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Sunday, 26 October 2014

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Jay, seven, makes Ulverston golfing history

HE may only be seven years old, but Jay Wilkinson is already making golfing history at Ulverston.

The little left-hander became the youngest member ever to play a round on the Bardsea course earlier this month, when he stepped out with dad Paul.

A new initiative at Ulverston meant Jay has been practising for two years – since the age of five – for the moment when he could tee up and drive off on the first.

And on his seventh birthday he played his first seven holes at Ulverston, putting to good use all the lessons he has learnt under club pro Paul Stoller and Paul Rawlinson at his Zone Golf junior academy.

“It’s fantastic to see children as young as Jay joining up and we would encourage any young people who want to take up the game, or even just give it a try, to come along and give it a go,” said Stoller.

“Jay is very enthusiastic. He’s got a lovely personality and I think he likes it because both his dad and his granddad play.

“He can have a proper competitive round of golf when he is seven with his granddad – not a make-belief game, a proper game with the handicap system – and he and his granddad will both feel challenged.

“His granddad will have to play well to beat his grandson, which is uncommon in most sports.”

Club rules were changed two-and-a-half years ago to allow five-year-olds to join and practice and seven-year-olds to play on the course.

Other seven-year-olds – including Stoller’s own daughter Ayla – have also taken the chance to join the club and play on the scenic course, but Jay is the first to do so on his birthday, setting a new standard.

“He has been practising for two years, but the big day was his seventh birthday,” said dad Paul.

“It was good to get out there. I was really looking forward to taking him out so he could see how big the course really is.

“They go chipping and putting and when they get out there, it is huge.

“It was good. We played seven holes and his feet were hurting him when we got home, because it’s a lot of walking out there on the course.”

Jay himself added: “It was exciting playing my first round. The course was massive and I played my dad as well, which was fun.

“There were a lot more people on the big course than on the practice ground.”

Junior organiser Charlie Dent, who helped oversee the rules changes which have allowed Jay to play on the course, is hopeful he will be one of many seven-year-olds using the facility.

He wants to see more juniors joining at Ulverston and said: “Hopefully more people can follow Jay’s example and come through to become full junior members.

“Our junior squad had been very strong until just this last year or so. Interest in golf is waning a little bit and reducing the junior age is only one initiative of many we have coming forward into spring.

“It’s magic to see young kids like Jay becoming involved.”

Jay certainly seems to be enjoying life on the course, but his reasons may not be ones the club counted on when they tried to attract more youngsters.

He said: “The best bit is when I hit it a long way. But the hardest bit is when you hit the ball in the bunker and it’s hard to get out. I like it because, if I do good shots and Paul’s shop is open, I can get biscuits and stuff!”

l Junior members can join Ulverston at the age of five and play on the course from the age of seven. Anyone interested can contact Paul Stoller or Charlie Dent on 01229 582821.

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