ciaran Carroll, Head PGA Professional at Ashbourne Golf Club in Co. Meath has been named as the recipient of The PGA’s Toby Sunderland Award for 2023, in recognition of his work with young people who have physical and learning disabilities.

The award recognises an outstanding charitable act or contribution by a PGA Professional in support of community developments, national schemes and charities, and among a number of potential winners from across The PGA’s regions, Carroll’s efforts with ‘Club Ash’ stood out.

“I’m delighted to win the award,” said Carroll. “I didn’t even know I was nominated for it. It’s not about me it’s about the team and we all help each other out.”

The Club Ash programme is a local community of parents whose children have physical and learning disabilities. It offers young people aged between 16-40 the opportunity to engage in a series of activities, with Carroll taking a lead role in introducing the participants to golf on a voluntary basis.

“Even when I retire I will continue to work with Club Ash because that’s what I love doing. I don’t do it for the praise, I just love it and I get a great sense of giving something back,” added Carroll.

The Club Ash programme, which takes place from May until September, offers participants not only a chance to try golf, but also to enjoy general physical activity as much as possible.

After a physical fitness ‘Boot Camp’ and obstacle course, the programme’s subsequent weekly two-hour sessions then cover putting, short game and long game. Eventually, the participants are given the opportunity to play the golf course, initially on the opening two holes of the course and they can progress to tackling Ashbourne’s ‘Amen Corner’, the toughest two-hole stretch in the layout.

Another part of the programme is a fundraising challenge event which raises funds for Club Ash and ASAP - Ashbourne Suicide Awareness and Prevention. For Carroll, this isn’t just a labour of love, it’s a privilege and the highlight of his week.

“It’s become part of the club and is the best day of the week for me because I get great energy out of it. We try and give them a bit of golf, we have so many volunteers willing to get involved and donate it’s unbelievable, it’s a real club and community effort.”

The people in Club Ash aren’t just here for the golf, they are made to feel part of the golf club with several social occasions taking place in the clubhouse, hosted by a weekly captain selected by Carroll.

The most enjoyable part according to the parents is the captain’s speech, which closes the session. Carroll makes sure that no one is left out.  When a ‘non-verbal’ participant was appointed captain for the week, he delivered his speech using the sign language interpreted by his mother.

“I don’t get emotional too often but last year, a young lad named Wayne turned up, non-verbal, down syndrome. Now he’s able to hit the ball in the air every time and turns around and gives me a smile which is brilliant.”

Commenting on the 2023 Toby Sunderland Award, Robert Maxfield, PGA Chief Executive said: “Meeting the nominees and overall winner of this award is such a humbling experience for all of us and really does shine a line on the amazing work that PGA Members do for charities and good causes. Many congratulations to Ciaran and everyone at Ashbourne Golf Club, it’s clear that you are all making a genuine difference to people’s live and this award is testament to that.”

Each PGA region nominates a PGA Member for the award, highlighting some incredible work being undertaken.  

Michael McAllan – supporting Members with mental health and wellbeing challenges

Dave Tottman – raising awareness and funds for understanding and tackling autism

Hannah Bowen – charity fundraising and more than 200 hours of volunteering

Peter Mackenzie – played golf for 24 hours to raise funds for Breast Cancer UK

Sean Brady - fundraising and awareness efforts for Melanoma UK

David Edwards – dedicated Prostate Cancer golf day raised £50,000 over last five years


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