Friday 17 November 2017

Juniors in focus

Children all set to take to fairways

Dean Goodison

Yvonne Mac Sweeney (Junior convenor), Lee Whelan (Junior boys' Captain), Eimear Thomas (Junior girls' Captain) and Liam Bowler (head P.G.A. professional) at the launch of new Wexford Golf Club Junior Academy
Yvonne Mac Sweeney (Junior convenor), Lee Whelan (Junior boys' Captain), Eimear Thomas (Junior girls' Captain) and Liam Bowler (head P.G.A. professional) at the launch of new Wexford Golf Club Junior Academy

In an exciting move for youngsters and parents alike, Wexford Golf Club is set to launch a new academy aimed at primary school children from the age of seven upwards, interesting in trying out the sport, in the coming weeks.

The scheme, which is set to be launched in conjunction with the Confederation of Golf in Ireland (C.G.I.), is the first of its kind in Leinster, outside of the capital, as it will be all-inclusive - also catering for special needs children, in conjunction with Special Olympics Ireland.

No stone is being left unturned for this new initiative. There will be a workshop for volunteers tomorrow (Wednesday) - a day aimed at training tutors to help P.G.A. professionals Liam Bowler and Darren Walsh with the academy.

Following on from that, C.G.I. and Wexford Golf Club will visit two schools on April 6, Scoil Mhuire (Barntown) and Scoil Mhuire (Coolcotts), and give the children some hands-on teaching of the game.

Three days later, on Saturday, April 9, Wexford Golf Club will host a 'taster day' when children from all over the county are invited up to the course to learn about the academy, try out the game, have some fun and enjoy themselves.

Parents will be given all the information they will need on the academy and the dates it will take place. The initial aim is to run the academy over five Saturday afternoons until the Summer holidays, with the possibility of switching to a Monday during July and August.

The academy is keenly priced at €30 for the year, with its key aim of getting as many youngsters involved in the game of golf as possible, while at the same time making sure they enjoy their time at Wexford golf course.

It's an idea that has been in the pipeline for the last few months and was the brainchild of former lady Captain Yvonne MacSweeney and her successor, Denise Dunne. Getting more children involved in the game was a key aim, Dunne said:

'We used to have a lot of discussions and we were always thinking we would have to do something for the Juniors because our Junior membership was dropping and dropping.

'That's how it started, we tried to find a way of introducing new Junior members to the club so Yvonne said she would take it on and it would be her project this year. She got Liam (Bowler) involved and it's developed from there.'

'We started to think small first but we realised we are not getting anywhere with that, so we have to look big,' MacSweeney explained. 'Because of my experience with the Irish Ladies' Golf Union, I knew the right people to contact. So we said we are going to start an academy, a Junior academy for kids from seven-eight years.

'We wanted professional advice, professional people in, so we got C.G.I., which is the Confederation of Golf in Ireland. They provide programmes for clubs for new Juniors so we got them involved, we got the Irish Ladies' Golf Union involved too.

'We started then to talk about making space in our coaching times and programmes; then suddenly came the idea, we never do anything with kids with special needs. We spoke to C.G.I. again and they advised we to speak with Special Olympics, that's how the ball got rolling.'

With everything in place to make the academy a success, it's up to club professional Liam Bowler to oversee the teaching of a new breed of Wexford golfers.

'It's exciting because when I was growing up I never got golf in my school,' he said. 'At least now C.G.I. are going into schools, and we have a facility here with the golf course being in town. Many other golf clubs might have a golf course well outside of town, so location-wise and facility-wise on paper it looks very good, very promising.

'It's not just about producing good golfers, it's about introducing as many into the game of golf, because that's very important. If we produced a golfer of star quality that would be a bonus, but we are very much interested in getting numbers and introducing golf to all levels and all abilities. Hopefully that will lead on to more boys and girls playing golf.'

For slightly older children, not in the academy catchment age, lessons are still available in Wexford with plenty of slots for the Junior membership - which costs a very reasonable €60 per year - to play throughout the week, all year round.

Anyone with children interested in the academy is invited to attend the 'taster day' on April 9 when a great day of fun for the youngsters is assured.

Adults will be welcomed in the clubhouse where all the information about the academy will be available.

Wexford People

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