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EVERTON NET A WINNER WITH INNER CITY PROJECT
7th June 2012

Everton Swingz project team including Paul Nagle (centre), Craig Thomas (second right) and Colin Montgomerie (far right).

A PGA professional has demonstrated the power of golf to engage and break down barriers in an award-winning inner city golfing project in the heart of Liverpool.

Craig Thomas teamed up with Everton Football Club and Liverpool City Council to deliver a community project aimed at connecting with youngsters in Norris Green which suffers from pockets of social deprivation.

But such has been the impact of the initial six week Swingz scheme that it has now been running for nearly a year and earned the Golf Foundation's prestigious MacKenzie Award at its annual awards at Wentworth on the eve of the BMW PGA Championship presented by Colin Montgomerie.

Paul Nagle, social inclusion manager for Everton in the community, paid tribute to the influence of Staffordshire-based PGA professional Craig Thomas, who helped launched the idea.

"The project has been fantastic, we are working in a very difficult and challenging area of the city where many didn't have a clue what golf was," said Nagle.

"But Craig Thomas has broken down barriers that no one else could. To get kids taking part, never mind playing, has been extraordinary.

"When we first started the golf lessons they only thing they wanted to do was play football. By the third week they were all playing golf and no-one wanted to play football.

"We are working with some of the most challenging youngsters you will ever meet. But with the golf you find they open up. They don't want to be in gangs, deep down they just want to be normal kids and be happy. Golf has been a tool of engagement.

"We have a great partnership with Liverpool City Council, the whole thing has been fantastic that's why something that was supposed to last six weeks is now in its 42nd week."

The sessions initially took place in the youngsters' own environment on two artificial football pitches, culminating in first visits to the city council's North Golf Course.

Wolverhampton-based Thomas added: "The biggest thing is that we were putting them on an equal footing and they were learning respect and etiquette because in golf they were equal.

"And I think they responded because it was different, we made it look fun. The first few times they rode past on their bikes shouting out but then thought 'hold on what's going on here?'

"We had chipping into buckets, crossbar challenges, we just made it different and fun and they bought into it.

"Now we have average of 18-20 kids coming every week and Everton have kept the project going."

Thomas is representative of the great work that many PGA professionals do in grassroots golf.

In addition to running his own academy at The Range, Essington, near Wolverhampton, the 31 year old is development officer for the Cheshire County Golf Partnership development officer, lead disability coach for Staffordshire CGP and is playing a lead role in the ISPS Handa PGA Academy Programme which is training PGA pros to coach blind and disabled golfers.

For further information, contact Nat Sylvester, Head of Media at PGA Headquarters on 01675 470 333 or email media@pga.org.uk







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