Slingsby Gin champion women’s golf
In sync with the reopening of outdoor sports in England, Slingsby Gin, has launched its celebrity Golf Academy to encourage more women to take to the course this summer.
Slingsby’s Class of 2021 inducts singer-songwriter Fleur East, TV presenter Helen Skelton, Sky Sports Formula 1 presenter Natalie Pinkham and broadcaster Bela Shah into the Academy.
Through the Slingsby Golf Academy, with the support of Callaway Europe, the four new star cadets will work one-on-one weekly with their partner PGA Professional. Their challenge; to learn how to play golf before competing against each other in a nerve-wracking play-off to qualify for the BMW PGA Championship Celebrity Pro-Am.
The BMW PGA Championship is one of the most high-profile tournaments on the European Tour.
Year-on-year, celebrities from the world of sport, film, music and broadcast come together to play the Championship’s star-studded Pro-Am at Wentworth Club, ahead of the Rolex Series event which boasts the world’s highest ranked English star, Tyrrell Hatton as defending champion, with former winners including Major Champions Rory McIlroy, Danny Willett and Francesco Molinari.
Slingsby wants to use the Golf Academy to champion female participation in the BMW PGA Championship Pro-Am, highlighting that golf is a game for anyone and influencing a non-traditional golf audience to pick up a club.
The cadets’ journey will be featured in a novice to competitor five-part series capturing the highs, lows, and learnings as they take to the sport and train to compete for a place in the Pro-Am at the prestigious Wentworth Club on Wednesday 8th September, the day before the tournament tees off.
The winner of the Play-Off, taking place over Wentworth’s East Course the week before the BMW PGA Championship, will also receive a £5,000 bonus cheque from Slingsby to donate to a charity of their choice.
With the support of England Golf and The PGA, Slingsby will use the series as a catalyst to provide information, beginner events and a pathway for those inspired to get into golf.
Marcus Black, co-founder of Slingsby Gin, said: “We’re so pleased to have these four inspirational and influential women as part of our inaugural Academy. The enthusiasm and competitiveness Fleur, Helen, Natalie and Bela have shown already, despite the courses being closed has been incredible.
“They have been practicing their putting in the kitchen and swing in the back garden through lockdown. Alongside their Pro they are now raring to go.
“With their involvement in this campaign, we can let women know that golf is a sport that can be built into busy life schedules allowing you to be active and enjoy socialising with friends at the same time.
“Despite how you might hit it on the range or course, we know a G&T together after in the bar is the perfect remedy!”
When asked about her involvement in the academy, Fleur East said: “I like to be able to be able to inspire and create change, to be part of a movement. It’s really exciting to take on something new and be involved in something that’s bigger than me. I like to say I’m not competitive but the moment I’m faced with a challenge, something I can win, something I can compete in, then the fire is ignited within me!”
Helen Skelton said: “People assume that I’m good at sport but I’m not good – I just give it a good try. I’m quite competitive with myself and if I agree to do something, I’m going to give
“it my all and don’t want to lose. My dad has always tried to get me into golf but working away and with young kids, I never carved out time to do these things for myself. Now is my opportunity.”
Natalie Pinkham said: “Anything that gets participation up and gets women talking about sport and encouraging a can-do attitude is just brilliant. I’ll never forget going to a golf course many years ago and being told I wasn’t allowed into the bar, not because I wasn’t over 18 but because I was a woman.
“I’ve always been a feminist, a proud one and I couldn’t believe this. I remember going to my late grandfather and getting angry about the situation.
“His advice was that times are changing and to be patient. Finally, it feels like things are falling into place, as they should be.”
When asked what she is looking forward to most about the journey, Bela Shah said: “I talk a lot about sport and golf for my job, but I’ve not had the opportunity to play the game, so I’m so excited to learn the ropes myself.
“I’m excited about the physical side, getting stronger and learning how my body can work in a different way. It’s not just about winning for me, I want to learn how to do it, do it well and see the progression as I go through.”
Having lived nearby the Wentworth Golf Club, and playing there often H&C News’ publisher, Denis Sheehan endorsed the aims of the women golfers. “The Berkshire/Surrey area that encompasses Wentworth is a gift to golfers, with so many amazing courses including the West, the East and the Edinburgh at Wentworth, locals are truly blessed.
“Locals are also fortunate that the Sunningdale Ladies Golf Club is a bastion of equality, encouraging all young people to play and enjoy the game.
“Sunningdale Ladies Golf Club was for decades the exclusive domain of royals and the great and good of female society. It then opened up to youngsters, offering locals the chance to play a truly majestic 18.
“Speaking from personal experience of three sons joining the club and spending countless hours enjoying the challenges and rewards the club offers, it was all down to women welcoming and encouraging young boys and girls to embrace the sport.
“The work now being done by Slingsby Gin, Fleur East, Helen Skelton, Natalie Pinkham, and Bela Shah to promote women’s golf is worthy and essential. More needs to be done to encourage female golfers of all ages to embrace the sport.”
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