Shirley Murray - 2013 RBS Volunteer of the Year

Shirley Murray was named 2013 RBS Volunteer of the Year for her commitment to junior golf at Torvean Golf Club. This case study will focus on how she has influenced junior operations and made a great success of its ClubGolf programme.

Shirley Murray

1. Challenge
Although Torvean is a long-standing ClubGolf delivery centre, it was evident that there was much which could be done to strengthen the provision of junior coaching at the club, particularly in establishing a structure for coaching and gaining regular and consistent input from a dedicated Junior Convener.

Shirley Murray became Level 1 Coach in 2008 and was appointed Junior Convener at the club in 2009 as a response to the issues identified above.

2. Requirements
Shirley recognised that the facility at Torvean was not being used to its full potential. Not only that, she fully appreciated the opportunity that had been put in place to get children on the ground with a club in their hands, given various facilitating factors, including: publicity from the Scottish Government; the guidance from ClubGolf; the motivation from Regional Manager for the Highlands & Islands, Willie MacKay and the eagerness of volunteer coaches. From Shirley's perspective, all that remained was making a move on the job at hand.

3. Approach
Although a current ClubGolf delivery centre, Murray immediately set about building stronger links with all Active Schools representatives in the Torvean area. To do this, she has conducted coffee mornings and has been able to arrange coaching visits to the club for local schools as part of the curriculum.

Pupils from local primary schools in the area were regularly bussed to the club for tuition, prior to financial issues which prevented this. Coaching continues to be provided for children from the nearby Charleston Academy, whereby two groups of ten pupils receive a six-week block of coaching prior to and following the summer break.

Murray helped to drive the club's marketing activities and worked closely with the club president and committee to arrange a pricing scheme for junior membership, which was communicated to the local community. Leaflets were given to young people attending the club, local press articles were arranged and the members' newsletter was utilised to spread the word.

Revenues generated by the successful uptake of memberships as part of the pricing scheme, particularly for full use of the practice facilities for only £25 a year, allowed the club to establish a three-hole short course for ClubGolf coaching and junior development, as well as a long hitting area.

Working with Torvean Volunteer Coach Krista Allan, a social care professional, and with the outlook that golf should be free and open to all, Murray has integrated children from within the Highlands' social care system within the club.

A 'Top 12' has been established within the junior section to help to encourage and inspire developing youngsters to continue to reach their potential. Making up the 12 are the eldest and most experienced golfers in the junior section, for whom Murray has tailored coaching and mentoring.

Murray also co-ordinated the first week-long ClubGolf Camp at Torvean in 2012, despite not having an on-site professional at the club - one of the requirements to become a host camp. This obstacle was overcome by arranging to 'borrow' a professional for two hours on each day from Loch Ness Golf Course.

Operationally, Murray's most important role has been communicating with the Torvean board and encouraging their enthusiasm for her development plan. Earning a place on the club's management committee has also been vital. As she explained: "I have a direct ear to the management team and I've found that helps to explain objectives and have my plans accepted. I don't ask for ridiculous things but the more communication between the club committee and myself the better."

4. Results
Encouraging local school visits to Torvean have proven to be particularly effective and several pupils from Charleston Academy have gone on to become members of the club as a direct result.

With the establishment of the bespoke par-3 course, juniors no longer have to interrupt play on the main course. This has allowed the number of coaching sessions to expand, incorporating three groups on Fridays.

Murray's links with social care have been a great success story for the club and children alike. Two of those invited to attending club coaching, in particular have flourished. One young adult with learning disabilities, whom Murray has incorporated into the junior section, looks set to gain a single-figure handicap in the very near future.

ClubGolf Camps provided the inspiration among the junior coaching team at Torvean to incorporate away days at leading professional events into the club calendar. Trips to Castle Stuart for the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open and the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles were arranged and instilled in Torvean's young members the motivation to further develop their skills and maximise their potential.

According to Murray, communicating with the board has helped to establish the junior section as an important facet of the club for young and old members alike. There is now a healthy respect for juniors at Torvean, which makes in the clubhouse and on the golf course less daunting and more welcoming places to spend their time.

Murray herself has benefitted as a result of her significant effort in being recognised as the Young Persons Coach of the Year for Highland by sportscotland.

5. Benefits
Murray's work to establish and maintain close links with Active Schools has been pivotal for the club. It has given Torvean a whole new audience from which to attract young members, and they have been invited into the club from every area of Inverness.

As the junior membership and the number of children involved in ClubGolf coaching has steadily grown, additional revenue has been created for the club. This has allowed them to re-invest in improvements to the par-3 short course and practice area, encourage more volunteers to achieve Level 1 Coach certification and provide further inspiration for their juniors with visits to other courses and professional tournaments.

Interacting with their peers outside of the club environment, as provided by opportunities such as attending the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, has taught Torvean's juniors golf involves far more than simply putting club to ball. Their rounded technical and social education will stand these juniors in good stead for the future, making it more likely that they will take an active interest in golf in the years to come.

6. Future
With great thanks to Murray and her dedicated team of coaches and volunteers, as well as parents, Torvean now has a thriving junior section, which looks set to provide the club with a steady flow of more senior members in future years. However, this certainly doesn't mean the club is ready to rest on its laurels.

Said Murray: "I've been shopping around and talking to various coaches from other clubs and getting new ideas to implement for the future. I've also trying to get more parents involved in attending coaching and comeptitive events."

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