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Haven for anti-social behaviour transformed into golfing academy for kids

A new academy aimed at encouraging children and young people to learn and practice the basic skills of playing golf has been officially opened at Lurgan Golf Club.

The new academy, which involved the conversion of an area of derelict land which was a haven for anti-social behaviour into a state of the art golfing academy and driving range, was developed through a partnership involving Lurgan Golf Club, Lurgan Neighbourhood Renewal Partnership Board, and the Department for Social Development (DSD).

The DSD grant was conditional on the Club providing a programme of free golf tuition and making the academy facilities available to schools, youth clubs, sporting, and voluntary and community organisations. The project will help to improve the social, community and physical renewal within the Lurgan and Brownlow Neighbourhood Renewal areas.

The project included the purchase and preparation of the site, at a cost of £500,000, financed by Lurgan Golf Club through a members’ levy, and the provision of a covered driving bay, lighting, and the purchase and installation of equipment, funded through a grant of £315,220 from the Department’s Neighbourhood Renewal Investment fund.

Speaking at the official opening the Department for Social Development’s Permanent Secretary Will Haire said: “I understand and appreciate fully the importance of sports in our communities. There are the obvious advantages in terms of the links between sporting activity and improved health and well being. However, there are many other benefits which impact on the wider community. Organised sport helps to create discipline and a sense of community pride.

“Those involved in sporting organisations are more inclined to be prepared to give up their time to be involved in volunteer activities. Sporting groups provide a structure for many young people who otherwise may have very little positive influence in their lives and they therefore play an important role in helping to create a community spirit and introduce discipline.”

Captain of Lurgan Golf Club, Barry Campbell, said: “We are grateful to the Department for Social Development for their support in building this superb facility. The Academy was developed to help engage young people throughout the area and to encourage them to try out a new sport. Since the Academy opened, we have visited the local schools, youth clubs and other voluntary organisations. As a result, a number of schools have expressed an interest in adding golf to their curriculum and 32 children are now receiving regular free coaching. We have also been able to use the Academy to provide free men’s golf tuition as part of Craigavon’s Health Improvement Programme and look to becoming involved in further community initiatives.”

Mr Haire concluded by paying tribute to all those involved in the project.

He said: “This new Golf Academy will play a major role in providing activities for young people who might find themselves disengaged from the community. The initiative for the Academy was developed by the local residents working closely with Departmental officials and Lurgan Golf Club. It is an excellent example of community organisations working in partnership with the relevant statutory organisations to bring about projects to help improve the health and well being of the residents of a disadvantaged area.”

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