A group of young Brazilian golfers from one of The R&A’s supported projects got up close to some of the world’s greatest players as scoreboard carriers at the Olympic Golf event in Rio de Janeiro.The sport returned to the Olympic Games in August for the first time in 112 years with Great Britain’s Justin Rose and South Korea’s Inbee Park capturing the men’s and women’s gold medals.
To mark the occasion, earlier this year the Claret Jug embarked on a tour of the region, including a stop at a golf development project that uses the sport to improve the lives of schoolchildren, in one of Rio de Janeiro’s poorest districts.
The R&A has supported Japeri Golfe, as well as various other Brazilian golf development initiatives in the run up to the Olympics, for almost a decade. During the Games, a group from the project got the chance to volunteer at the Olympic golf event, carrying scoreboards as the Olympic golfers completed their rounds.
Vicky Whyte, who runs the Japeri Golfe project in Rio, said, “We were given 100 tickets so we brought in a bus full of kids each day to enjoy the golf. Nearly all of our kids were able to go on one of the days.
“They enjoyed the FUN ZONE as well as the golf. It really was an extraordinary experience for them. To be able to walk with the best golfers in the world was amazing.
They also had a meeting with Gary Player who told them the importance of good nutrition and exercise and studies, and to practice every day.”
The project began as the vision of the former mayor of Japeri, Carlos de Morais. Morais wanted to build Brazil’s first public golf course on wasteland that had been earmarked for housing with the aim of creating a community facility instead. The R&A invested £200,000 in the creation of the nine-hole golf course, which opened in Japeri in 2005.
Today the course is home to around 120 students – who all have access to top quality training sessions with R&A funded coaches. In order to take part in the programme, the children must maintain a high level of attendance at school.
With the R&A’s continued support, Japeri Golfe is also able to offer extra academic support to students with additional needs, as well as providing children with monthly food parcels.
Kevin Barker, Director of Golf Development at The R&A, said: “Japeri Golfe is all about using the sport to educate children, teach them good behaviour and broaden their horizons - with the hope of giving them better employment and life prospects in the future.
Maintaining the course at Japeri also provides education opportunities in sustainability and golf course management.
Kevin continued: “As part of the project’s maintenance programme, the greens can only be watered from the course’s own water supply, which consists of two small ponds on site.
“When we visited in April, it had not rained for forty days but the course was still in great condition.”
The R&A spends up to £10 million each year in supporting golf development activity and Rules education programmes around the world. This is all made possible by the success of The Open and the revenue it generates.