Golf Business News – Wales Golf unveils annual award winners

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The winners of the Wales Golf Awards for 2024 have been announced at the annual Wales Golf Awards Lunch held at Celtic Manor Resort.

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Cardigan Golf Club was awarded Golf Club of the Year, with the picturesque venue, which overlooks the Teifi Estuary, having changed from a 13-strong commitee system to a Board of Directors to modernise governance, and having seen dramatic improvements on and off the course.

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Langland Bay’s Andrew Minty was the Golf Club Manager of the Year, following on from the coastal course being named Club of the Year and then Club of the Decade at previous award ceremonies.

Golf accessory company Asbri Golf managing director Eryl Williams was named as Volunteer of the Year for his work with the junior section at Radyr Golf Club near Cardiff, with Tom Benjamin from St Mellons, between Cardiff and Newport, as the Development PGA Professional of the Year supported by Asbri Golf.

James Ashfield and Isobel Kelly were PING male and female Golfers of the Year after successful seasons including Great Britain and Ireland selection, while Nigel Evans and Ann Lewis were the first winners of the PING Senior Amateur Golfer of the Year awards.

The winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award was John Roberts of Mold, for his contribution to junior golf at the club, around North Wales and also at national level as a Welsh selector.

In recognition of the increasing importance of golf helping to improve the environment, Pyle and Kenfig Golf Club was the first winner of the Sustainability Award, supported by Citation.

The management team at Cardigan Golf Club

Welsh Golf Club of the Year (supported by Howden)

Cardigan chairman Barrie Williams welcomed the recognition of the changes at his club thanks to winning The Welsh Golf Club of the Year award, supported by Howden Insurance.

“We are absolutely delighted, we have been knocking on the door for a few years, getting shortlisted several times, but to win is thrilling,” he said. “We have been making steady progress over the last few years thanks to our members who step up to help in various ways.

“We have carried out a lot of improvements. We have a new driving range with a covered area, which helps our members but also New2Golf for juniors and adults. Twelve months ago we converted the squash court into an indoor studio with a simulator, while the work on the course makes it something to behold, playable all year round.

“We hold regular open events and the comments we get are fantastic, with people signing up for the following year as soon as they finish. We changed our governance in 2022, bringing in a Board of Directors with a great emphasis on streamlined management and that has been a big help.”

Welsh Golf Club Manager of the Year (supported by the GCMA)

The Welsh Golf Club Manager of the Year went to Andrew Minty of Langland Bay. They have been both Welsh Golf Club of the Year and Club of the Decade under Minty’s stewardship.

This year though has been a particularly difficult year at the club, with several bereavements and illnesses.

Despite all that, junior membership has grown from 48 to 76 in the space of 7 months. There have also been improvements on the food and beverage side, an innovative scheme to include those on the waiting list, visitor guides, staff training and much more.

2023 was also Langland Bay’s most profitable year, with that profit being reinvested in machinery and the course.

“It is an absolute honour to win the award,” said Minty. “There are a lot of great managers in Wales and to win it this year is a dream come true to be honest, based on the year I have had personally and how the club have done.

“There were a lot of things going on personally, which we are starting to overcome now, but work was a distraction from that. I am surrounded by good staff, good people, and we are starting to get through it now.

“The club has gone really well, we are investing in the course all the time, junior membership has gone from 48 to 76, 130 odd people on the waiting list, getting the balance right between members and visitors, and getting the members experience the best we can.”

Volunteer of the Year Eryl Williams from Radyr Golf Club

Volunteer of the Year

Volunteer of the Year Eryl Williams has been instrumental in rejuvenating the junior section at Radyr since taking over as junior organiser in 2018, with 70 regular juniors and a waiting list to join the section now in place.

“I work within the golf industry and this has given me the chance to give back to the sport I love,” he said. “I was a junior golfer and our junior organiser in Denbigh made me feel part of the club back then. I made new friends and I am still playing. I think golf is a unique sport to help kids learn social skills as well as playing skills.

“I got involved through my son, but it great to see players coming through as part of one team regardless of age, sex and ability, they are part of something that will last a lifetime. That inspires me to keep going and developing the juniors and the way we have set it up the section almost runs itself with a great team of people helping out.”

Development PGA Professional of the Year Tom Benjamin

Development PGA Professional of the Year (supported by Asbri Golf)

The Development PGA Professional of the Year went to Tom Benjamin, a qualified PGA professional who stepped away from golf for 10 years before getting back involved at St Mellons to help out. Now he hopes the club can be a trailblazer to improve junior golf.

They went from having very few New2Golf participants and virtually no junior section, to a thriving New2Golf scheme for men and women, with the junior section growing to more than 50 active members.

“This award is a bit of a shock to be honest, but I am really pleased for the club,” he admitted. “I had a break from golf coaching for 10 years and came back in March, 2022, to help out a friend. The club wanted someone to help with coaching the ladies and juniors, I did not expect it to spiral as it did.

