How can you get youngsters thriving without a junior section? Ripon City wrestled with that conundrum but finding the answer has breathed new life into the club

Peter Hixon had a bright idea. He wanted to bring new blood into Ripon City Golf Club and put together a team of youngsters to take on the rest of the Harrogate & District Union. But there was a problem. The club didn’t have a junior section.

“It was slightly ambitious,” said club manager Neil Ramsay of his and Hixon’s Eureka moment in the middle of 2018.

“The position of junior organiser is usually headed up by a parent of a player and they do their term, the player goes off to university or whatever, and suddenly it disappears.

“Historically, the club had some good juniors but, suddenly, there’s an abyss.”

Hixon helped form a committee, but where it differed from the norm was Ramsay involved not only the professional team but the rest of the office as well.

So whenever a junior organiser stepped down in the future, there was always going to be someone to ensure the newly revived section didn’t fall by the wayside.

Ramsay explained: “Peter puts in a lot of time and, ultimately, will give it up and someone else will come in. But at least if we’ve got the consistency from the office, it’s always going to have legs.

“We are leaving a world of fabulous volunteers. Volunteers have built golf clubs, but do those people exist any more? So we have to have more paid people within clubs to do the job.”

From nothing, Hixon and Ramsay brought together 16 juniors. The team was inclusive, with players like Austin Ramsay, who suffers from a disability that causes pain and fatigue in his legs, becoming an integral part.

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Ripon City Golf Club’s debut campaign in the Harrogate league brought a mid-table finish. They won a couple of fixtures.

Most impressively, at a month’s notice, the club staged a Junior Open and had a field of 28. They want more in 2020.

Ramsay hopes their success will shift the emphasis towards bringing more youngsters, the difficult to reach 20 to 30 category, and families into Ripon City Golf Club, and he insisted members are right behind the initiative.

“The biggest driving force in every golf club, from every manager I ever speak to, is the senior section,” he said. “People are retiring and living longer but, quite frankly, they are going to die.

“If I then look at the sections, such as 20s to 30s, we’ve got far fewer members in those sections and we’ve got to build them up.

“We’ve just started on a very long journey and I would like us as a club to become more involved within Ripon and the area to provide coaching to every school in the area.

“That’s going to get more people playing the game, and it’s not just the kids. It might bring in the parents as well.

“We’ve got to look at family memberships. We want new people playing this game. We’ve got a lot of ground to make up.

“But there is a drive to bring in juniors. Having started this, the reaction of the rest of the club has been fabulous.

“They’re saying it’s great to see juniors playing again. We’re so proud. It’s a group and they’re getting together and spurring on each other.”