Four amazing golf professionals – all heroes at their clubs – are in the running for the England Golf Coach of the Year Award, sponsored by The PGA.
Meet your finalists:
- Philip Akers from The Belfry in Warwickshire
- Stuart Disney from Mendip Golf Club, Somerset
- Mark Johnson from Styal Golf Club, Cheshire
- Aaron Lansberry from Hatchford Brook Golf Centre, near Birmingham
“Coaches are so important to our enjoyment of this great game. They inspire beginners, keep us going when we hit a bad patch and celebrate with us when we listen to their advice and it all comes together! These amazing finalists really are heroes of the game and go above and beyond to share their pleasure in golf.” Nick Pink, England Golf Chief Executive
The winner will be announced at the England Golf Awards 2019, sponsored by adidas Golf. The glittering black tie event will be hosted by Dan Walker on Thursday, 21 March, at the Royal Lancaster London. Tickets cost just £90 per person and include a drinks reception and a three-course dinner with wine.
Philip Akers is definitely growing the game. Since he joined The Belfry he has introduced over 2400 newcomers to golf, developing the junior, women’s, improvers and advanced sections of the academy.
His successes include attracting more than 90 children to the junior coaching programme, with over 40 joining the club. His schools programme has introduced over 900 youngsters to golf and he recently hosted a Tri Golf schools competition involving 240 young players. Ten of his ambitious juniors are now county players.
It’s not just the juniors. Women-only coaching attracts 30 players a week and the gin and tonic evenings are a hit!
Akers wants to be a European Tour coach, is adding to his own qualifications and hopes to start coaching the coaches.
“I’m so honoured to be shortlisted for the award, it’s lovely to be recognised for all the hard work we do to promote the game,” said Akers.
Stuart Disney has made a big impact in a short time. He’s been at The Mendip Golf Club in Somerset for just 18 months, bringing masses of enthusiasm to his role.
He’s opened a swing studio, he’s busy with Get into Golf and has introduced new golfers to the club – running new member days to help them settle in. He’s grown the junior section from a handful of youngsters to over 50 members and he coaches at four local schools.
He’s even been known to lend his shoes to members when they forget their own!
“Stuart is always buzzing with ideas for changes or updates,” said one nomination. “He has totally embraced the club, as we have him,” said another. “It’s like a big family to him.”
Disney himself remarked: “I can’t thank all those who put my name forward enough. I just love being a PGA Fellow Professional and to be recognised for the work I do is awesome.”
Mark Johnson, from Styal Golf Club, Cheshire, is inspirational in many ways, not least for meeting the challenge of two kidney transplants. Professionally, he raises the bar on running a junior section and freely shares his knowledge with other clubs and coaches.
Johnson works with golfers of all ages but has inspired juniors at Styal for 18 years and helped the club achieve GolfMark and SafeGolf. He runs junior coaching, finds sponsorship, organises matches and competitions, including the David Horsey Styal Junior Open. Horsey, a former club junior and now a four-time European Tour winner, attends the event.
Johnson is also a great fundraiser, running an annual ‘Lads v Dads’ day for charities including Kidneys for Life and raising almost £12,000 so far.
He commented: “It’s an honour to be nominated for the award and really nice to be recognised and appreciated for my efforts over the years. Whether I win or not, it’s a great achievement to be a finalist.”
Aaron Lansberry teaches all ages, but he’s particularly known for coaching around 140 children every week at Hatchford Brook Golf Centre, near Birmingham.
He’s adored by the youngsters, according to his nomination. The reason? He’s constantly coming up with new ways to make sessions fun and to make the youngsters want to come back for more. At the same time, he teaches life skills as well as golf skills, with badges for teamwork, honesty and sportsmanship.
The result is children with growing confidence who are following a sport they love, making friends and keeping fit, healthy and happy. Plus, some of his older pupils support him as volunteers.
Lansberry comments: “A lot of people have helped me along the way, everyone at Hatchford Brook, all the parents of the kids I coach and my brilliant team of coaches and volunteers.”