Meet the ladies tour superstars of tomorrow

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A former mainstay of the European Tour, Fulford Golf Club hosted their first R&A event with the inaugural Girls Under-16 Open. Steve Carroll talked to the people who made it such a success

The Beast from the East, which dumped snow all over the country, took the headlines but was only part of the problem.

“There’s no doubt that, with about a month to go, things looked pretty grim out there,” explained Pearce.

“It was very much a winter course and there was no growth. It was wet like everywhere else.

“The greenkeepers were probably about three weeks behind where they normally were in preparation for the season.

“But we were fortunate enough to have a dry spell. The sun came out for a good ten days and the amount of effort and work that [head greenkeeper] Mark Mennell and his team put in over that really brought the course together.

“It went from being a winter course to a course that got really heavily praised by both the R&A and all the players as well, and looked almost as though it was the middle of the season.”

Fulford Golf Club

For Mennell, the build up was seven months of trouble.

“It was probably the toughest season we have had ahead of an early tournament,” he said. “We didn’t do any maintenance on the greens. All we tried to do was smooth them out but we were top dressing in between rain.

“On four of the greens, we did it physically by hand. We got our tractors and trailers as near to the green as we could and then we [wheel] barrowed it.

“We shovelled it and barrowed it from 20 yards away from the greens, onto the greens, and then physically did it by hand – instead of top dressing with the machine we did the others on.”

Mennell loved that, going back to the old school, but some parts of the course were so wet the team went out with hand mowers because they didn’t want to use the big machines in those areas.

The team spirit that brought them to the start line merely intensified once tournament week got under way.

“We worked on a morning and an evening during the tournament. We got here at 4.30am on the Monday right through to the Sunday.”

Fulford Golf Club

And if the greenkeepers put their heart and soul into the tournament, and bought into the new venture, so the members did as well.

“We had a waiting list of volunteers, which was incredible,” declared Pearce. “We had 82 names down. We had to provide about 45 volunteers every day and it was a big ask.

“At first, I did wonder whether we would get that much interest from members but they fully supported it and enjoyed it as well.”

There are two further instalments of this competition to come but they are not the only events to which Fulford can look forward.

“We had already got a plan to develop our own junior golf and we secured the Carris Trophy for July this year and we thought that was going to be our junior activity this year.

“When the opportunity came to do a girls event at the same time, it has brought all that together and we are really proud to be pushing girls and boys golf this year. It’s a special year for Fulford.”

Pictures courtesy of Getty Images and Naomi Baker. Naomi is the first recipient of the Getty Images Sport Photographer Internship, developed in partnership with Women’s Sport Trust, Cerno Capital and Canon, to encourage women to pursue a career in sports photography.  

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