EEFF kids' inspiring visit to St Andrews
They may now be separated by thousands of miles, but for more than 20 juniors around the world the bonds of friendship forged during a week at St. Andrews, the “Home of Golf,” may last a lifetime. Thanks to St. Andrews-based charity, New Links, teenagers from South Africa and America met Scottish counterparts from Aug. 8-15, to enjoy a program of golf along with educational and cultural activities at the famed sporting destination and university town.
Joining youngster from St. Andrews Links Junior Golf Association were members of the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation in South Africa; representatives of the Bill Dickey Scholarship Association based in Scottsdale, Ariz., golfers from Renee Powell's LPGA/USGA Girls' Golf school at Clearview Golf Club in East Canton, Ohio, and a group from Dullatur and Westerwood, Cumbernauld near Glasgow, Scotland.
“We want to share the spirit of St. Andrews, where golf is game for everyone,” said New Links co-founder Kenny Wood, an accomplished golfer and an astrophysicist at St. Andrews University.
“Our partners this year use golf as a means to inspire children to learn and grow. We hope they will become great golfers and, more importantly, that they become great human beings.”
Renee Powell marked her third trip to St. Andrews in the past 13 months, a tour that included her receiving an honorary doctorate of laws degree in June from the university. She is the first female golf professional to have received the honor.
“It was a wonderful week, a wonderful cultural exchange for all of us,” said Powell. “Golf has a unique power to bring people of all races and nationalities together and to break down barriers. Where better to experience this than St. Andrews? It was a great mixture of diversity that in the end was a great education for the young people. If young people can learn, can educate older people about how they can get together for a common good, not just a golf program, I don't see what can stop us all from overcoming barriers and being better persons.”
Powell shared a conversation between a South African boy and one of her program's female participants.
“A white South African boy explained apartheid to an American girl, a teenager who really knew nothing about it,” said Powell. “But his having lived through it in his country and seeing the barriers broken down is certainly progress.
“Another girl asked if the boys were Africans, and they answered that they were. By using this wonderful game of golf as an educational and teaching tool, it broadens the scope of this world to youth.”
Hannes van Niekerk, CEO of the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation praised the New Links initiative: “This is a dream trip for our members. They come from economically challenged backgrounds and could not have come to St. Andrews without New Links.”
Els was instrumental in setting up the visit after he met New Links representatives at last year's Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
“I see this relationship as an excellent match,” said Els. “At the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation, we give our members the freedom to develop in all aspects of their lives and New Links St. Andrews provides positive, life-changing experiences at the place where it all began. Golf helps kids make new friends, gives them confidence and helps them lead better lives. That's big. That's the ultimate.”
Dr. Marcus Polk, one of the first recipients of a Bill Dickey scholarship award more than 20 years ago, also was enthusiastic about the visit.
“Golf teaches important life skills, said Polk. “While some of the kids have genuine ambitions to make a career from playing golf, all will benefit from the social interaction and respect for others that are at the core of the game.” It was the third-annual youth visit to be sponsored by New Links.
“I would like to thank the members of the St. Andrews golfing community who have helped us to make this such a success. We have been fortunate to experience real generosity of openness of heart,” said Wood.
The juniors were welcomed into both the Royal and Ancient Golf Club and into the St. Andrews Golf Club. David Joy spoke to them about the history of the game and the town. Keith Irvine was a perfect host at One Golf Place.
“The R&A hosted a reception for the kids, and I thought that they were wonderful in allowing access into the trophy room and those areas reserved for members,” said Powell. “The kids got a great introduction of the historical significance of St. Andrews in its relationship to the birth of golf.”
PGA Professional Jim Farmer, who served as captain of the victorious 2005 Great Britain & Ireland PGA Cup Team, offered coaching tips. The schedule for the week included golf at the Tom Morris designed Balcomie Links in Crail, a visit to Kingarrock, where golfers play exclusively with hickory clubs, rounds at Kingsbarns and the new Castle Course at St. Andrews. In addition, the children learned about clubmaking at the St. Andrews Golf Company and received advice on training and fitness for golf from physiotherapist Bernie Li, current St. Andrews Golf Club champion, and Lee Rowan, a three-time winner of the Eden Trophy.
A new dimension was brought to the program through the participation of Campus Movie Fest, who provided cameras and lap tops for the participants to make short films of their visit. Their films were shown at a special final event at Fairmont St. Andrews.
There were some fine golfing performances throughout the week. Shaun Smith from South Africa posted a 63 on the Strathtyrum in a round where he was limited to five clubs, and also had a 67 at Crail.
During a final day competition at the Kittocks Course, Cheyenne Woods (a niece of Tiger Woods), representing the Bill Dickey Scholarship Association, turned in a 70 and Jason Koeries from the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation had a 71. The winners of the inaugural New Links St. Andrews Trophy for boys, contested on the Kittocks Course was Dan Bones, who had a net 71 playing off four and the girls' trophy went to Camilla Tait who had a net 67 off a 10 handicap. Both are from the St. Andrews Links Junior Golf Association (SALJGA).
South Africa's Jason Koeries was runner-up in the boys' division posting a 71 using a scratch handicap. Shamira Marshall, a 4 handicap and representing Clearview and the LPGA/USGA Girls' Golf program, was runner-up in her division with a net 70.
Bill Dickey member Harold Varner was inspired to declare he wanted to play in The Open when it returns to St. Andrews in 2010. The 18-year-old, who celebrated his birthday wearing full kilt and regalia, carries a 2 handicap, and has already won The First Tee Open at Pebble Beach.
www.PGA.com, 27 August 2008