The Golf Foundation Presidents’ Awards at Wentworth on Wednesday (20 May) celebrated the “fantastic work” of volunteers and professionals who have given their time and enthusiasm to provide young people from all backgrounds and abilities with a start in the game.
Thanks to support from The European Tour, the ceremony was held in Wentworth Club’s elegant Ballroom, where a packed audience heard the stories of nine award winners and their projects, featuring the volunteers, PGA Professionals, junior organisers, schoolteachers and local authority officers who all help to develop the golfers and golf stars of the future.
The atmosphere was enhanced with live music from the County Upper School Jazz Band, from Bury St Edmunds, a school with strong ties to golf.
Chief Executive of the Golf Foundation, Brendon Pyle, welcomed Ryder Cup legend and former President of the Foundation Bernard Gallacher to the stage to present the awards, all to people and projects who help the charity to deliver its HSBC Golf Roots programme that reaches hundreds of thousands of youngsters in schools and communities and encourages them to play regular golf at our golf clubs and driving ranges.
Some of the loudest applause on the day greeted two award recipients in different age groups. The charity’s most prestigious Sir Henry Cotton Award was presented to Les Hancock, who became a junior organiser at Wolstanton Golf Club, Staffordshire, in 1967 and has been an inspirational figure for the junior section ever since, making a positive impact on thousands of young people with golf, providing the opportunity for a lifetime of enjoyment as well as teaching positive life skills such as honesty, respect and co-operation. Les was made Vice President of The Staffordshire Union of Golf Clubs in 2004.
On receiving his award Les Hancock said:
“I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be at Wentworth receiving this award and I would like to thank all the management, members and the juniors at my club for their support. The work must continue as juniors always need to be encouraged as they are the future of the game.”
The Gallacher Award for ‘Best Volunteer’ was presented to 15 year-old Ali Jodiyawalla who began assisting younger children in golf after attending a Golf Foundation StreetGolf workshop in 2013. He is now a constant help to Head PGA Coach Aaron Lansberry at his home club of Hatchford Brook Golf Centre in Birmingham, assisting with junior coaching, competitions and administering three leagues for Under-12 players. In his excellent acceptance speech Ali thanked family, friends and Aaron for their inspiration and said he was “really proud and happy” to be recognised for work “that is a pleasure”.
Other awards included the Sinclair Award for best PGA Professional, who was Ben Jones of Garon Park Golf Club in Essex who, in a deprived area, has introduced more than 1,600 young people to the game, with more than 450 returning to the club for further golfing experiences.
South Wales PGA Pro Nicola Stroud runs an outstanding community project with the direct assistance of local police to encourage young people from the poorer areas of Swansea into golf clubs for free coaching so that they can develop better life skills.
The Paul Mitchell Golf Academy in Bristol was honoured (the Laddie Lucas Award) for its great work in encouraging disabled children and making them feel highly welcome and part of all golf activity as they learn to play the game and make new friends.
Royal West Norfolk Golf Club and Leamington & County Golf Club both received deserved awards, the Norfolk club (the Gus Payne Award) for raising the most funds for the Foundation of any club in 2014, and was given special mention by the Chief Executive for its sustained support over a number of years.
Leamington & County Golf Club (the Burroughs Award) formed an ‘Inclusive Golf Academy’ that gives many disabled children the chance to play golf. PGA Pro Paul Aitkens now teaches around 75 special educational needs children each week.
The Critchley Award is presented to a major school partnership and in recent years Dartmoor School Sport Partnership, with Mike Cayless, PGA Pro at Dainton Park Golf Club, has introduced golf to more than 10,000 pupils with support from the Golf Foundation. In 2014 alone, 2,500 young people in 11 primary schools and two secondary schools took part in golf.
Golf is a great sport and is increasingly working with other sports to get across its ‘Skills for Life’ message. The Mackenzie Award was presented to Cardiff City FC Community Foundation/Valleys Golf Enterprise for their great Premier League for Sport programme in which Cardiff City has linked with the local golf club and PGA Professional to offer golf and football coaching sessions in some of the most deprived areas of the city, with police figures showing a dramatic drop in anti-social behaviour during the time of this project.