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Highland kids get professional experience at Spey Valley

June 28, 2013

Over 130 schoolchildren from the Highlands enjoyed the chance to learn new skills first hand from some of Europe's most talented golfers with a visit to the Scottish Hydro Challenge at Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Club.

The children from local primary schools were invited to take part in coaching clinics delivered by European Challenge Tour professionals on Friday of tournament week, while also taking the opportunity to watch Europe's rising stars tackle the Spey Valley course.

The youngsters were also delighted to be able to put their own golfing skills to the test with a series of challenges provided by Scotland's national junior golf programme, ClubGolf, as well as getting within touching distance of the Ryder Cup for a commemorative photograph of their visit to Aviemore.

Grantown Primary School teacher Heather Potter was once again delighted to make the 15-mile journey south to Macdonald Spey Valley with a group of children from the school.

She said: "We get invited to come every year and the kids always have a great time. We really get a lot of golfers coming through because of the programme. They golf in school for four weeks before they come here and this finishes it off for them and gives them a taste of what it would be like to play golf properly and a lot of them are going to take up the opportunity to receive free tuition during the summer holidays from ClubGolf coaches at Grantown on Spey Golf Club.

"Usually afterwards the kids are eager to get out onto the golf course and they ask their parents if they can go to the practice area. It is really excellent and I hope it continues. I play golf myself, so it is great to see the kids getting to try it out."

Jamie McLeary, who won the event back in 2009, was one of the professionals on hand to deliver the clinics, demonstrating to the children how he warms up on the range before performing the technique required to hit a variety of shot shapes and trajectories.

Encouraged by the work being done through schools and the ClubGolf programme to attract children to golf, he said: "Having kids attend events like this is important. I stopped playing golf for years and the reason I took it back up is because I watched the Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island in 1991 and I still remember it to this day.

"It's good for kids to come along and see the work that professionals put in and it's important that we encourage them into membership. If they do take up membership at a young age, they will then be more likely to stay in the game.

"It's not just about unearthing the next superstar but about getting more people playing. The more people we have playing, the more likely golf clubs will stay open and the more likely it will be that we'll have the next generation of golfers coming through."

McLeary's fellow professionals Stuart Davis and Jack Doherty, who finished tied for tenth in the flagship Challenge Tour event, joined the youngsters to offer some short game instruction, several even being given the chance to receive one-to-one tuition.

Prior to the clinics, every child was put through their paces with an 'assault course' of golfing challenges, ranging from Ten-Pin Putting to Snooker Golf, established by ClubGolf's Highland and Islands Regional Manager Willie MacKay.

He said: "I think the kids learn an awful lot coming along to the Scottish Hydro Challenge at Spey Valley. The professionals commit themselves to it and we see that the activities are presented in a fun manner for the children to enjoy.

"It's a great opportunity for these youngsters to get a first taste of golf and hopefully being able to get up close and personal with the Ryder Cup and some of the best up-and-coming professionals can provide the inspiration they need to join their local ClubGolf programme.

"A big thank you from ClubGolf to everyone at the Challenge Tour, Macdonald Spey Valley, Scottish Hydro and Bounce Sports Management for allowing us to make this day possible for Highland children every year."

Speaking on behalf of the Challenge Tour, Senior Project Manager Sally Stewart said: "It's great to see so many schoolchildren attending the Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts and, from the smiles on so many of their faces, it is clear that they had a fantastic day.

"Challenge Tour golfers, many of whom are at the very beginning of their professional careers, are terrific role models for children, and through the clinics and from watching some of the play unfold on the course, we hope they gained a good appreciation of what is required to succeed at the top.

"I'm sure that seeing our players up close and personal will provide the inspiration for many of the kids to enjoy a lifelong involvement in golf and we look forward to seeing another group at Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Club next year."

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