Like so many PGA of Australia Professionals, Willunga Golf Course’s Head Teaching Professional Gavin Fontaine has a desire to help junior golfers in his part of South Australia as much as possible.
Looking to boost the number of young girls playing golf and utilising the McLaren Vale region course, Fontaine found the perfect assistance for his own mission in the Australian Golf Foundation Junior Girls Scholarship Program.
Offering girls aged between nine and 16 years of age scholarships to engage with the game of golf under the eyes of PGA Professionals, the program now boasts 142 clubs funded and 974 scholarships granted around Australia. An increase from 37 clubs and. 226 scholarships just two years ago.
“All I did was had a couple of girls that I was coaching already, and they were fairly new to the game,” says Fontaine of how he came to put together eight scholarship recipients at the course 45 minutes’ drive from Adelaide.
“I thought this was perfect for them and then I also had a group of women I was coaching and said, ‘Have you got any daughters, and would they be interested in playing golf?’”
Finding many of his students were now playing golf as their second sport after football, basketball and other popular junior sports, Fontaine hopes the program, which includes junior member playing rights, and benefits beyond playing golf will leave their mark on his group of juniors.
“They are very coachable obviously and really a good bunch of girls,” he said.
“Once we get that financial help, then we haven’t had any of the girls really missing. Every lesson has had full attendance.”
The long-time teaching professional seeing friendships grow and confidence and social skills improve across the group thanks to the scholarship.
“It’s quite funny, a couple of the girls didn’t realise another was doing it as well. They might be friends at school but not that close and then are just over the moon.
“They are just happy to see each other. That’s one of the magnets to them coming back.”
Very soon, those girls will also get a chance to see other female golfers who could well inspire them towards a future in golf and likely continue to help improve the popularity of program in the McLaren Vale region and beyond.
For the first time, the Webex Players Series hits South Australia from October 19-22 with women and men competing on the same course, for the same trophy and prizemoney, played at Willunga.
The chance to see professional golfers in the flesh, and other young women enjoying the sport a tantalising prospect for Fontaine’s Junior Girls Scholarship players.
“It is going to be great for these girls to see some other top women golfers playing. It is certainly going to help them,” Fontaine said.
“They might walk around and see some of these girls playing and go, ‘I wouldn’t mind being able to do that as well’.”
Whether or not any of his players go on to careers as professionals, Fontaine knows that more exposure to the game via the PGA and WPGA Tours of Australasia event, the program and even Willunga’s own rising star can be nothing but positive.
“It would be fantastic if we got the next Karrie Webb coming through, or Hannah Green, which is always great, but not always what it is all about,” he said.
“Lachie Barker (PNG Open winner) is really flying the flag beautifully for Willunga. He’s just very humble, but he is just a fantastic golfer too.”
Perhaps the next Tour winner from Willunga, like Barker, is among Fontaine’s eight strong group, or maybe there will be some lifelong golfers happy to play their regular game at Willunga.
In either positive outcome, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’, and the Junior Girls Scholarship Program and Webex Players Series South Australia are offering the chance to do just that.
Applications are now open and close on October 28.
For more information on the program click here
To apply for the 2024 program click here
Australian Golf Foundation is the national foundation for golf in Australia. The AGF supports Golf Australia’s vision to grow golf by investing in targeted initiatives to inspire all Australians to enjoy and play the game.
Find a local scholarship program near you. Visit australiangolffoundation.org.au for further information.
Australian Golf Foundation is thrilled to announce NEXTGEN Group as the principal partner of the AGF Scholarship program once again for the third year in 2024. Important financial support also continues to be provided by a number of generous benefactors, in addition to golfing bodies.
The scholarship program has come to fruition thanks to the foresight and generosity of Bonnie Boezeman AO, Director of the Australian Golf Foundation, who originally established the program at Killara Golf Club, NSW.