A group of young Ukrainian golfers forced to leave their war-torn homeland travelled to Scotland to participate in a special high performance golf camp thanks to the efforts of a group of women working in the golf industry.
The golfers, all from the Ukrainian Golf Federation’s development pathway programme, relocated to various locations across Europe because of the war since the Russian invasion begun in February. The seven participants came together for the first time since then to take part in the Project Ukraine golf camp in the Scottish Borders last week.
The camp was organised by a group of women from the golf industry who are undertaking The R&A’s Women in Golf Leadership Development Programme and took inspiration from one of their colleagues Veronika Rastvortseva. The group chose to focus their project on Ukraine after Veronika gave an emotional first-hand account of what her family was going through during an online workshop. The programme itinerary was quickly re-organised, and the group launched Project Ukraine, a vehicle to explore the best ways to support the Ukrainian golfing community.
Based at the Macdonald Cardrona Hotel Golf & Spa in Peebles, the young golfers benefitted from high quality coaching and clinics, health and nutrition sessions, mental skills, and Rules of Golf workshops. Supplied with golf equipment and attire from PING, including special pieces adorned with the Project Ukraine logo, Saturday saw the golfers play in a special match against juniors from the Stephen Gallagher Foundation. In the evening the group were entertained by former world golf trick shot champion Geoff Swain and later took part in an online seminar with Close Nutrition..
On Sunday the group were invited to the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in St Andrews by the DP World Tour. They were interviewed live on Sky Sports by Nick Dougherty and met Rory McIlroy, Adrian Meronk and posed for a picture with champion Ryan Fox on the famous Swilcan Bridge.
On Monday, Project Ukraine were hosted by Peebles Golf Club as St Andrews University Director of Golf Ian Muir put the group through their paces. Sky Sports Golf analyst and presenter and former Ladies European Tour star Sophie Walker joined the camp for a Q&A session in the evening before taking them through a putting workshop supported by PuttOut Golf on Tuesday morning.
Rastvortseva, who attended the camp with her two daughters, reflected on what had been a “life-changing’ week for the participants, saying: “I have no doubt this experience has changed their lives. The support they have had during this camp from the Project Ukraine team is enormous. I can’t describe how important it has been for these kids to be back together like a family, getting them back to the tee to play golf, and to just to sit and chat in the lobby and share what they have been through over the past months.
“Their dreams have come true – they met Rory McIlroy and shook his hand. They had a welcome message from Tommy Fleetwood – it’s a dream for any junior. Unfortunately all these kids have trauma – but for us it was so important to keep them away from that for a short time.
“I have been in touch with all the families throughout this time and so I know all their stories and some are really heart breaking. I have felt a huge responsibility to make this happen. I am so thankful to the whole Project Ukraine team that they supported me with this initiative and put so much effort into making this camp happen.
“It’s hoped that Project Ukraine will continue to be able to help other families and junior golfers because there are many others that need our assistance. They need support with education and getting them back out onto the golf course regularly. They need to remember those emotions that they felt when they were able to play golf in their home county, which unfortunately they haven’t been able to do for a long time. When these kids grow up in a few years they will understand even more how this camp has impacted their pathway. It’s inspiring.”
Toni Zverblis, Project Ukraine, said, “We’ve all watched the horrors unfold in Ukraine and we were compelled to help after listening to our colleague Veronika Rasvortseva describe what was going on around her in the early days of the invasion. Thankfully she managed to move her family out of the country but has been working tirelessly from her temporary home in Belgium on this project since then. She has helped the group liaise with the Ukrainian Golf Federation and the families whom we are supporting.”
“We have been so excited to meet these talented young golfers and give them five days to focus on their passion with their peers. Our goal was that the camp provided hope and inspiration. We want to ensure that these young golfers dreams and ambitions are kept alive despite the devastation they face at home in Ukraine.”
A spokesperson from The Ukrainian Golf Federation said, “We would like to thank The R&A for their support and assistance to our national team at such a difficult time for Ukraine. We greatly appreciate this help and we look forward to working in collaboration in the future.”
Jackie Davidson, Director – Golf Development at The R&A, said, “This is a wonderful example of some incredibly talented women working in the golf industry using their initiative and expertise to provide an outstanding opportunity for young golfers whose lives and ambitions have been severely disrupted by the terrible situation in Ukraine. We are extremely proud of the efforts they have made to do something so significant for these golfers and are delighted to support the project. We strongly believe that golf should be open to all, and this group of women have demonstrated the importance of this value in action.”
It is hoped that the group can build on the success of the camp and continue to support more Ukrainian junior golfers with their athletic development and education. If you would like to find out more or how you can get involved and support Project Ukraine please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.