The Ryder Cup Wales Legacy Fund is supporting projects across the country, benefitting local communities and golfers alike.
Wales - building a legacy for the future
For one week every two years, The Ryder Cup becomes the greatest golfing show on earth: a kaleidoscopic maelstrom of drama, excitement, elation, frustration, disappointment, triumph and disaster.
But what happens once the frenzied roars of the crowds fall silent, the 24 golfing behemoths of Europe and the United States have moved on to another venue and another tournament, and the vast swathes of canvas and steel have been dismantled and neatly stowed away? What is the legacy of hosting this glorious, golfing carnival?
Certainly, in the case of Wales, no stone is being left unturned in a full-scale attempt from Government down to ensure that this small, clever country with its population of just over three million people
inherits a lasting legacy from The 2010 Ryder Cup at The Celtic Manor Resort.
Although the event is still 18 months away, Wales is already experiencing the wider benefits of the decision, taken in 2001, to award The Ryder Cup to a country which has always had to fight for an international profile as a golfing destination, but possessing a wealthy and driven citizen in Sir Terry Matthews, owner of The Celtic Manor Resort near Newport.
"We want the country to enjoy tangible, visible, long-term benefits from The Ryder Cup. We must not let a golden opportunity pass us by" is the declared mission statement of John Jermine, a former top Welsh amateur golfer and businessman who is now Chairman of Ryder Cup Wales 2010 Ltd.
Jermine is currently being shadowed by the BBC as part of a four-programme series to be broadcast by BBC Wales under the title of 'Changing Landscapes' just prior to The Ryder Cup next October, and he is confident that the result will show that Wales has delivered on its promises.
He said: "One of the first things that happened in the wake of the decision to take The Ryder Cup to Wales was to tackle the legacy issue. Very quickly, it became apparent that investment was required to ensure that the event did not come and go without a very distinct benefit for the country as a whole.
"Ryder Cup Wales 2010 Ltd (RCW) was duly established by the Welsh Assembly Government in 2003 with a commitment to work with several key partners to ensure that The Ryder Cup would not just be a transient week-long event but an experience which all of Wales could embrace and benefit from.
"We received £2 million of Government money in the form of a legacy fund, but then had to decide what to do with it. It soon became apparent that Wales, as distinct from other places in the UK, was painfully short of 'pay and play' courses.
"We decided to invite all local authorities to bid for financial support from the Legacy Fund, so we ended up with 22 local authorities going through three separate rounds of invitations and widened the exercise to include the 158 golf clubs affiliated to the Golf Union of Wales."
From that simple blueprint has come a spectacular success story. The £2 million has now been distributed to a myriad of projects covering the length and breadth of Wales, taking in 40 projects and creating over 200 new golf holes.
"The Legacy Fund projects, from Anglesey to Cardiff and Powys to Pembrokeshire, will provide a lasting legacy for all golfers who are thinking of taking up the game. It will bring a tremendous benefit to local communities and encourage participation among the youngsters."
Not just youngsters, it seems, but potential players of both sexes and all ages. Golf Development Wales – a strategic partnership between the Golf Union of Wales, the Golf Foundation and the Sports Council for Wales and supported by RCW - was established as a result of Wales' successful bid and focuses on encouraging more people especially women and children to take up the sport.
Jermine gets instantly animated by his passion for the work being done by Golf Development Wales. He explained; "It is a really exciting concept. In Wales we have 50,000 male golfers and 8000 women. It's the same throughout Britain but not on the continent of Europe. Most clubs in the UK were established as men's clubs and that has made the game inaccessible to a lot of young people and women.
"The problem has been to offer an alternative to people who wish to try golf but don’t want to make a permanent commitment to the game without first experiencing it properly. That's where Golf Devleopment Wales comes in.
"We have three people working with the PGA and the Golf Union of Wales with the objective being to introduce golf into the schools and to those who are new to the game. In Wales we have what are known as 'Dragon Sports', recognised by the Welsh Assembly Government, which are taught within the curriculum. In 2006 golf became the first new sport to be included and only the eighth 'Dragon Sport' in all.
"Since that programme started, participation of the 7-11 year old age group has increased by 4 per cent to 18.4 per cent. That's an extra 6000 kids. There are now 33,000 children under the age of 11 and another 42,000 under 16 of both sexes who have participated in golf, either through Tri-Golf or within the schools. Since golf became a Dragon Sport, 7000 primary schools have participated in golf so the initiative is working. Beforehand, the figures would have been virtually nil."
He continued: "We now have 70 start centres where children can attend structured coaching sessions at virtually no cost. It's that vital link between the school the golf club and the community that makes this work – a place where the local club can liaise with the local school to provide the resource and facilities so that kids can go for lessons. So far, we’ve been able to fund about 1750 people a year through that vehicle."
Jermine's enthusiasm for his work is evident for all to see. Facts and figures trip from his tongue like water spouting from a tap. As a passionate Welshman, albeit living in the Surrey stockbroker belt and a member of Sunningdale Golf Club, Jermine never forgets his roots and his early golfing experiences at his home club, Radyr Golf Club, just north of Cardiff.
He added: "One of the great aspects of Ryder Cup Wales and Golf Development Wales is that no-one need miss out, whatever your sex, status or income. Let me give you an example.
"We all believe it is very important to attract women and girls to the game, so we've introduced a few scheme where any three women, who have never played golf but would like to, can get together and we will pay for six free lessons. Over the past three years, 90 such schemes have been launched and 4500 females have tried golf.
"One scheme is at Radyr. A a small notice was posted on a notice board at the county hall and they had to close the list when it reached 200 names. All 200 went for the six free introductory lessons in groups of 40 at a time. Believe it or not, none of them dropped out so we paid a modest sum for another set of six free lessons and Radyr ended up with 23 new women members!
"Up to now, the average age for a woman member in Wales has been nearly 60. With the new influx, from teens upwards, the average new woman member works out at closer to 30. The initiative has worked out better than anyone could have hoped, with clubs getting between five and ten per cent of new female members. One club actually increased its female membership by 35 per cent.
"We also ask clubs to provide women with three month 'taster' memberships rather than make an instant decision to join. Some clubs have agreed that the women can play in the summer for a nominal sum before making that big commitment to join full-time.
"At starter centres we have a development scheme with over 2000 girls so that they can play with others of their own sex and age group. We now have around 40 clubs signing up young girls, with the operation superbly run by Hannah James of Golf Development Wales. She is making it happen."
All over Wales, projects are under construction, particularly new par three courses, driving ranges and short game areas designed specifically to make the game more accessible and enjoyable to those new to the game.
A vibrant and rewarding legacy indeed.