An R&A initiative at The Open Championship to raise the profile of junior grass roots golf has been hailed as a great success.
The ‘R&A Swingzone’ was present all week in the tented village at St Andrews, giving the Golf Foundation, the sport’s leading charity, the perfect opportunity to inspire a new generation of players in support of the national golf partnerships of England, Scotland and Wales.
The Foundation used the centre to profile its highly successful Golf Roots programmes, which aim to reach one million youngsters a year through golf by 2013.
Mike Round, Chief Executive of the Golf Foundation, said: "For children attending The Open at St Andrews it must have been a very special experience. To watch the best players on the Old Course and then to actually have a go at our Tri-Golf and Golf Xtreme games - available in ever increasing numbers of schools and clubs - was a great start in golf for many youngsters.
"This year we enjoyed visits from seven top professionals, including the eventual winner of the championship, Louis Oosthuizen, who all played Tri-Golf with the boys and girls. I am sure the youngsters will remember that for the rest of their lives.
"We were delighted to be sharing the R&A Swingzone facility with our partners in Scotland, clubgolf, and the Professional Golfers' Association, both of which we support strongly. Together we welcomed over 5,000 youngsters during a great Open week."
The week began with the Golf Foundation presenting Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter with its 'Spirit of Golf' Award, previously given to Gary Player, Tony Jacklin and Lee Westwood. Poulter said he was honoured to receive the accolade for his efforts to inspire young people and told the children present to "follow your dreams".
Joining Poulter and Oosthuizen in the Swingzone during the practice days were Zach Johnson, Bill Haas, Robert Karlsson, Tano Goya, and Mark Haastrup. Oosthuizen said: "I was delighted to help. Youngsters need encouragement to get into golf and I was really pleased to help the Golf Foundation."
In the Swingzone, boys and girls enjoyed Tri-Golf and Golf Xtreme challenges, competitions and a special putting challenge sponsored by Titleist. Titleist caps and golf balls were won, and on every day of the week each child who could hole three successive putts was entered in a daily draw to win a Titleist Scotty Cameron putter. The PGA Collection also donated a set of junior golf clubs which were the prize in the week's popular golf quiz.
Many youngsters took advantage of the free lessons given by PGA professionals throughout the week – in total a record number of 2,400 lessons were given during the event.
First Minister for Scotland Alex Salmond was also a visitor to the Tri-Golf area of the R&A Swingzone. He talked to the team about Golf Roots, which aims to make golf more accessible to children from all backgrounds and abilities and offer them skills for life as they develop.
Popular BBC radio presenter DJ Spoony is a Golf Roots Ambassador and a dedicated supporter and funder of the Golf Roots City Project, which this year is reaching 21 urban areas in England and Wales
Round added: "The R&A Swingzone was a new concept offering a wealth of choice for youngsters of different abilities, from the boy or girl having their first ever hit with a club, to the Titleist putting challenge which demanded great skill, to the lessons provided by the experienced PGA professionals.
“The area was provided by The R&A, a great supporter of the Foundation, and we are hugely grateful for the opportunity to raise the profile of our Golf Roots work. This was a highly successful event for junior grass roots golf."