Helping to ensure youngsters make shorter work of courses

Jonathan Pearson
Jonathan Pearson
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yorkshire’s young golfers have never had as many role models from within the county as they do right now.

Sheffield’s Danny Willett sits at the top of the list having won a major title, the Masters, last month at Augusta.

Another player from the Steel City, Matt Fitzpatrick, is only into his second full year as a touring professional, but is already placed inside the world’s top 50 and has a British Masters title on his list of achievements.

In the amateur world, the White Rose has provided the past two English men’s amateur champions in Nick Marsh (Huddersfield) and Joe Dean (Lindrick).

At the weekend Meltham’s Jamie Bower – the county champion – and The Oaks’ James Walker helped England defeat France while Huddersfield’s Rochelle Morris was recently selected for the Curtis Cup, the highest representative honour available to women amateur players.

Plenty of heroes there for the youngsters to try to emulate, and coaching opportunities are plentiful too, particularly for the top level players thanks to the Yorkshire Union of Golf Clubs and Yorkshire Ladies County Golf Association.

But Jonathan Pearson, head of junior development at Cookridge Hall, has been concerned for some time about the paucity of competitions for golfers 12 and under – and is doing his utmost to address the problem.

It also jarred with him that while sports such as football and rugby have embraced the wisdom of providing miniature arenas in which their youngsters can learn, junior golfers have faced courses too long for them to play and enjoy.

Pearson runs a series of hugely successful monthly competitions at Cookridge Hall as part of the club’s junior academy, where players compete on a nine-hole course tailored to how far they can hit the ball off the tee.

And his hope is that more clubs in Leeds – and throughout the county – will open their doors not just once a month, but on a weekly basis to give the under-12s a regular competitive environment for testing the skills that they spend hours honing in practice.

“There are plenty of kids training at golf on driving ranges, but there is no outlet for them on a Saturday or Sunday, unless they have a particularly reliable parent who will take them to play at their local club,” says Pearson.

“They just come to golf every week and train and train – and never get to play. Certainly in the season between now and September I do not see any reason why there shouldn’t be provision for them to play somewhere every week.”

With the aid of Moor Allerton, Brandon, Selby and Howley Hall, he has organised a series of events that will enable the ‘Tigers’ who attend at Cookridge to play other tracks.

Pearson gets to the course early ahead of his competitions to put tees out at distances that allow players to score figures more in line with the heroes they watch on TV.

He adds: “Some of them see the players on TV hitting the fairways, hitting the greens, making birdies – and then they look at their own scores on a normal-sized course and it looks like a phone number – 9, 7, 6.

“I put them off tees where their scores help to encourage them. The kids love winning, but I’ve still got prizes in my boot from events that I ran last year because the main thing that the kids want to do is score lower than they did the last time they played.”

Entry is only £10 per child per event and Pearson can be contacted by email: jonathan@cookridgehall.co.uk for more details.

As well as being pleased to hear from parents wanting their children to play in events, he is eager for more clubs to provide late Sunday afternoon tee-times to encourage children of all abilities to get the most out of the game of golf.