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world : Wales Golf's push for diversity and inclusion

world : Wales Golf's push for diversity and inclusion
world : Wales Golf's push for diversity and inclusion

Thursday 13 June 2024 10:31 PM

Nafeza 2 world - By day Brandie Deignan works as a chief executive in NHS primary care in England. She has previously held senior leadership roles in hospitality, aviation and retail.

As she speaks, a group of 12 and 13-year-old girls from Llanishen High School in Cardiff are practising their chipping and putting in the drizzle behind her.

They are part of the Leadership in Sport – Girls to Golf programme which aims to attract schoolgirls by combining sporting skills with leadership qualities.

Deignan hopes some of the girls on the programme will keep playing in future.

“It was just like a dream come true, walking into a golf club and seeing 15 amazing young women who have never played, who have been given the experience and the opportunity to play," she says.

“I mean, it's priceless. And 99% of them said to me, they love golf, and they will stay in golf. Now, there is the magic of this.

“Now, if we did nothing but to give these young women that we've seen today the experience of golf, the warmth of golf, the feeling that they belong - because that's the sense I got from them - we would have done something really special.

“Most of all, if they went back and told a few of their friends, their family, their relatives, about golf, that is brilliant.

“But we've got to fix the access problem in golf, because we've got a real access issue in golf, and from a Wales Golf perspective we're working really, really hard [to improve that].

“That's why we're doing things like this, because we've got to have open access."

Llanishen High School student Tanya is one of the girls who have had their first taste of golf.

The Year Eight pupil had never been to a golf club before taking part in the programme and had only ever played mini golf in the park.

“The first lesson we had was chipping and I did dig up the ground quite a bit but practice makes perfect," said Saadallah.

“I do enjoy it, I prefer putting though, long-distance putting seems more ‘me’.

“I think anyone who wants to play golf should play golf."

Tanya has been hitting golf balls on the same course as local boy Gareth Bale, who has himself been involved in moves to promote diversity in golf.

The retired Wales footballing great is an ambassador for a new golf tour set up by golf-obsessed National Basketball Association (NBA) star Steph Curry.

The Underrated Golf Tour says it is committed to “provide equity, access and opportunity to student-athletes from every community by balancing participation in the sport to truly reflect our society".

“That is so cool, isn't it?” says Deignan.

“Here we are sat in the home of Gareth Bale because he's a big star. You know, we all love Gareth in Wales, don't we? And then we've got Steph Curry, who's huge from an NBA perspective.

“And for me, that affinity is amazing because… we're trying to do a lot from a Wales Golf perspective on socio-economic diversity. And the whole idea of Underrated Golf is to get 50% of golfers being black and brown to enjoy the sport. And that's brilliant.

“That's one of the big things that we're trying to really work on in world golf, because actually, under 2% of the people that play golf would describe themselves as being from ethnic minorities.

“And so this taps right into what we're looking to do. We're trying to challenge some of these norms.”

Around 20 miles from Cardiff, on the south Wales coast, Royal Porthcawl will be the venue for next year’s Women’s Open Championship, which Deignan hopes can have the same impact on golf in Wales as the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport.

“From the junior perspective I think it is actually under 3% of girls that play, and we have a dwindling amount of women who are playing golf, and we say you can't be what you can't see," Deignan says.

“Well, the stage is going to be for women isn't it and so it's going to help us in so many ways.

“A lot of people feel that golf is a little bit exclusive, certainly from a gender perspective.

"Now this will actually bust those myths for us, the fact that we can use that platform to actually build sub-platforms around it and have conversations, and actually bring to bear all the challenges that golf has and find some solutions to it, it's just priceless."

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