Craig Lee sets up junior foundation to help smaller Scottish golf clubs

Former European Tour player Craig Lee is offering his services to Scotland’s smaller golf clubs as a mobile junior coach and convenor in a bid to help them produce the next generation of members.

Craig Lee during the third round of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club in October. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

The Stirling man, who lost to Thomas Bjorn in a play-off in the 2013 Omega European Masters in Switzerland, is aiming to try and play his part in shaping the game’s future through the newly-launched Craig Lee Foundation.

His plan is to help clubs that have no professionals or junior convenors and use his knowledge and experience in the same way that both Paul Lawrie and Stephen Gallacher have through their respective foundations to try and keep growing the game in Scotland.

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Lee has launched his foundation at the same time as setting up ‘Pros on the Road’, which is aimed at clubs around the country that don’t have a PGA professional, having used his earnings from last year’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open to get that up and running.

“It is pretty exciting times, to be honest,” Lee, who finished 59th in the Race to Dubai in 2013 and sat at European golf’s top table five seasons in a row, told The Scotsman. “It’s all go, it’s been pretty manic behind the scenes trying to get everything set up for the season.

“Speaking to some of the clubs round about if they wanted to be involved with ‘Pros on the Road’ and asking about junior sections, I wouldn’t say there was a gap in the market, but there was a common theme where a lot of clubs either have very few juniors or, if they do have juniors, they don’t have junior convenors to run help or guide them.

“The clubs I am speaking to don’t have pros, so there really is no guidance for them. When I saw that, I was actually quite disappointed and a few of the courses are actually on my own doorstep.

“Everyone knows that the juniors are the lifeline to the future of golf clubs, so, if they don’t have any juniors or don’t have anyone looking after the ones they have, then they are not going to have much of a golf club in 10-15 years time.

“It’s kind of snowballed from there. My foundation is going to be slightly different to Stevie’s and Paul’s. They all congregate at their driving range or golf course whereas I am going to be going into golf courses and trying to create a junior environment and help those courses create junior members as well as getting kids into golf.

“It’s a bit of a double-edged sword. I’m trying to help the golf courses survive and also get more kids into golf. It’s a slightly different angle, not that there needed to be a different angle because I don’t think you could have enough junior foundations or junior support out there for the kids.

“If it was the same, that would be fine, but obviously I don’t have the facilities to run a junior programme so it makes more sense for me to go to other golf courses. It’s materialised from listening to golf clubs, really.”

Lee, a former Scottish Boys’ Stroke Play champion, is planning to focus initially on clubs in the Stirlingshire area and will be utilising the recently-published new Scottish Golf National Junior Framework, which he described as “pretty impressive”.

The 43-year-old added: “Both Paul and Stevie do phenomenal work. The number of juniors they have at their foundation events is incredible and they can take them from complete beginners through to tour players, which is great.

“They are obviously doing something exceptionally well and hopefully I can use my own experience to do likewise. If we can achieve half of what they’ve done, I’d be absolutely delighted.

“When I look back, I was very fortunate. My grandad took over as junior convenor at Stirling purely because we didn’t have one. It was a bit of a chaotic scene before that, but he then looked after the juniors right through all of my junior membership and a couple of years afterwards as well.

“When you think about it, It was a big ask to get someone to take on that role for a period of time. My idea is that the Craig Lee Foundation acts as a junior convenor for these golf clubs and it would pretty much take the pressure off volunteers and the kids have a long-stop contact. Hopefully that will alleviate a bit of concern for golf clubs to get a junior convenor. They’d come to me and I’d do it all.”

Lee is equally excited about his ‘Pros on the Road’ venture, which is also set to involve Heather MacRae, though her role will be dependent on availability during a hectic playing schedule this year.

“I wrote to over 250 golf courses in Scotland that don’t have pros,” said Lee. “I was quite surprised about that number and I have eight signed up. They are quite nicely spread throughout Scotland as well.

“We are going up to Skye and also up to Wick, we’ve got one in Aberdeen, we are in talks with one in Galashiels and three or four in and around Stirlingshire and I am looking forward to getting out there.

“I’ve had a bit of a hiccup with the mobile van. It took a while to get one in the first place due to the coronovarius situation and it’s been in a garage for two-and-a-half weeks getting a part fitted

“I’m three or four weeks behind schedule with the van, but it’s work in progress. Heather is involved and can be involved as much as she wants, but she has decided she wants to play a wee bit more this year and is focusing more on that.”

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