Four of sport’s greatest and most popular competitors, against a team of youngsters from two of the area’s golf clubs: surely the professionals would win the day?
Rugby stars Gavin Hastings and Jonathan Davies, tennis great Tim Henman and Ryder Cup hero Colin Montgomerie had to forgo using their regular tennis, golf and rugby balls to demonstrate their talent with the soft balls and miniature clubs of Tri-Golf in The Open Championship’s tented village on Saturday. The steep learning curve was in a good cause, helping the Golf Foundation promote its ‘HSBC Golf Roots’ project that expects to reach one million youngsters per year by 2013.
The big names left their comfort zone to play in the ‘R&A Swingzone’ at Royal Lytham & St Annes, making a fourball against boys and girls from Heysham Golf Club and Euxton Park Golf Centre, both Lancashire venues and acclaimed HSBC Golf Roots Centres.
Gavin, Tim and Jonathan are HSBC Ambassadors. Golf Foundation President Colin Montgomerie has been supporting the leading golf charity through the year and was playing Tri-Golf this week for the second time. Tri-Golf is one of the Foundation game formats which is having such a success in schools. More than 9,000 schools now offer golf linked to the HSBC Golf Roots project. Over 10,000 teachers, volunteers and PGA coaches have been trained over the last five years by the Golf Foundation and its partners.
As to the big match, the children took the honours against the clock in the Tri-Golf putting challenge, while the under-pressure sporting giants then drew the match by winning the Tri-Golf chipping challenge. To finish, an individual shoot-out was staged with Gavin Hastings demonstrating the composure he always showed in kicking goals for Scotland and captaining the British Lions in completing the challenge in the fastest time.
Brendon Pyle, National Development Manager for the Golf Foundation, said: “It was a wonderful thrill for all these youngsters to welcome Jonathan, Gavin, Tim and Colin. The two golf clubs have done really well in encouraging young people and we had invited them along for a Tri-Golf session to thank them. This visit from the sporting greats was unscheduled and the families involved from the golf clubs were delighted.
“The R&A has provided a great facility that is exciting for newcomers to golf. After Peter Alliss and a number of Championship players had also shown their support earlier in the week, this was an excellent finale to help us raise the profile of HSBC Golf Roots, which encourages youngsters to enjoy golf and the game’s ‘skills for life’ benefits.”
During The Open at the R&A Swingzone, many youngsters are also taking advantage of the free lessons given by PGA professionals throughout the week. The pros are present thanks to the Professional Golfers’ Association, who sponsor the professionals to teach the young golfers as part of the organisation’s commitment to junior golf.
HSBC Golf Roots is supported by The R&A, The European Tour, the Professional Golfers’ Association, the Ryder Cup Committee and Trust, the British Golf Industry Association’s ‘Grow Golf’ Fund, Sport England and headline sponsor HSBC.