Youth comes first as golf club opens new academy

Niamh Ward has a practice shot on the driving range. INLM43-1232
Niamh Ward has a practice shot on the driving range. INLM43-1232

Lurgan Golf Club officially opened its new academy last week with the aim of getting more young people involved in the sport.

The state of the art driving range includes a chipping green, short game area and two practice bunkers. It has been constructed with financial support from the Department of Social Development via the neighbourhood renewal scheme.

The grant of £350,000 comes with certain stipulations and a responsibility to grow the game which the club is embracing.

“Our side of the deal is to promote the game of golf particularly among the youth of the area, via schools, clubs and voluntary organisations that are not normally associated with the game,” said club captain Barry Campbell.

“We take this obligation very seriously and in Professional Peter Hanna and assistant Zoe Allen, we have two people who are totally committed to this process.

“The future of golf depends on the youth and clubs which fail to recognise this fact do so at their peril.”

As a club, Lurgan has embraced the concept of developing junior members for some time now and it’s starting to pay dividends, particularly in girls golf, with Niamh Ward, Niamh McSherry and Annabel Wilson all making their mark at international level.

With the development of this new facility, professional Peter Hanna is hoping to make the club an even more integral part of the local community.

“The club did take a bit of a chance in 2009 when they voted to buy the land (adjacent to the ninth tee). It was mostly forest and was regularly used for anti-social behaviour. The club bought it, and then cleared it at some cost, approximately £500,000,” said Peter.

“The plan was to have some area to hit a few balls. It was open to the elements and was going to be pretty basic. At that stage we became aware that there may be some funding available and that process was driven through by the club officials with two former captains at the helm, Paddy Meehan and Billy Bateman.

“The process was stalled somewhat by some planning appeals but those were eventually overcome and what we have now is really very good.”

The venue has been selected as an GUI Ulster branch development centre and the facility is open to the public.