By Hamish Stuart
More than 300 golfers of all ages and abilities helped to make the first ever Wales Golf Festival a huge success and a blueprint for the future.
The three day event at Parc Golf Club near Newport included players from as young as seven through to senior level, beginners, players with a disability and a PING Welsh Junior Tour event.
“It has been a long time in the making and great to finally see this dream come to fruition, to run events that we haven’t run before,” said Wales Golf Championship Manager David Wilson.
“We had a range of formats completely focussed on having people enjoy themselves, going forward we want to use this to showcase what is now championships and events in Wales Golf.
“There will be events for everybody, both individual and team, for people of all abilities who want to get involved.”
With the emphasis on fun and inclusion, the first day saw events for golfers with a disability and beginners who have come through New2Golf schemes around South Wales.
The second say saw the club qualifier for the Welsh Mixed Medal for members of the Parc, with men and women choosing a coloured tee to play from, adjusting their handicap accordingly, and then a Golf Sixes Cup event in the afternoon for families.
Then Sunday saw the second PING Welsh Junior Tour event of the year, with players from the ages of five to 14 returning to competition after all the events had to be cancelled last year.
“The Golf Sixes Cup was fantastic to launch the junior side of things, to see families out there together smiling away was great to see. We really hope that goes from strength to strength,” said Wilson.
“We are looking into the idea of turning the cup into a new format for next year with regional and club leagues, building up to finals.
“It was good to see the club members playing in to the Welsh Mixed Medal and the opportunities offered through the World Handicap System.
We were seeing members playing off tees which were suitable for their ability in competition.
“The disability championship event worked well and it is always such a humbling experience. That is something we plan on growing alongside other disability events in the calendar going forward, a mix of elite and handicap events.
“The ladies of the New2Golf Summer Swing came in force and had a really successful game, getting back into competitive golf for all abilities.
“The PING Welsh Junior Tour is well established but it is nice to have it back after a long 18 months for everybody. The juniors out there missed a year in their development, so it was great to see them back out here competing.”
The festival is the first of two this year, with Abergele in North Wales hosting a similar event in October.
“We are thrilled to put this event on and an equivalent event in North Wales later in the year,” explained Wales Golf chairman Ashton Bradbury.
“We really want to make sure we are offering a wide range of championships that are accessible to a wide range of players of all abilities and ages.
“It is part of our strategy that we want to run a full spectrum of events that appeal to everybody, from young juniors right through to seniors events and all levels of ability.
“We had these plans last year so we’re delighted to finally get to do it and we’re thrilled with the response we’re getting.
“It is really important to be visible to all golfers in Wales and we have to work at that. We have made good progress over the last few years, we need to be working with the clubs to take the game forward to the benefit of everyone who enjoys golf in Wales.”
The reaction of those taking part in the various events was one of excitement and appreciation.
“It has been an interesting day, a good event they have put on. It is brilliant for the rest of the disabled community,” said Bargoed’s Mike Wall
It was a feeling echoed by Kevin Cook of Llanwern. “I loved it. It was a well organised event and it makes a huge difference to have the help and appreciation. It allows us to go out and play golf which is super.
“I have been fortunate to play all over Europe in disabled events so it is great to see Wales Golf taking this on.”
The New2Golf Summer Swing was won by Llanishen’s Karen Maddocks, who said, “It really is a lovely opportunity to be able to come out here and for Wales Golf to put this event on for us.
“To get the opportunity to come here with everything laid out for us is really exciting and makes us want to go on to do bigger and better things.”
Belinda Davies, Morlais Castle, added, “We are all a bit nervous because it’s the first time we have come away to play as part of New2Golf. We are frightened and excited.
“We are looking for a fun day and to meet some people from other courses so we can meet elsewhere.”
With the emphasis on fun throughout, the first Wales Golf Festival will certainly be the start of something regular.