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Major new initiative to develop future Welsh golf champions

WITH Ryder Cup heroes Jamie Donaldson and Ian Woosnam just back from Augusta after last month’s US Masters, the Golf Union of Wales have launched the plans which will produce the Woosnam’s and Donaldson’s of the future – and more Amy Boulden’s and Becky Brewerton’s.

Ryder Cup venue Celtic Manor Resort was the appropriate place for one of the most important Welsh golf launches in years, with approved facilities and coaches all round Wales aiming to develop a conveyor belt of future golf club members and champions, wherever they come from.

Ladies European Tour Rookie of the Year Boulden was at Celtic Manor for the launch along with European Tour player Oliver Farr. They were joined by a host of Wales’s top coaches and a group of school children taking part in a special coaching clinic.

Both Boulden and Farr came through the Wales player development programme on their way to the highest levels of European golf, the new Coaching Centres programme is designed to allow all players to fulfil their potential in the game – this could be as a grass roots golf club member or an elite professional player.

“Developing Tomorrow’s Champions means trying to offer the highest standard of coaching and facilities all around Wales. We currently have 11 centres and 21 coaches who are already accredited via the GUW, the plan is to grow these numbers over the coming years,” explained Golf Union of Wales performance director Ben Waterhouse.

“We have spent more than five years building this programme and it will be the most important programme the Golf Union of Wales run over the next five to 10 years.

“It encompasses many of our key functions across golf development, performance, coach education and championships. The Golf Union set out its long term plans for the next five years in a document called Vision 20/20 – this programme delivers across five of our seven core purposes.

“It has been a long time coming but we felt that it was important to get the scheme right before launching. This is why we spent a year piloting the programme with Celtic Manor Resort, Tenby Golf Club, Valleys Golf Enterprise and Clays Golf and their PGA professional’s.

“We have taken the feedback from all those people and that has helped us get significant investment from Sport Wales, along with funding from the GUW.

“We are also delighted with the buy in from so many of the club professionals round Wales who are driven towards improving standards and increasing the numbers of people playing golf and joining clubs. We hope there will be many more in the future who will be able to deliver this programme.

“These players will eventually feed into a revamped junior championship structure with the goal of having a Junior Golf Tour in Wales.

GUW club services and coach education manager Dan Farmer has played a major role in setting up and honing the plans.

“We want to develop a structure that continues to develop a flow of talented coaches and players throughout Wales; creating more golfers, tournament winners, winning Welsh sides, thus raising the profile and standard of golf across Wales,” he said.

“A Coaching Centres lesson will be delivered for £5 per person per lesson so the cost is comparable to other sports.

“Class sizes will be limited to eight people so we can guarantee quality time with the coach thus enhancing the experience of the young golfer.

“The Coaching Centres programme is aimed at giving all junior golfers the opportunity to learn to play golf at GUW accredited facilities under the expert tuition of a GUW accredited PGA Professional. The certification process ensures quality and consistency across all centres in Wales.

“We have developed a unique player development model under expert guidance. Wales National coach Neil Matthews has devised the swing programme, movement specialist Zac Gould has worked in that area, Charlotte Williams supported by Dr Rich Neil from Cardiff Metropolitan University on the life skills, and there is the on-course / playing element.

“It is a five year programme. The first year follows-on from the Golf Foundation’s Junior Golf Passport scheme. The progressive programme now completes our player pathway model from grass roots level right up into the performance squads.

“We hope that players who go all the way through will reach a level to be considered for Welsh representation, but if they do not go into the performance structure then we want them to be lifelong golfers at a local club.”

The coaching centres are being rolled out across Wales, following the Celtic Manor launch.

The current list of the GUW coaching centres and accredited PGA professionals in North Wales are: Gareth James (Clays), Sam Griffiths (Clays) and Anthony Middleton (Rhyl in partnership with St Asaph Driving Range).

The North’s accredited PGA professionals are: Andrew Blake, Gareth Lewis, Ian Rowlands and Craig Tudor.