(Press Release from Ann Lang of Clubgolf)
Caprington junior numbers heading towards tenfold increase
Kilmarnock’s Caprington Golf Club has prescribed extreme remedies to a drought of young players. Now, four months in to its new program, the club is heading towards a tenfold increase in its junior numbers.
The impetus, energy and motivation to avert what, if it had carried on unchecked would have been the junior club's demise, started when a new junior committee was elected.
“The average age of membership is shocking and the junior club was close to becoming defunct,” said one of them, George Morton. “There were no youngsters and of our 300 members only 30 or so were under the age of 30. It was a situation that couldn’t be left to go on.”
A meeting was called with the main vision of making Caprington a child friendly club and senior executives listened carefully to plans to move things forward. Then, at this year’s AGM George Morton, George Barnes and Colin Marshall were appointed to run the junior section.
Together with the help from a former junior player Mark Smith, they handled the administration work, , created a child protection policy, made inroads with the local education department, met counterparts from other clubs involved in the East Ayrshire Junior Golf partnership and began to source funding and contacted the junior national golf program, clubgolf, for advice.
clubgolf is a partnership between the Scottish Golf Union, the Scottish Ladies' Golfing Association, the Professional Golfers' Association, the Golf Foundation and sportscotland launched to create a legacy to Scotland’s successful bid to host the 2014 Ryder Cup.
To get the ball rolling at Caprington, club Pro Bob Josey began offering free junior coaching, with help from the junior committee. Letters and posters went to the community and schools and stories generated in the local press targeted children who had never before had the opportunity to play golf. Club members joined in by donating equipment and balls.
“At the first coaching session we had a dozen children,” said George. “Then we held a ‘bring a pal’ night and their friends, brothers and sisters came along.
“Adult members became involved so we organized a Texas scramble, with an adult accompanying a youth and two kids, and we had over 30 kids turning up. Afterwards we brought everybody into the club, gave them food and drink. For the first time for a few years the club had a real family atmosphere.”
A radical aspect of the junior drive was the club's decision to offer free memberships to the children. In just four months 40 have taken up this offer.
Providing everything for free is a short-term incentive to create interest but George is convinced he can attract external funding so that no child will ever be turned away on the grounds of cost.
He is confident the club will earn an award that will pay for himself and three fellow members to attend Level 1 coaching in October. Having four qualified volunteer coaches would be a major breakthrough to the club’s plans to offer structured clubgolf coaching to large numbers from next March.
The program will take off this winter with taster sessions at the club and clubgolf introductory game coaching in schools. Plans for 2011 include offering children’s ‘fit for golf sessions’ and enter junior teams into the local leagues, having not been able to do so in 2010.
“Every single week we are seeing more kids at the coaching and they're all coming in from outside the club,” said a delighted George. “It's happening without us even approaching the schools in a big way.
“We have had a fantastic response from local children and it's obvious to see how much they are enjoying it.
“To get 60 children in our coaching is our aim. Considering we started with just six four months ago, that would be a 1000% increase, which would be quite impressive.”