WHILE either Catriona Matthew or Stephen Gallacher is likely to receive the main accolade, tonight’s Scottish Golf Awards in Glasgow will also honour the game’s unsung stars in the home of golf.
Four hard-working individuals at grass-roots level are in the running for RBS Volunteer of the Year and two of them have also helped their respective clubs make the shortlist for the RBS Junior Club of the Year.
It’s a tough job for the judging panel in both categories but, win or lose, capital club Prestonfield and its volunteer nominee, Liz Taylor, have achieved something that is nothing short of remarkable with their junior section.
Using the ClubGolf initiative to give youngsters a taste of the Royal & Ancient game, the club that sits under Salisbury Crags had 124 players take part in coaching sessions overseen by 11 volunteer coaches last year, although even better for its future is the fact a large proportion of them have become members, with the junior section currently sitting at an impressive 74.
With Taylor as its driving force, the programme has been run so successfully that Prestonfield is being held up as a role model as clubs the length and breadth of the country strive to arrest dwindling memberships.
“We believe other clubs could benefit from this model,” said Lesley Nicholson, the Clubgolf regional manager in the East of Scotland. “Prestonfield are targeting the right people and have complete buy in from the main committee as well as club members. It’s great to hear a real buzz about the golf club.”
That view was echoed by Alistair Bisset, a former Prestonfield junior convenor and the current president of the Lothians Golf Association. “When I was junior convenor in 1988, when we had 84 juniors and the likes of Kingsknowe, Duddingston and Craigmillar Park also had big junior sections then. But it has been falling away in recent years with a drop in 18-30 year olds being where the main problem is.
“It is great to see the juniors are starting to come back at Prestonfield and, having taken my grandson along to the ClubGolf coaching myself last year, I could see the kids were enjoying it. Even if the club sees 20 of the 74 juniors it has got at present become full members in the future, that would be a good result.”
In addition to technical advice, the youngsters are also being offered a place to hone their new-found skills.
Having secured a SportScotland Awards For All grant, the club is in the process of constructing two par-3s on its practice area that will be dedicated to Clubgolf.
“We are creating something very special, not only for the children but also the mums and dads who have been learning the game of golf. This creates a great environment for all the family,” said Taylor, who is up against Alastair Tait (Fortrose & Rosemarkie), Fraser McDonald (Thornton) and Jim Cowper (Dundas Parks) in her category while Fortrose & Rosemarkie, Bathgate and Peebles are Prestonfield’s rivals for the club prize. “Being named RBS Junior Club of the Year would mean the world to everyone at Prestonfield. Hopefully, the amount of publicity generated would mean that we would be able to attract more children to this wonderful game of golf, which is our ultimate goal.”
Won last year by Strathendrick, the triumphant club will walk away with a £1,500 prize, with £500 for reinvestment into their clubs, plus £100 to use personally, going to the person who succeeds Torvean’s Shirley Murray as top volunteer.
“For everyone at ClubGolf, the RBS Awards are one of the highlights of the year as we get to see those who have put their time and effort into our programme rewarded for this terrific work,” said the programme’s manager, Jackie Davidson.
Matthew and Gallacher are the leading contenders for the Scottish Golfer of the Year Award at an event that will see Bernard Gallacher receive a lifetime achievement accolade.