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Pitlochry opens new Golf Academy

June 20, 2014

Pitlochry Golf Club unveiled its visionary Golf Academy with officials believing it could help them produce a Ryder Cup star of tomorrow.

Neil Panton, brother of the club's last Ryder Cup player, the late John Panton, was in attendance as the facility, and the generations set to benefit, were paraded.

Current club junior and Highland Open champion Blair Stephen (19) and future star and club regular Daniel Kearney, only 3 years old, joined Mr Panton (94) at the driving range.

Perthshire North MSP John Swinney was also amongst the guests touring the range, the indoor training area and the new 6-hole Lettoch Links, due for completion in June.

Mr Panton, an Honorary Member, believes the facility is now the best in Perthshire outside this year's official Ryder Cup venue of Gleneagles.

With the club's emphasis on development and participation for all, he feels it can help Pitlochry produce another major player like his late brother.

"I would certainly think it's possible," he said. "The opportunity is definitely there with this new facility. I joined as a member in 1932 and we never had anything like this when we were young. You worked with what you had and you did your best in those days. In fact, I just wished we had this development 50 years ago."

The new Academy, built with assistance from Perth and Kinross Council, Sportscotland and landlord Charles Butter, comprises a driving range with 6 indoor and 5 outdoor bays.

There are teaching bays where the latest sporting technology programmes are being used by club pro's Mark Pirie and Graeme Leggat to help players with technique.

The new par 3, 6-hole, Lettoch Links, still to open, will enable golfers, including visiting non-members and first timers, to practice their short game or swing a club as a beginner.

And there is already tangible evidence across the age range that the biggest development in the course's 105 year history is paying dividends.

Since elements of the facility have come online, the club has secured both boys and mens Perth and Kinross county championship titles.

"It's testament to the vision we had for this Academy," says Director, Stephen Carruthers. "The facility is unrivalled for a club of our size in Scotland and, I believe, with the exception of Gleneagles itself, it is the best in Perthshire.

"It caters for those looking for their first taste of the game, right up to Tour pro level. You don't need to be a member to play. It's family friendly, open to all and it's a very relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere here, which people respond to.

"The fact our junior players are doing very well is not just about the Academy, it is also the coaching ethos of the pros and the volunteer members who help to train the kids."

Local MSP John Swinney said: "This is a significant development for Highland Perthshire and for the grass-roots game in Scotland in Ryder Cup year.  I understand over 40 junior players from the local area are being coached here three times a week, which is commendable.

"With such an excellent facility and dedicated coaches, it is not unthinkable we could see Pitlochry boys and girls in the higher reaches in future years."

As part of the opening celebrations, Directors will host an Open Day on 29th June where the facilities can be sampled for free.

Those joining as a member for 2014 on the day will also receive membership for 2015 free of charge.

Jackie Davidson, ClubGolf Scotland Manager, said: "We're delighted to see this facility opening and hopefully it encourages more young players to continue their golf development.

"It is an excellent facility in the area and we would encourage all golfers to make use of it."

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