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Nick Dougherty gave a passionate address to members of the golf industry yesterday to launch a new campaign aimed at getting golf into every single school in the UK.

The former tour player said he was not embarrassed to admit he was “brought to tears” when asked to be President of the Golf Foundation, calling it the “most meaningful thing I’ve ever done with my life in this sport”.

Dougherty was speaking at the Stephen Proctor Golf Industry Lunch, attended by members of the golf equipment industry, golf media, golf administration and hosted by Sporting Insights, on the eve of The Open at Royal Liverpool.

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“I will never, ever do anything more important than this,” said the Sky Sports Golf presenter. “As great as it is presenting the Open Championship, as great as it is hosting and presenting a Ryder Cup, nothing will match what we’re trying to do here.”

Dougherty said he wasn’t interested in a ceremonial role with the Golf Foundation, with his “name on a bit of paper”. Speaking somewhat openly to the audience, which took many by surprise, he said he wanted to “get down into the weeds” and make a “monumental difference” to the future of the game.

“The most powerful people are in this room,” he said. “Right now, if we put our minds to doing something together, we can make a monumental difference. Our ambition is a campaign called Unleash Your Drive and it is going to be across the board – but my big focus is schools.”

Nick Dougherty schools

It is not the first time a golf organisation has attempted to get golf into schools. It is a costly exercises, and requires equipment. Scottish Golf has a similar campaign called clubgolf that was designed to get a golf club into ‘every single 9-year old’ in the Home of Golf. In its early days, it’s had funding from RBS. But when the funding dried up, so did the campaign, with the former chief executive Hamish Grey admitting that the campaign effectively failed.

But Dougherty is confident he can lead a charge to generate the funds required to make the Golf Foundation’s latest kids campaign a success.

“We want to put this in 32,000 schools across the UK and Ireland, as every single one of them, which is a lofty ambition. It also costs about £15m. I know that sounds a lot and it is – but it doesn’t all happen in one day.”

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The 41-year-old said golf should leave its old image in the past – “whether it was right or wrong doesn’t really matter” – because “we’re here now”.

He added: “I want to see the our sport give something to kids. Golf allows them to deal with problems at home, allows them to deal with bullying, it allows them to set targets that are maybe beyond their expectations at the moment.”

Considering the current scene in world golf right now, Dougherty called on the industry to “come together” to help raise the money for Unleash Your Drive, saying the industry was better when it was united than divided.

“This is the most privileged role I’ve ever had in the game of golf, and I’m going to there every single step of the way.”

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Bryce Ritchie is the Editor of bunkered and, in addition to leading on content and strategy, oversees all aspects of the brand. The first full-time journalist employed by bunkered, he joined the company in 2001 and has been editor since 2009. A member of Balfron Golfing Society, he currently plays off nine and once got a lesson from Justin Thomas’ dad.

Editor of bunkered

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