Skelton excited as Lee opens junior track

Connor Babbington, Sam Vowles, Abbey Dymott and Jacob Newland by the first tee of Lee's new academy course

Connor Babbington, Sam Vowles, Abbey Dymott and Jacob Newland by the first tee of Lee's new academy course

Hampshire squad v Dorset. Picture: Andrew Griffin

Hamplshire start of the season with a victory

Lee head pro Jon Barnes, Steve Richardson, Jack Coulbert, James Ablett and Martin Adams took part in the exhibition match

Ryder Cup hero gives Lee’s academy course thumbs up

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It was nearly four years in the making but Lee-on-the-Solent’s new academy course is already offering dozens of youngsters the chance to get to grips with the game.

Since the course opened in April, boys and girls have been able to enjoy a series of taster sessions organised by club head pro Jon Barnes and his assistant Jack Coulbert.

Past captain Roly Skelton was asked to head up a special committee in the autumn of 2013, after the club’s management committee became concerned about the falling number of juniors.

Lee has a strong tradition of producing top amateurs.

Former England amateur champion Steve Richardson played in the 1991 Ryder Cup alongside Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo.

And Sam Hutsby played against America’s Rickie Fowler in the 2009 Walker Cup – the amateur’s equivalent of the Ryder Cup.

But the well of teenage talent has dried up in recent years.

So after receiving £20,000 in grants and funds donated from proceeds of the club’s lady captain’s charity appeal, an army of volunteers gave up hundreds of hours to transform the old horse field.

The five holes vary in length from 58 to 142 yards and each one has an artificial Huxley tee to ensure playability all-year round. The first hole also incorporates a £10,000 Huxley green, which will soak up the wear and tear of hundreds of rounds each year.

Skelton is very proud of the project.

He said: ‘Thanks to Snows BMW’s sponsorship, we have funding for three years to offer a structured coaching course of six lessons, following on from the initial taster sessions.’

That will create a pathway leading to full junior membership and the chance to play the main 18-hole course, which opened back in 1905.

Skelton added: ‘We have a proud history of producing great juniors like Steve Richardson, James Ablett, Martin Adams and Jack Coulbert – who all featured in the special exhibition match at our official opening – and, of course, Sam Hutsby, who was unable to be with us.

‘We wish to rebuild that tradition right here and right now.

‘The initial response has been very encouraging and we look forward to seeing many new faces over the coming weeks and months.’

Barnes and Coulbert have contacted primary schools and have plenty of groups interested in trying out the new course.

To find out more, call the pro shop on (023) 9255 1170.

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