The 2014 Junior Ryder Cup hosted by The Blairgowrie Golf Club has been hailed a triumph by both Ryder Cup Europe and the PGA of America for raising the level of the event that runs alongside the main Ryder Cup matches just down the road at Gleneagles.
The tournament sees junior boys and girls compete in a mirrored format to the full Ryder Cup but has frequently played second fiddle to its elder brother event. However, this year crowds numbering in their thousands have shown that the event is now taking a step forward and is raising it’s profile.
“This year has been so much better because we are so close to the main site,” said Mikael Sorling, Chairman of the Ryder Cup European Development Trust and Vice-Chairman of the PGAs of Europe. “ClubGolf Scotland and the Ryder Cup Legacy programme bringing all of these school kids to try golf has helped make it the absolute best Junior Ryder Cup ever.”
This year’s edition saw Team USA overhaul Team Europe in a 16-8 victory with both teams competing with maturity in keeping with the spirit of the Ryder Cup. But it is perhaps the deep involvement and contribution from ClubGolf Scotland, the highly acclaimed national junior golf development programme aimed at recruiting and retaining more juniors into the game of golf, whilst being intrinsically tied in to the Ryder Cup’s legacy activity, that has played a key part in injecting a spark to the tournament.
Six PGA Professionals and a vast army of volunteers from surrounding educational facilities and golf development programmes gave thousands of children from local schools and their families the opportunity to get involved with the sport alongside the Junior Ryder Cup matches taking place at the club.
“The two events have mixed brilliantly,” explained Rachel Holdsworth, Event Coordinator for ClubGolf Scotland. “Here [on the range] they can run around as much as they want, make as much noise, and then even out on the course they can enjoy it and are encouraged to cheer them on and wave flags and just get involved with it.
“We had over 360 families join in over the weekend which really brought a family feel to it, then yesterday over 1200 kids took part from loads of different local authorities and today we’ve got up to 1500.”
Sorling added, “Young kids want someone they can relate to, so here at the Junior Ryder Cup it’s easier for them to relate to those that are still juniors! They get so much closer to the game here and really see them from just a few yards away.
“They have been behaving so well I’m really impressed. OK you can hear them, but no shouting or anything and has been a nice background sound, I think it’s been lovely.”
The Junior Ryder Cup has continued to grow since its inception in 1997 but it seems Blairgowrie and the influence of the ClubGolf Scotland along with Visit Scotland, have managed to raise the bar for the event that will no doubt act as a catalyst for the Junior matches continue to grow and grow in years to come.