Top coaches honoured with England Golf awards

Northumberland’s JJ Vallely and Nottinghamshire’s David Ridley have both been honoured with coaching awards from England Golf.

They were recognised at a gala dinner at the annual coaching conference at Woodhall Spa Golf Club, the home of England Golf.

Vallely, from Matfen Hall and coach to the England Golf North region girls’ squad, was named Squad Coach of the Year.

A Special Recognition Award was presented to David Ridley of Coxmoor Golf Club to mark his retirement after 32 years as an England coach.

Three outstanding girl golfers who have all come through the North squad have helped to shine the spotlight on the work of JJ Vallely (pictured top, right).

Cumbria’s Caitlin Whitehead won European Young Masters and then helped Europe to a clean sweep in the Asia Pacific Junior Championship, while Northumberland’s Jess Baker and Rosie Belsham have played their way convincingly on to the national scene.

“There’s a lot more waiting in the wings,” said Vallely. “They’re on a mission, they’ve been pulled along by watching Caitlin, Rosie and Jess, they’re inspired and it’s given them belief and made them work harder. It’s like a mini-explosion and we want to keep it going.”

Vallely, who is supported by squad manager Bryan Ross, ensures there’s a pipeline of talent by also coaching the girls in the North of England Futures, made up of players who are pushing for places in the regional line-up. Baker and Belsham were among the early intake and together with two other girls, knocked a total of 50 shots off their handicaps in their first season.

Vallely, who has been involved with England training for about 12 years, commented: “I absolutely love it, I live and breathe it. You do make a lot of sacrifices, but it’s really satisfying to help them understand their game and themselves. Some of the skills and habits they develop are wider reaching than golf and will stand them in good stead with whatever they do.”

David Ridley (pictured left)  has bowed out of England coaching after 32 years with the national and regional squads and teams. His award was greeted with a standing ovation and he remarked: “It’s a privilege and an honour to receive this – and quite a shock too!”

Ridley first became involved as a regional boys’ coach in 1986, but from 1997 he worked with the national men’s squads and players such as Tommy Fleetwood, Chris Woods, Eddie Pepperell and Andy Sullivan.

“I’ve been very fortunate,” he said, adding “They still keep in touch, they send a text. They’re just great lads.”

He’s been involved in two European team championship victories and numerous Home International wins. His personal highlight was the European gold medal of 2010, when England beat Sweden in Sweden after losing in the previous two finals.

Ridley, who was made a Master Professional by the PGA earlier this year, also enjoyed an outstanding playing career. He represented GB&I against the USA in two PGA Cup matches, in 1979 and 1981, helping the team to a win and a draw. He also played in five Open championships between 1969 and 1984. He’s semi-retired now but continues to coach at Coxmoor.

Vallely and Ridley were recognised alongside two other award winners. Paul Cannons of Kingsdown and Walmer Golf Club, Kent, is the Volunteer Manager of the Year and Les Walker of Selby Golf Club, Yorkshire, received the Award for Excellence in Coaching in recognition of his contribution as an England and GB&I selector.

Captions: Top, John Vallely (right) receives his award from England Golf Chief Executive Nick Pink. Above, David Ridley (left) receives his award from England men’s coach Graham Walker. (Images copyright Vicki Head).