As the Faldo Series enters its 23rd season, Sir Nick Faldo reflects on his junior event's legacy and how proud he is of his son, Matthew, who now runs it on his behalf
The Faldo Series dates back to 1996, the year of Sir Nick Faldo’s sixth and final major. In the April of that year, he overhauled Greg Norman in the final round of the Masters to earn his third Green Jacket. That summer, he unveiled a new concept designed to give talented juniors more chances to play in elite competitions.
The event has been a stepping stone in the careers of stars such as Eddie Pepperell, Marc Warren, Oliver Fisher, Rory McIlroy, Melissa Reid and Carly Booth.
Not only does the Faldo Series aid the world’s best juniors’ development through elite competition but aims to grow the game by staging events in less-established golfing nations by carrying with them the Series Founder, Sir Nick Faldo’s, name.
Faldo prides himself on his hands-on involvement and tries to get to as many Faldo Series events as he can. He plays a part in course set-up, stages clinics and watches the kids compete in the heat of battle.
Can you explain how the Faldo Series started and what it means to you?
The series started back in 1996. My mission then was to give kids more opportunities to be competitive so we divided Great Britain and Ireland up into six regions, we had three qualifying events in each region on some really cool golf courses. Royal St George’s and Loch Lomond were on board very early on.
So we wanted the players to play in the three events. They got points for playing in all 3 events and we had a grand final. Nick Dougherty won that grand final. So that’s how it started.
I then took the winners from each age group to America and they came to Orlando and practised and played. Once you spend a winter or two in Florida, you realise how unproductive the British winter is. So it was my mission to get them out of the British winter and give them a chance to practise for a little while.
How has the Faldo Series evolved over the last 23 years?
We’ve obviously gone from spread across from Britain to Europe and we’ve gone into Asia for about 12 years or 13 years now, and really almost globally we have events in almost all four corners. We have events down in New Zealand, Australia all the way through Asia, all the way through Europe.
We’ve now aligned ourselves with the IJGA who have events and the IJGT. So we’ve aligned ourselves to have events. We have a Faldo series in America with grand finals as well. We are trying to expand.
Your son Matthew now runs the events. How much does that mean to you?
Matthew came out of college and worked as an intern with me and that’s getting close to nearly 10 years ago now. At least four or five years ago, he said: “Dad, I can do this – I can run it.”
He took it on board himself to be the series director. He and Keith Wood travel the globe promoting each event and attend meetings to expand in new regions.
I’m very proud that Matthew has got his own bee in his bonnet to try and create a South American tour. We could quite possibly have between six and 10 events and have another grand final, so we are busy working on that at this particular time.
What would be your message to aspiring juniors who have the opportunity to play in the Faldo Series this year?
I’m very honoured. They play and they want to win. Because we are pretty unique that if you win an event you go to a grand final. So I get really quite inspiring stories where they will travel across Europe to qualify.
We had a great story of three girls, triplets. And one would qualify in Poland so they jumped in the car and went to Germany. Then another one qualified in Germany. Then they jumped into their little van and ended up in Slovakia and another one qualified there. So that was quite a cool story.
But that’s what the kids want to do they want to qualify to make the grand finals because it’s a whole new experience. Our European grand final is in the Middle East now and our Asia grand final is in Vietnam so the opportunity is there to travel and the kids absolutely love that because it’s a whole new experience.
What kind of job are we doing as a sport to boost participation?
I think there’s probably a lot to play in, there’s always plenty of tournaments to play in at different levels. The hardest thing now is not so much growing the game but keeping the kids interested in the game. Because there are so many distractions and golf is a tough sport where discipline needed to maintain your practice.
I was fortunate – I kind of learned the discipline because it took me four lessons before I hit a golf ball. I went through the grip. And I went through the posture. I went through alignment. I went through all sorts. And then the swing before I started hitting the ball. Right out of the gates I kind of got the discipline needed for this game. So I try to help in bringing that back.
If you were in charge of golf globally for a day, what would you do to increase participation, especially among juniors?
If I could change golf globally for a day. I’d ban tee pegs, then we’d see how good you really are. If you’ve got to hit driver off the deck all day that would be a good one.
I don’t know about anything serious to be honest. The ruling bodies do a pretty good job in making golf happen.
About the Faldo Series
Now in its 23rd year, the Faldo Series’ European tournament schedule for this year includes 15 events played across 11 countries in three continents. A winner will be crowned in November’s Grand Final.
Eight regional qualifiers around the UK and Ireland continue through to August.
The Faldo Series Europe fittingly concludes at Al Ain in November. Some of the world’s best juniors will go head-to-head for one of the biggest crowns in Junior Golf.
Players must visit www.faldoseries.com to view the 2019 European schedule. Find your nearest Regional Qualifier to sign up.
Since inception, the Faldo Series has welcomed 40,000 boys and girls, from five age groups, with a performance standard of +4 to 12 handicap, crowning a total of 38 Overall Champions.
Established in the UK, the Series has expanded to encompass Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Asia-Pacific, North and South America, with 40 events taking place in 30 countries worldwide. Three continental Grand Final’s (Europe, Asia, North America) bring together junior golfers from all corners of the world.
Learn more at faldoseries.com