Youngsters with special educational needs and/or a disability in Kent have been able to visit a welcoming local golf club for the first time and experience their first inter-school golf festival.
Under the banner of Kent Disability Academies, boys and girls aged eight to 12 enjoyed the Golf Foundation’s easy-to-start Golfway equipment and games, played out at Marriott Tudor Park Country Club near Maidstone. Here, the accent was on fun and learning about golf, while the day was also about boosting confidence, self-esteem and making friends.
Thanks to volunteers from Kent Golf and support from The Golf Foundation, this school-to-club project is designed to demonstrate to teachers of children with a disability the positive mental and physical benefits of golf, and thus be sustainable with the help of local golf venues - a key part of the Golf Foundation's ongoing joint Junior Strategy with England Golf.
With the first ever G4D Open showcasing disability golf at the top levels of the game, disability golf has never been more visible, and this was another chance to showcase the game and opportunities to youngsters.
Kent Golf Junior Development Officer Kim Brusadelli and Tudor Park PGA Professional Jack Ryan welcomed 35 children and their teachers from four local schools, to sample fun competition based around six Golfway games, including ‘Finders Keepers’, ‘Grand National’ and ‘Drive for Show’.
Kim Brusadelli said: “We were fortunate to have six brilliant volunteers on the day from Kent Golf helping out, and the children clearly loved it! You could see them all really growing in confidence, while playing against youngsters from other schools will have been great in terms of sociability; all at a golf club for the very first time.
“For schools and families to understand that a golf club can offer a welcoming environment is important, as we seek to make golf more inclusive for everyone. The Golfway equipment is also a strong option for youngsters with a disability because there is no pressure in playing shots, and there isn’t the physicality of team sports.”
Kim added: “In terms of the session, Jack [Ryan] was superb with his coaching and everyone at Kent Golf, all at Tudor Park and the Golf Foundation, made the day very special.”
The children had all received a coaching session from Jack Ryan and Kim in their schools beforehand so that they were ready to enjoy the day at Tudor Park.
Schools, Harrietsham Primary, Bysing Wood Primary, the School of Science and Technology Maidstone Secondary, and Aspire school is a special free school in Sittingbourne took part the festival, while Snowfields and Greenfields schools are also part of this Kent Disability Academies project. This has been part-funded by the Golf Foundation’s HSBC Golf Roots ‘Plus’ initiative which supports young people in community projects up and down the country.
Mike Hollis, Golf Foundation Regional Development Officer, said: “It was wonderful to see these youngsters from different schools playing golf and you could see the positive effect it had on them. With Golfway everyone can connect and play their shots, or simply enjoy some putts as part of a game. This shows teachers how accessible golf can be, how easy it is to deliver, and the lasting benefits for exercise, confidence-building and pupils’ wellbeing.”
Mike added: “Kim is fantastic in her role supporting youngsters in schools and clubs: this work benefits so much from her passion and understanding of children. It was also a pleasure to meet volunteers of different ages on the day who were all promoting the sport so well. It is fantastic that the Golf Foundation can support this worthy project.”