HSBC marks its 12th year of world-class golf at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, they are also celebrating a record number of girls on the HSBC Future Falcons grass roots golf initiative.
The first intake in 2016 saw fewer than 100 girls participate in the programme, while the total number of girls participating across the years now stands at tens of thousands. This week, girls make up around 55 per cent of those taking part in a special programme of activity at the tournament.
This game-changing programme developed by HSBC and the Abu Dhabi Sports Council has seen 80,000 children introduced to the golf. The programme is also famed for discovering and nurturing emerging talent, providing up to 22 social and competitive events each year.
The Future Falcons school programme ‘Skills 4 Schools’ has seen 18,385 schoolchildren, 7,000 Emirati students and 550 hours of coaching provided. The programme in recent times has placed extra importance on expanding into the Abu Dhabi public school system.
Key to this success has been running girls-only sessions as well as providing social and inclusive events. The programme also enjoys bringing families together from across the region, aiming to influence the sense of belonging and community.
Invited from the programme to experience the championship are 13-year-old Emirati golfer Sara Ali, already part of the UAE national team, and 11-year-old Maya Gaudin, whose name is proudly etched on the Yas Links Club Champions board as the club’s youngest ever ladies club champion. Maya was thrilled to meet her hero Rory McIlroy on Saturday, who took time out to congratulate her on her feat.
Both Maya and Sara credit the programme for providing crucial opportunities for them to participate and develop their talent. They also credit the programme for helping to build confidence, make friends and develop attributes which extend beyond the game.
Maya said; “I love playing golf with my friends, playing tournaments and ultimately, I really want to turn pro. Before this programme existed, Tournaments were for adults only, but now we have our own competitions. It’s a really supportive environment, bringing kids together from all over the area. I’ve met so many pros and played so many tournaments in the region, I even have my own memento wall at home. When I make a bad shot like a bogey, I’ve learnt to ‘flush it’ and move on, which is useful in everyday life too.”
There are due to be over 400 Future Falconers taking part in special activities including a ‘Swing, Chip and Putt’ competition this weekend. They will also be able to watch the world’s best golfers and be inspired by legends of the sport.
On hearing about the HSBC Future Falcons programme, Collin Morikawa sent a message to this next generation of budding golfers. “I want to say hi to all the HSBC Future Falcons, I hope you guys are enjoying the game,” he said. “The biggest message I want to give to you guys is to have fun. When you’re playing with your friends or at school and you’re a junior hanging out with your buddies and learning the game, just have fun, that’s the biggest thing and parents, please encourage your kids to enjoy it as much as they can.”
Aref Al Awani, General Secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, said: “Abu Dhabi is not just a global capital for world-class sports and host to major international events, it’s a vibrant home for talented youngsters. We have worked hard to create the ideal environment for all sports to grow. A place where future athletes can take first steps and be inspired to greatness. All our flagship events are underpinned by community initiatives to give boys and girls new opportunities to play while learning something new. So it is extremely pleasing to work alongside our partners at HSBC and see the success of the HSBC Future Falcons mirror the success of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.”