Golf appeals to people for different reasons, whether purely for social fun or to unleash their sporty side. For Aaron Coulter from Glenluce in Wigtownshire, the sport has many benefits.
“I love golf as it gets you out of the house,” he said. “I always enjoy the fact you don’t need to play for more than a few holes and you feel better about yourself, and it’s really enjoyable unless you’re playing badly! That one good shot brings you back to the golf course the next day!
“When I moved in with my papa he was always going to the golf course. I didn’t like it to begin with as it meant he wasn’t at home. He then bought me some clubs and cut them down for me, and he took me to the course the whole time which was good fun.
“Now I’m older, the people I play with are good banter and I’ve met a lot of friends as well. I didn’t know most of the juniors to begin with but once I got into it, I got to know them and then went on to high school with many of them. I’m pally with a lot of the older people at the course too.”
The 17 year-old, who has just started working with local company Douglas Engineers, took part in the Scottish Golf Development Centre coaching programme over two winters. He said:
“I met a lot of good friends and it helped my golf as you don’t get to play so much during the winter. I was stuck at 11 for a year, when I took up the Development Centre coaching. I was playing with more people, against them in small competitions, and I went down to seven in a couple of months so it helped a fair bit.
“The biggest change was in my short game, how I concentrate on holing putts. Before I would go onto the green and just look at it, think it was a wee bit left to right and just go for it. I learned at the Development Centre there’s more to look at – the wind, how soft the greens are, the slant and so that really helped a lot.”
When Aaron applied to be a score board carrier at The Ryder Cup, he naturally nominated his papa to go with him as the person who inspired him to take up golf. And it seems golf continues to bring them together during the ups and downs of everyday teenage life.
He said: “It’s good if we fall out at home, we go to the golf course and it’s like nothing happened! It’s a release, and we come home and we’re all right.”
Aaron’s grandfather Gilbert is a tanker driver with Haulage Services, part of the Woodsides Group of Northern Ireland so spends much of his time away from home. He loves to get out on the golf course at every chance, and plays off eight at Wigtownshire County where he is vice-captain.
“I never took up the sport until I was 36. I used to hear the boys go on about it and I never really knew what they were talking about”, he said.
“Ever since I picked up the clubs, I’ve been addicted! It was my friends in the pub who took me out one day and I couldn’t get the ball off the ground - for about a year! And then it started coming together and I have won quite a few tournaments.
“I enjoy the banter in a bounce game but really enjoy the competitive side as well even though it sometimes gets too serious. You go out and may never have met your opponent before and they turn out to be a cracking fellow. You’ve got to keep control in a match especially if he’s playing well and you need to beat him. You can still admire someone and the way they play if they are better than you, and with your handicap you always have the chance to beat them and that’s why golf is a good leveller. And you may meet a good friend along the way.
“Most children now just want to pick up a computer and it’s difficult to get them to pick up the clubs until they’re a bit bigger. James Erskine who was the professional at the Scottish Golf Development Centre is great with children.
“It was hard for Aaron as they were not many young ones at our club and so he came out with the older ones and everyone got to know him. Once we were playing when it was a bit frosty – he was 10 if he was lucky and his golf bag was bigger than him. At the ninth, he slipped on frozen ground and the golf bag fell on top of him! But he picked himself up and got on with it.”
Gilbert is looking forward to his Ryder Cup experience with grandson Aaron.
“I’m over the moon! It’s a dream come true for me as I’m definitely a keen golfer. It’s the greatest thing that‘s happened to me for a long, long time. You’ll see it on my face when I’m standing there – I’ll be like a young kid!”
The Gleneagles experience may bridge the generation gap between grandfather and grandson more than the usual walk round the course, it would seem. Aaron said:
“When I saw Papa’s face when he read the email, it was priceless. He’s been going on about it every day since! It’s pretty mental! I never thought we’d get there. It was a good shock.
“We’ve been to a couple of tournaments before but The Ryder Cup is going to be crazy with the crowd. We went to a practice day at Celtic Manor and Papa was like a kid at that, so I can imagine what he’ll be like on an actual tournament day!