A RECORD number of girls have joined the Renzo Martin Golf Academy this year, led by Andy Chamberlain.
Approaching three decades of professional golf experience on the Island, Chamberlain has run the academy for the last three years, having previously led similar sessions at La Moye and Les Ormes Golf Clubs.
The inaugural academy season had 24 applicants, a number which has doubled in the past two years.
The sessions run during school term-time, from the first week of March through to November – with each weekly session lasting an hour and a half.
A girls-only group, featuring nine players, has been established for the first time, with ages ranging from six to nine.
The academy mantra centres around enjoyment, and less to do with intricate teachings of the game.
Chamberlain said: ‘For me it’s largely a numbers game. If we can get the kids into the sport, enjoying it, having fun with it and falling in love with the sport – that then begins a process of getting better and improving. Kids will put more time into the things that they love and enjoy, so enjoyment has to be the focus at this age.
‘We want to steer away from a classroom environment and create a great social group which they can feel is much more of a pleasure than a chore.
‘It is less about finding the next Harry Vardon and more about participation. If we can get more kids interested, it gives them a game that will be available for the rest of their lives.’
The mental health of ‘Gen Z’ children has been brought far more into the public eye of late.
Children are much more likely to sit down in front of a screen and communicate to friends that way, than go out and have a run-around.
The impact is not only physical, but has had a drastic effect on the mental health of this generation – greatly affecting social skills.
‘It’s all too easy nowadays for kids to jump on an iPad or a PlayStation and stay indoors,’ said Chamberlain.
‘The pandemic did make it a challenge with fewer outdoor activities being available, but now we have a chance to give these kids a fun game, which gets them outside in the fresh air, interacting with other children their age.
‘It has been massively rewarding for me to see how much they enjoy coming to each session and seeing their friends again.
‘My worry when beginning this venture was how to keep them all entertained as the sessions can seem a long time to maintain an attention span. However, we have loads of different games and competitions which makes the time fly and come the end of the session, most of them are disappointed and surprised that the session was over.’
The academy holds the name of its primary benefactor, past Royal Jersey Golf Club captain Renzo Martin – a key figure in supporting Jersey junior golf over many decades.
Support has also been received from Solent Stevedores and Pastella.
With golf seeing a revival through the pandemic, with many more people opting for nine holes in the fresh air, or a trip to the driving range, there is a hope that participation levels can continue to trickle down to the next generation.