A junior golf academy founded in memory of a talented golfer killed by a drunk driver has received an £18,000 cash boost from the Ryder Cup European Development Trust.
The Kevin Duggan Junior Golf Academy at Luton’s Stockwood Park Golf Centre, which provides free coaching for disadvantaged children, will use the money to fund a PGA trained golf community and development officer and usher in a new generation of youngsters including disabled players.
In a special presentation, former home secretary David Blunkett, PGA chief executive Sandy Jones, TV star Kevin Whatley and Luton MP Margaret Moran handed over the first instalment of the money to accompany a £70,000 grant from Sport England.
The cash injection safeguards the academy’s future and marks a welcome relief for Dunstable pub landlord Declan Duggan who has been the moving force behind the academy which he founded in 2002 as a lasting memorial to his son Kevin who died in 1998.
In the past seven years the White Swan publican has off his own back raised more than £300,000 and with the support of Luton Borough Council created a putting green, teaching bays and a Ken Brown designed nine hole par three course that he aims to make a beacon for other academies to aspire to.
“It’s been a long hard struggle but we‘re so glad we‘ve seen it through especially for the sake of my family,” said Duggan. “The whole thing has stemmed from tragedy but seeing this succeed has eased our grief slightly and to be recognised by the Ryder Cup Trust is the icing on the cake.
“The great and unique thing about our facility is there are going to be no barriers, it doesn‘t matter what shape, size, or religion you are, whether you are disabled – everyone is welcome.
“That’s been the message we‘re trying to spread. One of the great successes to date is how the nine hole course has attracted more families who are coming here and playing together. We‘ve literally had hundreds.”
The academy’s partnership with Luton council gives them five hours a day where youngsters can receive free golf lessons and tuition from PGA pro Matthew Green. Among the youngsters being targeted are refugees, those with disabilities including the partially sighted and kids from the poorer areas of the borough.
Former Ryder Cup star and BBC pundit Ken Brown praised the work of the academy and the resolve of Duggan.
“Declan has worked tirelessly raising substantial amounts of money to produce a unique facility allowing disadvantaged young people to access the game of golf free of charge,” he said. “It’s a unique partnership between a local authority and local charity in Luton providing free golf for disadvantaged young golfers.”
More than £1.3m of Ryder Cup funds from the 2006 K Club matches is being ploughed into golf projects across Europe as it strives to promote, develop and grow the game.
PGA chief executive Sandy Jones also paid tribute to the efforts of Duggan.
“I can only marvel at the determination and energy of Declan and the excellent work that the Kevin Duggan Junior Golf Academy does which is not only bringing golf to underprivileged and disadvantaged children but providing a great platform for all youngsters to take up and enjoy the game,” he said.