Teeing-off time for top golfers
A new college-based academy will offer teenagers "world-class" training in golf from coaches who work with British and European professionals.
Derby College will open the academy in the autumn as part of a network of 10 centres backed by the English Golf Union and the Professional Golf Association. It aims to offer talented players a route into the highest levels of the sport.
While studying for a Btec National Diploma in sport and an NVQ in golf, students will have access to an 18-hole championship course as well as training in technique, tactics, psychology and physiology, to give them the tools for a professional career.
Nigel Furniss, the former performance director of the English Golf Union, said: "This is a most exciting and fantastic opportunity for any young golfer who has aspirations to take their game to the highest level and pursue a career in golf. To be able to work with such a high-calibre team of coaches with a proven track record is quite unique here in the East Midlands. I only wish I could have had this opportunity when I was 16."
Mr Furniss spent 18 months researching golf coaching across the world and comparing training with that of Olympic athletes. That knowledge will be applied in the academy's training. Golf needs to learn from athletes' dedicated preparation to peak in time for key events, he said.
The academy draws on the experience of the European Golf Performance Institute, which includes on its roster Keith Williams, the England national coach and former European tour player, Paul Darby, European tour golf conditioning coach, and Brian Hemmings, the England team psychologist.
Mr Furniss said: "You're getting the team that trained England - it's like going to college to train for rugby and getting Clive Woodward, or getting Sven-Goran Eriksson for football training."
Places on the course, aimed at 16-year-old school-leavers, will be limited: just 10 students will be recruited in the first year, and a further 10 will join the programme the following year.
The academy will join a growing list of college courses offering golf training from experienced professionals, including programmes at Sussex Downs College and Easton College in Norfolk.
The courses are said to have a high success rate in helping teenagers into employment in one of the estimated 53,000 jobs in the UK's pound;3 billion golf industry, even when they do not succeed in becoming professional players.
England Golf - a partnership between the amateur and professional golf associations - is backing the academy as part of its efforts to make England the leading country in the world for golf by 2020.
Among the problems the associations have identified is the lack of a recognised pathway for player development, which the academy will help to fill. With no English players in the top 10 world rankings, England Golf sees the development of world-class players as a top priority.