“Junior membership was free at the club, but no-one was taking part. We introduced a membership fee but made the benefits of that worth far more than the cost. We have gone from nought to 57 and the next stage is to see that approach help grow the Gwent junior leagues. It shows the appetite is there for junior golf if you provide the opportunities for people to play.”

Male Amateur Player of the Year James Ashfield

Male Amateur Player of the Year (supported by PING)

The Male Amateur Player of the Year Award went to Walker Cup player James Ashfield, who finished second in the Lytham Trophy, third in the European Nations Cup and ninth at the Spanish Amateur as well.

“This award is the cherry on top of a really good season for me,” he said. “I wanted to win it, my teammate Archie (Davies) has won it three times, so I wanted to take it off him.

“I thought I could get picked in the Walker Cup, so when I got selected it was a big relief and very exciting at the same time. It is definitely the elite event, going out there and competing against those players is the pinnacle.

“I played in a few pro events as well and keep seeing where I am compared with those boys. I reached the final stage of Qualifying School, and learned a lot about the pressure of trying to make it in the pro ranks. I will try again at the end of this year and in the nicest possible way I hope it is my last year as an amateur.”

Female Amateur Player of the Year (supported by PING)

The Female Player of the Year Award went to Isobel Kelly of Erewash Valey and Aberdovey. Her best result was finishing third in The R&A U16’s Championship, leading until the last few holes after an excellent second round of 69. She also earned selection for Great Britain and Ireland in the Junior Vagliano Trophy, helping the team to a draw in the event, their best ever result. 

“This award was completely unexpected, but I am really honoured – especially getting it so young,” she said. “Being selected for Great Britain and Ireland is probably the highlight in my best season so far. People talk about The R&A Championship and finishing third, but I was disappointed as I was leading up until the last two holes.

“Just being part of the Wales squads has been great, and gaining confidence from playing with all the older girls. I will be in the Under 18’s this year and it would be nice to win something big this year.”

Ann Lewis is the first recipient of the Senior Female Player Award

Senior Female Amateur of the Year (supported by PING)

Former British Ladies Senior Champion Ann Lewis is the first recipient of PING Senior Female Player of the Year Award.

“It is nice to win this the first time it has been presented,” said the Royal St David’s 69-year-old. “I am still representing my country in the international senior team which did so well. It is a great honour to be recognised by Wales Golf, this recognition is a big thing for the senior women.

“It is always an honour representing Wales and still being part of the senior team. We did not win the Home Internationals this year but we were very, very close. On a personal level to be the British Senior champion after winning in Portrush was quite something.”

Lewis was part of the combined men and women seniors team which drew with England in the Home Internationals and only lost to Scotland and Ireland by a single point.

Senior Male Player of the Year Nigel Evans

Senior Male Amateur of the Year (supported by PING)

PING Senior Male Player of the Year Nigel Evans, of St Mellons, was also part of that Home Internationals team.

“It is always nice to be recognised for something you love doing,” said the 69-year-old. “The highlight was representing Wales in the Home Internationals and also competing as well as we did. It was also nice to win the West of England Open, Ann Lewis wining the senior women’s event made that a nice Welsh double.

“I have been involved in golf since I was a kid and it is nice to be able to get involved in the Seniors when you retire, it is a good standard of competitive golf. I will carry on until I cannot compete any more, the people coming through will have to be better than people like me, but I would love to see that happen because it would make the team stronger.”

Lifetime Achievement Award

The Lifetime Achievement Award went to 82-year-old John Roberts, a former assistant manager of Bangor City when they faced Athletico Madrid in the Cup Winners Cup.

He joined Mold Golf Club more than 30 years ago and it wasn’t long before he started getting involved in developing young players as junior organiser, first at Mold, then Flintshire, then the North Wales Boys squad, before becoming a Wales selector.

“Football was my main sport, playing for Altringham and Rhyl among others. I then progressed into Coaching and managed North Wales Clubs over a period of 20 years,” said Roberts. “Golf appealed and I took advantage of beginner courses at Flint Leisure Centre which got me started I then applied for membership at Mold, eventually became a 5 day member and I think the rest is history.

“As an ex PE teacher I have always been involved in Sport and enjoyed seeing youngsters participating and developing their particular skills.”

Simon Howell, Clare Hopkin, Simon Hopkin representing Sustainability Award winners Pyle & Kenfig GC

Sustainability Award (supported by Citation)

The Sustainability Award goes to Pyle and Kenfig, one of the five clubs in Wales to have achieved the GEO Certification, the most widely regarded and credible sustainability distinction in golf, after significantly reducing their carbon footprint over the last five years.

Two new ponds have increased water sustainability, a new practice and chipping green area, and 10th championship tee, were built with sand and grass from their own site, including 2,000 tonnes of their own dune sand.

“We are delighted to win this award as recognition of the way we now have sustainability ingrained in our processes,” said club manager Simon Hopkins.

“This included a new project for practice and chipping green areas, doing them in a way which was in line with our club policy of maintaining and preserving the golf course for future generations in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.”

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