The success of the ClubGolf programme in Scotland was illustrated at Castle Stuart when around 300 children from local schools gathered to take part in a training session on the driving range at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.
Joining the children in the celebration of the game were Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady and Aberdeen Asset Management Chief Executive Martin Gilbert, as well as Scottish golfing stars Martin Laird and Colin Montgomerie, who with Scott Jamieson were announced as ClubGolf Ambassadors.
The five dignitaries watched the children take part in a number of golfing activities before having their pictures taken with them. First Minister Alex Salmond then conducted an impromptu question and answer session with the children to ask them what they most enjoyed about the scheme.
Initiated in 2003 as a key component of Scotland's successful Ryder Cup bid ClubGolf's three guiding aims are: Every child in Scotland will have the opportunity to experience golf; Every child who chooses golf will be welcomed into a sport that they can play for life; Every child who steps up to the first tee will be encouraged to reach their full potential.
Montgomerie, Laird and Jamieson join fellow Scots golfing Stephen Gallacher, Catriona Matthew and Kelsey MacDonald as Ambassadors to Scotland's successful national junior golf programme, which has also been backed by 18-time Major champion Jack Nicklaus.
Speaking at the RBS ClubGolf activity zone at Castle Stuart, which runs all this week during the tournament, the First Minister said: "Scotland is the undisputed home of golf and our golfing heritage is unrivalled. But if we want to give Scotland the best chance of being the future of golf, we need to drive participation in the sport among our young people.
"Through ClubGolf over 220,000 children have had the opportunity to play golf and over 12,000 are taking part in programmes at hundreds of clubs. This is a remarkable achievement and one it is crucial we build on, so I am very proud to announce these top Scottish golfers as ClubGolf Ambassadors today.
"They are great role models for our young golfers and I am sure that with their support we will encourage mass participation amongst our youngsters and unearth the next generation of golfing talent."
Montgomerie said: "I am delighted to become a ClubGolf Ambassador as this is a fantastic initiative to get more kids into golf. I think having all these fun activities going alongside a top international tournament like the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open is a great formula to attract children to get involved in golf."
ClubGolf is also backed by American golfing legend Jack Nicklaus. He said: "Along with RBS, I am proud to support ClubGolf, a program which I feel is very important to the development of golf in Scotland as well as Scottish golfers.
"Golf is much more than a game; it helps teach children important life lessons about honesty, integrity, values and sportsmanship. By introducing golf to juniors through ClubGolf, we can start affecting their lives at an early age – not only to develop as golfers, but to develop as well-rounded good citizens.
"Scotland is the home of golf, and very special place for me. My goal is to see ClubGolf succeed so that we can use this as an example we can share in other countries around the world, including the United States. Through ClubGolf, we hope to bring more young people in to enjoy the game, but more importantly, to learn skills they can carry with them throughout their lives."
A lasting legacy to Scotland's staging of The 2014 Ryder Cup, ClubGolf is a direct result of the Scottish Government's commitment to introduce every nine year old child in Scotland to the game by 2014. The Scottish Government has committed to supporting ClubGolf activity in and around this year's Scottish Open, in addition to the further two million pounds already committed to ClubGolf for another four years from 2014-2018.
ClubGolf Manager Jackie Davidson said: "ClubGolf at the Castle will be a real treat for young golfers. It's a fantastic opportunity for them to rub shoulders with some of the world's best players and get involved in Scotland's summer festival of golfing fun. With competitions and prizes on VIP Wednesday and throughout the tournament week, it's a great way to keep Scottish kids healthy and active.
"We hope this experience will encourage more kids than ever before to take up the sport and become golf club members in the future."
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