Welsh children as young as two are channelling their inner Rory McIlroy and taking junior golf lessons at the Vale Resort.
More than 60 children, aged from two to 16 years, are currently having golf lessons at the four-star south Wales golfing destination, under the expert tutelage of Georgia Lewis – a 21-year-old assistant PGA professional who represented Wales during her amateur golf career.
Despite still playing on the professional circuit and holding down a full-time role at the Vale Resort’s pro shop, Ms Lewis devotes all of her spare time to inspiring young children to take up the sport.
“I've always wanted to share my passion and teaching young children how to play golf is a great way of developing the next generation,” said Welsh-speaker Ms Lewis, who started playing golf at the comparatively mature age of 11. “It's amazing to see the response from all the youngsters as well as their parents.
“When we first started the classes I had no idea how it would go. But, the following week the parents returned saying their children hadn’t stopped talking about their lesson and, every week since, more children have turned up. And as time has gone on, I’ve learned what they enjoy the most and the best way to get the message across in a fun environment.”
The children do not need to be junior members of the golf club to attend the lessons, and many of their parents have never set foot on a golf course. While the Vale Resort has two championship courses at its disposal, in addition to a driving range, successfully teaching young children how to play golf requires more than a unique setting. Creativity, Ms Lewis explained, is a must.
“We have equipment for all ages, having cut some clubs down by two feet to suit the children’s needs,” she said. “We use sticky targets, practice throwing and rolling the ball, and play ‘silly swords’ with foam noodles, usually used for swimming, to get them moving.
“I’ll get to their height, which usually involves me being on my knees, and do a lot of pointing to the areas of the golf club. I use floppy feet markers to show them where to stand and will deliberately hold clubs badly, so they can laugh and correct me. They’re also able to tell me what club I’m holding, where I would use it and how. It’s fun.”
Ms Lewis, from Cardiff, is about to embark in a professional golf studies foundation degree with the PGA Training Academy. She was introduced to golf by her father, Simon and her older sister, Rachel who is also a PGA professional and has since passed on her duties of teaching the youngsters at the Vale Resort, having recently secured a job in the Home of Golf, St Andrews, Scotland.
Having represented Wales at both junior and senior amateur levels, until the age of 21, Ms Lewis made the decision to turn professional so that she could fulfil her ambition to teach young children the sport.
“Today, my focus is very much on teaching,” she said. “I still will be competing in competitions, however, my goal isn’t to be a world champion. I could spend the 25 hours that I currently teach improving my own game, but teaching brings me more joy. I get so much satisfaction when they do something right, watching them think about it and then have a go.”
The Vale Resort, which has hosted European Senior Tour and Challenge Tour events, as well as the Junior Wales Open, is proud to have nurtured some excellent young golfing talent through its Junior Golfing Academy – including the European Amateur Championship Cup winner, Rhys Pugh. But despite that success, and her own golfing career, Ms Lewis says the aim of the children’s lessons is not to push young people towards competitive golf.
“Generally, and particularly for the toddlers, if they’re having fun then I consider the class a success,” she said. “I certainly didn’t start out looking for the next Rory McIlroy. That said, there is a two-year-old who is already hitting the ball and counting up his shots, and a five-year-old whose dad has had to learn to be a caddy for his son’s youth tournaments. So, you never know!”