Lancashire and Wiltshire are going head to head in the contest to be named England Golf’s County of the Year.
The counties are of contrasting size, Lancashire has 157 clubs; Wiltshire represents 26. But both put their clubs and their players at the centre of all they do.
Nick Pink, England Golf Chief Executive, commented: “Both these counties must be congratulated for their commitment to their players and their clubs – and to encouraging more people to take up the game. It’s going to be a very tight close contest between two worthy opponents.”
The winner will be announced at the England Golf Awards 2019, sponsored by adidas Golf, on Thursday 21 March. The glittering black tie event at the Royal Lancaster London will be hosted by BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker.
Lancashire won England Golf’s County of the Year Award in 2017. Now, it’s back as a 2019 finalist, having pushed on with its drive to break down barriers and to put players and clubs at the heart of all it does.
Its vision is for all the golf bodies in Lancashire to work closely together to get more people playing, to develop talented golfers and to improve the image of the game. It comments in its nomination: “We recognise that change is required to appeal to the next generation of golfers and we lead the way in promoting this.”
The result is a continuing increase in membership; extensive support for its clubs, including help to recruit more women and girls and to access investment; and large numbers of people encouraged to try the game, from school children to those with disabilities.
The successes of Tommy Fleetwood and Sophie Lamb help to inspire the county’s ambitious amateurs whose outstanding successes in 2018 included Trevor Foster’s victory in the British Senior Championship, Lancashire’s win in the English Senior Men’s County Championship and the boys’ team triumph in the Four Counties’ Championship.
Wiltshire is one of the smallest counties in England with 26 clubs, but it aims to always punch above its weight, both on and off the golf course.
It won the English Men’s County Championship in 2011 and 2012 and the Boys’ Championship in 2015 and 2016 – and now it’s at the forefront of the modernisation of the governance of county golf.
The men’s and women’s county organisations unified in 2018 to become one body, Wiltshire Golf, working for the benefit of the amateur game.
The results include holding the affiliation fee at the 2017 level, growing support for county competitions and the introduction of new mixed events. It has a strong focus on junior golf with 120 boys and girls in last year’s squads, it launched a development tour for children with high or no handicaps; and it’s involved with the Girls Golf Rocks campaign.
The county now has a business plan, reflecting input from the Wiltshire clubs, and a range of initiatives are due to start this year.
It says in its nomination: ”Wiltshire has never forgotten that the organisation is in existence to serve the interests of the clubs and players.”
Caption (clockwise from top left): Rapt attention from the audience at Lancashire’s women and girls’ conference; Wiltshire Golf’s board of directors; Tommy Fleetwood with Lancashire boys; Wiltshire girl players.