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National prize marks Garon transformation
GARON Park has won the GolfMark Club of the year award for 2013 just three years after it was brought out of administration.
And the Southend club’s co-owner Alan Walker believes the accolade is a fitting tribute to the hard work of the everyone at Garon Park.
The club, in Eastern Avenue, was one of three shortlisted for the prize, which is given by Golf England.
“We are absolutely thrilled to have won,” said Walker, who was part of the consortium which took over the club in 2010.
“This is a wonderful achievement for a club which was in the doldrums three years ago.
“This will boost morale at the club and tell everybody that we are something special.
“It is also an award that recognises the importance of teamwork. We worked as a team, focused on areas that we wanted to improve as a team and now we have won as a team.”
Garon Park is the first club in Essex to win the award and was up against 640 other clubs with GolfMark status.
Inspectors from Golf England visited the course, which attracts members and public golfers, and interviewed personel after selecting the final three clubs.
Garon has concentrated on building up its junior membership and attracting new golfers over the past three years and it was this that impressed the judges.
“As a club I think it means to us that all our hard work that has gone in over the last three years has been recognised,” added Walker.
“It also means we have been recognised as a place that focuses on bringing beginners into the game and looks after them, and also cherishes junior golfers.
“That’s the backbone of the game and the backbone of the business.”
Garon is not planning to rest on its laurels and is aiming to bring in another 250 new golfers in 2013.
The club will also continue running its golf coaching programmes and is looking at ways to assist golfers with disabilities.
Walker added that the club would continue its work within Southend schools and build on the work with young golfers done by junior organisers Carol and Micky Pearson and coach Ben Jones.
Walker’s connections with Garon Park go back to 1994, when he designed the course and ran the club for five years, before selling it.
He jointly bought it back after hearing it had gone into administration and decided the way forward was to “get to the backbone of the game, junior golfers.”
There were five juniors in 2010 and the club today has 115, while the target of bringing 100 novices into the game was beaten by 50.
Contenders for the 2013 award were nominated by their County Golf Partnerships and a shortlist was drawn up by a panel of England Golf Partnership (EGP) representatives. Individual visits were made to the final three clubs to determine the winner.
Richard Flint, Golf Development Manager for England Golf, said: “It is great to see the success that GolfMark clubs can have, particularly in these challenging times.
“Garon Park has adapted, become more business and customer focused and with their flexible, welcoming approach have become a truly inclusive facility.”