The national golf youth championships, held just outside Moscow this week, have one again proved that the sport is gaining more and more attention in Russia since becoming an Olympic discipline.
Former World No.1 tennis player Evgeny Kafelnikov may now become a good role model for young golfers, as the double Grand Slam winner was recently crowned Russia’s golf champion.
The 37-year-old seems to have endless golf enthusiasm and participants of the Russian golf junior championship could see him honing skills on the greens.
“I’m a little bit flattered by the media’s attention after I won the title. Now I understand that golf has become a big part of my life and I devote all my spare time to it, I want to progress and take part in different competitions,” Kafelnikov said.
The Russian Golf Junior Championship has been held since 2003. The number of participants has increased dramatically over the past few years.
Golf will tee up as an Olympic discipline in Rio in 2016 and that fact has become a huge boost for the sport’s development in the country.
This year over 100 youngsters took to Russia’s best golf club – Tseleevo in the Moscow Region.
“It’s a significant event in the Russian golf calendar as here we see prospects for the near future. Golfers are well-known around the world and of course we hope our players will be able to compete at the biggest tournaments as soon as possible,” Kafelnikov added.
Russia’s biggest international golf tournament – the Russian Challenge Cup – starts in three weeks, but before that, young golfers have had a chance to show their swings at the Jack Nicklaus signature course, that is supposed to be one of the best in Europe.
“We are working hard to prepare the course for a stage of the Challenge Tour. However we managed to find time in our tight schedule to host the Junior Championship. Youth golf is a cornerstone in developing the sport in the country. It’s important to make steps forward every year,” Vadim Prasov, Tseleevo golf course director, said.
And this year the glory went to Vasily Belov, who became the 2011 Russian Junior Golf champion.
“I’m really glad to win here as the course is very demanding. I’m satisfied with my performance. I don’t think I could perform better. I’m aiming to play here at the Russian challenge cup. If I make the cut it would be great,” the winner said.
Russia doesn’t have long-held golf traditions. However, with the efforts the golf association is devoting to make the sport popular a new Rory McIlroy may be found somewhere on home soil sooner rather than later.