Seeking inspiration for the upcoming Ryder Cup and how your club can get junior players engaged, excited and involved? Look no further than Allan Bryson, Junior Convenor at Falkirk Golf Club. Scottish Golf spoke to Allan to find out more about their annual Ryder Cup event for young players as well as some of the factors behind the success of the club’s prospering junior section.
You have helped build a thriving junior scene at Falkirk Golf Club, give us an idea of the numbers and age groups participating on a weekly basis.
We have approximately 50 Juniors playing regularly in our weekly competitions that we run every week, 52 weeks of the year. The age range is 7-17.
We hear you delivered a fantastic Ryder Cup event for many of these junior members in the summer; tell us a little more about that.
Our Junior Ryder Cup is a two-day event which we run every year in the summer school holidays. All Junior members are invited to play in the event and we ask USA Juniors to wear red and Europe Juniors to wear blue tops.
We have an opening ceremony where our Team Captains announce each of their team members as they take a seat on the 1st tee and are presented with a pack including team markers and bag tags etc by the Captain. The 1st day is Greensomes so we pair them up and announce them onto the tee using our PA System “On the tee representing Europe…. etc etc”.
Adults help out on the course by relaying scores back into the clubhouse where we have a large TV and we show the latest scores, I also post the latest scores onto social media where all the parents can keep an eye on the scores. The 2nd day is full singles matchplay and as above they are announced onto the tee. Me and other parents will go out on to the course and support our team. When the match has ended we all have a sit-down meal at the club followed by the presentation of our Junior Ryder Cup Trophy to the winning Team Captain.
We know it was a long journey to get to this point of such impressive numbers and events. Take us back to when you started and what you started with?
I started taking my son along to competitions about 10 years ago and at that time there were only a few Juniors attending with around 20 Junior members overall. I starting helping with the organisation of the competitions and then took over as Junior Convener.
What were the biggest factors behind the transformation between then and now?
There are many factors, I created a Junior Section website, Facebook page, Twitter account and coaching programme.
We improved our 6-hole course, making it 9 holes and the greenkeepers have been excellent in keeping it in fantastic condition.
We created a Pathway Progression System. Juniors begin on our Antonine Academy Course and we give them a handicap – these competitions are adult supervised with the Juniors receiving coaching on etiquette and rules. When they reduce their handicap to the required standard they progress to the Main Course where they play from Blue Tees and play in 9-hole competitions.
We arrange summer trips comprising three rounds in three days, in recent years we have held these in Dundee, Arran, St Andrews and Largs.
We also run two big events for our Junior Members – our Junior Masters (Easter Holidays) and, as mentioned, our Junior Ryder Cup (July/August). These include official opening ceremonies, official starter, PA system for announcing them onto the tees, reporters out on the course relaying scores to our clubhouse leaderboard, team colours, Green Jacket for our Masters winner, presentation dinners and closing ceremonies.
I created Order of Merit leagues for Juniors playing in competitions at each level of our Pathway Progression System – they receive points depending on score and attendance which encourages Juniors to come along to the competitions.
Juniors register for competitions through our Junior website and I post an Order of Play usually on the Thursday night for the upcoming Sunday Competition – this means that Juniors are not waiting around too long on the day to start and parents can plan their day.
We have Championship knockout competitions at every level of the Pathway and the Junior finalists join our Adult Championship finalists on Finals Day and also go along to the Championship Prizegiving at night.
At which point did you begin to realise you were really making a difference?
Within two years Junior Membership had risen from 20 to between 80 and 100 and it has remained at this level for the past eight years. We have had a really good intake of Juniors this year with 30 new members joining and have adapted our Junior Coaching Programme to allow kids from ages 4 to get involved. We are confident our Junior Membership will continue to increase.
Any one standout moment which has given you the most satisfaction?
That’s a difficult question because there have been so many. We have produced two Scottish Internationalists, while one of our Juniors has just been selected for the Scottish Schools International to play for Scotland against England. Our Juniors have won numerous Individual and Team County Competitions. Two of our Juniors have won the St Andrews Boys Handicap Competition and we had three of our Juniors qualify for the last 32 of the St Andrews Boys Scratch this year with one getting to the last 16. One of our Juniors won the Paul Lawrie Jug (Handicap).
The thing that I think gives me the most satisfaction though is the number of Juniors we have encouraged to play the game and even if they stop playing golf due to circumstances (e.g. further education, moving away, getting a job), we have given them a great experience and grounding in the game and probably one day they will come back and play the game again.
Any advice you would offer other Scottish golf clubs seeking inspiration from your success?
They need to seek out someone who has time and motivation to make a difference – my initial motivation was to improve things for my son at that time and now it’s the satisfaction of playing a part in the development of Junior golfers. Along with motivation you need someone with the time to put the work in – I work shifts so have been able to put a lot of time into the section. Once you have your main organiser it’s a matter of enrolling the help of other parents.
With all this going on, do you still find time to play a round or two yourself?
I still play now and again but not as much as I used to – I do get a lot of enjoyment out of the organisation of the Junior section therefore it doesn’t bother me too much.
Finally, golf clearly means a lot to you, what would your message be to anyone thinking of trying the game but who hasn’t quite made that step yet?
It’s a difficult sport because it sometimes takes a fair bit of time and effort to get to the standard where you are really enjoying it – if you are patient and put in the time and begin to see yourself improving you will then realise it’s one of the best sports in the world.
Inspired? Find out how Scottish Golf can help your club please contact your Regional Club Development Officer.