Back in March, we challenged four celebrities (and novice golfers) to a serious challenge; to learn the game of golf with a chance for one of them to play in the BMW PGA Pro-Am Championship in just 6 months time. Enter Fleur East, Helen Skelton, Natalie Pinkham and Bela Shah – the first-ever Slingsby Golf Academy cadets who were ready to get in their golfing practice to win that one spot to play at Wentworth in summer. Not only this, but we wanted to create this academy to help encourage and inspire more women to take up the game of golf during the summer to break down the preconceptions of the sport. We also wanted to highlight the really fun social side that comes with golf too!
Things weren’t plain sailing though as we were still in the midst of a global pandemic. This meant that no golf clubs were open and that they weren’t even able to meet with their PGA pro coach yet! So, in true 2021 fashion, lessons over Zoom were the way to go. Practicing putts, sharpening their stance and absorbing the basics of the game were the main focuses for the first few weeks and then in April, golf courses finally opened up! This meant all 4 ladies finally met and how about a driving range session at world-famous Wentworth for your first visit to a golf course?! They were welcomed by Sky Sports Golf analyst and golfing Professional Inci Mehmet who gave our cadets all the pointers they needed to get off to a great start.
As their golfing journey progressed, the ladies and their PGA pros all took a slightly different approach to learning the game in the hope that they would be the one to take the top spot in August. They even got to meet up with Dame Laura Davies, a golfing legend, and talk all things golf over a good old Slingsby G&T at Top Golf!
The closer the play-off gets, the more the practice stepped up. Former European Tour player and now golfing coach Zane Scotland gave the ladies some advice to help with them one of the most difficult parts of the game, pitching, which helped Fleur and Helen especially as they took part in their first-ever 18-hole golf day not long after. It was a totally new experience for them that came with a lot of pressure but one that they hoped would soon pay off!
When it came to Natalie Pinkham and Bela Shah playing their first 18 holes, they did just as well but realised it’s quite different to practicing on the driving range…
By the time August arrived, the Slingsby Golf Academy cadets were ready to go head-to-head in a play-off to see which one had perfected their golfing game enough to take that winning spot at the BMW PGA Pro-Am Championship. After a gruelling 18 holes and plenty of ups and downs along the way, Yorkshire’s very own Helen Skelton took the winning spot! Even though Fleur, Natalie and Bela were in it to win it, they were delighted for our winning lady and did amazingly well and inspired many women to take up the game of golf this summer and hopefully beyond.
Finally, Wednesday 8th September arrived which meant it was time for our winner Helen Skelton to play in the BMW PGA Pro-Am at Wentworth! Of course, she was nervous beforehand being such a newbie to the sport but she needn’t worry because she was amazing! Playing alongside European Tour professional Andy Sullivan and BBC Breakfast’s Dan Walker and surrounded by thousands of people didn’t appear to distract our winning cadet at all. Our 3 runner-up cadets Fleur East, Natalie Pinkham and Bela Shah were all there to cheer on Helen on the day and it was a truly wonderful atmosphere.
The summer of 2021 won’t be forgotten anytime soon due to the amazing introduction of the Slingsby Golf Academy and all involved to help get more women involved in golf whilst really championing the social side of the sport too - we know this firsthand because of the amazing Ladies Golf Days we have run ourselves in the last few months.
2022, we’re ready if you are!