Teenage hopefuls are being urged to take full advantage of the unique player pathways available to emerging stars on Tyneside following a successful first year for one of the region's leading golf programmes. Golf has become a key part of the North East Sports Academy (NESA) at North Tyneside's TyneMet College, less than a year after it was awarded development sport status.
And coach Jonathan Ward is confident further success will follow after his players made prominent moves in local, regional and national competition as well as reducing their handicaps and inspiring fellow youngsters in the community.
"It is always difficult to judge golf alongside other development sports as our season only starts at the end of an academic year," explained Ward. "But it's safe to say we're on course to become another NESA success story given the progress of our students during the past 10 months.
"Andrew Smith reached the fourth round of the Scottish Boys' Matchplay Championships as well as qualifying in second place for The Northumberland Junior Matchplay at Wallsend Golf Club.
"Andrew Gudgin shot a solid 78, net 68, to finish fourth in the Northumberland Schools Championship at Blyth, helping TyneMet to achieve fourth place in the team event. And that kind of display has helped Andrew to reduce his handicap by five shots during his time at NESA.
"Other performances of note include Darren Rushtom's superb round of 76 at St Andrews in the BCS Open in testing conditions and a handicap reduction of five strokes from 14 to 9 by Jackson Moat since September."
While Ward welcomes students with a strong desire to follow the likes of fellow North Easterners Kenneth Ferrie and Robert Dinwiddie into the professional game he accepts that very few will have the chance to earn a living from playing the game they love.
However, he added: "I suppose I'm living proof that you don't have to be the best player in the world to make a career out of golf. Providing clear pathways into full-time golfing roles is what we're all about at TyneMet.
"For instance, NESA players have benefited from the wealth of experience that Parklands' Head Professional Mark Watkins and his team of PGA qualified staff had to offer during weekly group and one-to-one coaching sessions.
"Mark's dual role as the swing coach for Team Northumbria's golf team means our students have a great opportunity to investigate fully the opportunities available to play golf in a higher education environment.
"The links are there and we'd urge any young golfer in the North East to look into what NESA can offer in terms of maximising their chances of staying in the game for an extended period."
TyneMet's groundbreaking partnership with Parklands is at the forefront of NESA's bid to establish their golf programme as the market leader for 16-19-year-olds in the region looking to combine education with at least 10 hours' of coaching and play a week.
Students have access to the 18-hole course, the newly refurbished driving range, short game practice ground and putting lab. And Ward added: "We also have a first class home course which can stage fixtures against other colleges and that's a huge advantage.
"Our students are improving as players and as individuals. NESA players assisted with the Golf Foundation's Primary Schools Golf Festival at Centurion Park, which offered more than 60 local children a taste of what the game has to offer.
"This followed on from work done by NESA coaches and players in schools, delivering Tri Golf taster sessions over the summer term. The experience also provided the college players with an insight into other avenues of academic study and future employment for those interested in a career in golf.
"But the volunteering didn't end there with Tyne Met also hosting a schools tournament and inviting several local secondary schools to Parklands to compete for trophies and fun prizes."