Harry Caygill is 11 years old, lives in County Durham and has autism spectrum disorder. Golf is his passion and his story highlights the power of the sport to transform lives.
He plays every day, works constantly with his PGA coach, competes at his club and on the Durham Junior Tour – and he’s made new friends, improved his school work and wants to make a career in the game.
“I know that my brain is wired up a bit different to other children and I do find some things a bit tricky, but I think it helps my golf because golf is my obsession!” said Harry, who is a big fan of Rory McIlroy.
His parents comment: “We can't believe what a massive impact golf has had on Harry and how it has changed his – and our – lives.”
Harry’s experience echoes the findings of a report commissioned by England Golf and the PGA which shows that people who are regularly involved in the sport are happier and feel the benefits across their everyday lives. The research, conducted by the Sport Industry Research Centre (SIRC) at Sheffield Hallam University, looks at golf’s benefits for society and shows that getting out on the golf course has never been better for you or your community.
Harry got interested in golf after playing a Tiger Woods Xbox game and, after he enjoyed a session on the driving range, his parents arranged for him to have lessons with PGA professional Ross Jackson, who is based at Ingelby Barwick Golf Academy.
It’s turned into a great partnership. Harry said: “Ross has involved me in everything. I see him most days when I'm practicing at the range, attend the elite coaching sessions every Thursday and play in the junior comp every Saturday.
“During school holidays I go to all the golf camps he provides and it's really good fun. I have a private lesson once a month and I can contact Ross any time if I have a problem or need to ask him something.
“Ross is the best coach, he really looks after me and believes in my ability. He has done lots of extra things to help me like speaking to the Ernie Els foundation in America.”
Harry has already had lots of success with his golf, both on the Durham Junior Tour and in the Wee Wonders competition. “It's helped me because now I've played in lots of competitions and feel more confident in my abilities,” said Harry.
“In school I have used my golf in literacy when I have researched golfers and written biographies. I've written lots of stories about golf and think I'm better at concentrating in school as I know how to focus.”
Harry’s parents take up the story: “Harry struggled when he was younger to find a sport/activity that would suit him physically and mentally. Golf suits him down to the ground! He's very methodical, likes attention to detail, likes routine and has a very strong ethos of fairness and right and wrong.
“Golf really is his passion. Harry lives and breathes golf. It's massively improved his confidence as he's never been good at something before, but he's extremely modest and doesn't tell anyone if he's won or achieved something in his golf. In Harry's words ‘I don't want to be one of those braggy kids’.
“It's lovely to see that he's gained a lot of respect from the other children in the junior section. He's made some lovely friends and so have we.”
They added: “It's improved his fitness, gets him out in the fresh air with friends gives him a sense of achievement. He amazes us in that he has help at school but when it comes to golf he learns quickly, retains and recalls all the technical information he's given and put it into practice.
“It's lovely as parents to see that Harry has found ‘his thing’ and the pleasure he gets from it.”
Visit getintogolf.org to find out more about golf opportunities, including those for families and juniors.