Alasdair Good may have created Wee Wonders by “default” but, nearly 25 years on, the junior programme for 5-12 year-olds is starting to churn out a stream of European Tour winners and also Ryder Cup players.
Tommy Fleetwood, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tyrrell Hatton and Eddie Pepperell all played in Wee Wonders events as they were cutting their teeth in the game, as did Aaron Rai, the European Tour’s newest champion after landing the Honma Hong Kong Open last Sunday.
In the final round at Fanling, Rai, Fleetwood and Fitzpatrick all played in the last group, a proud moment for Good, the head PGA professional at Gullane, as the Wee Wonders founder watched the action on television.
“That was amazing,” admitted Good, who was based at Foxhills in Surrey when he came up with the idea for the programme and has continued to be its driving force since moving to East Lothian in 2003.
Rai’s maiden win on the circuit came a few months after he’d been re-united with Good as the 23-year-old Englishman visited Gullane to play in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.
“Absolutely,” replied Good to being asked if he could remember coming across Rai for the first time. “Aaron and I have stayed friends for a long time and I remember his speech when he left Wee Wonders. We take one boy and one girl when they are leaving to take us through their journey and his was a speech that absolutely stuck in my mind.
“He said, ‘I’ve called Alasdair, Mr Good and I now look forward to calling him, Alasdair, my friend’. I spent a bit of time with him when he played here this year and it was incredible to watch him winning on Sunday. His is a great story and it just shows there are lots of different ways of doing things correctly.”
This year, Wee Wonders had more events than ever before, with 59 regional qualifiers and nine regional finals taking place throughout Great Britain and Ireland. Sponsored by adidas golf, the programme culminated with a grand final was held at St Andrews in August.
Next year marks its 25th anniversary yet Good can’t resist a chuckle when asked how Wee Wonders came about. “In 1995 when I was at Foxhills, I phoned the Golf Foundation and asked, ‘do you have any structured programmes in place that we can use?’
“They said that they didn’t recognise junior golf under the age of 12! Yes, it is easy to think that junior initiatives have always been there, but that’s not the case, hence that is why it was by default that we started Wee Wonders.
“However, nobody in their wildest imagination thought it would be a stepping stone to all the things we have done since then, including the staging of European Championships here and us taking kids to the US. It’s been an amazing journey.”
Stars of the future include two promising young Scots. “One of the standout Wee Wonders in recent years is Grace Crawford,” said Good. “I think she’s just 13 but is playing off four and is Europe’s No 1 for her age group. Aidan Lawson is another one.
“There’s a lot of local players with potential to progress and the more opportunities there are, the more they can flex their wee golfing muscles and see what they want to go on to.
“The hardest thing I find is that the juniors look at the tour pros and can’t necessarily make that connection when they are six, seven or even 11. I remember going to the Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns and there was a young girl watching Charley Hull. I said to her, ‘do you like Charley’ and she said she was her favourite player. I said to her that I remembered Charley playing at her age in Wee Wonders and she turned to mum and dad said, ‘Nah, how can that possibly be?’ But it is possible.
“At the same time, though, seeing wee Heather from Carnoustie, for example, getting into Wee Wonders, making friends with other girls in her town and area and now playing social golf with her friends is equally satisfying. To me, that is also a success story.”