WHAT THE PAPERS SAY
Declan Duggan lost his son, Kevin (a very keen and talented young golfer) in a road traffic accident some four years ago. Duggan is, perhaps ironically, a publican and, following his son's death, arranged for a charity golf day in his memory. "A lot of my friends and customers from the pub were involved and we raised £25,000 for charity." Said Duggan. The following year saw the second golf day and a further £40,000 - with all funds distributed to charities.
At which point the kernel of the current scheme was formed as Duggan explained, "We came up with the idea of the 'Kevin Duggan Golf Academy' as the beneficiary of our golf days and Winter Fundraising Balls." The purpose built, indoor teaching bays at the existing Stockwood Park driving range were the result and are well used, Duggan again - "Three nights a week the bays are used by children - there are over 400 children in Luton who are under the care of foster parents or who live in care homes - and the rest of the time the golf pros can use the facility for their own teaching in return for their time in teaching the children. There are a lot of other children who can benefit from this scheme and very soon a wider range of them will be given the opportunity."
The much publicised 'screening' of adults in charge of children, particularly those that are labelled as 'vulnerable', has meant that there are plenty of necessary bureaucracies for the academy to go through before more children can be included. However, disabled children are set to join in the programme and no less than Home Secretary, David Blunkett has become involved; asking Duggan to be kept informed up to the point where he will become personally involved when blind children are given the chance to play golf at Kevin's legacy. Make no mistake, Declan Duggan is a very enthusiastic man and that enthusiasm is both persuasive and contagious - David Blunkett is just one of many public figures that are involved in this scheme.
The nine-hole academy has been designed by Ken Moodie of Creative Golf Design and is being built by Contour Golf of Daventry. Earthmoving began in Autumn of 2002 and Contour's Ingrid Eichler has caught Duggan's enthusiasm, "Aside from being a very worthwhile project, this course is beyond the scope of what you would normally expect from a golf academy. It will set new standards with its design and shaping - a top quality golf course in miniature. Hopefully it will raise the expectations of young golfers and that is no bad thing." Moodie is equally enamoured, "I think this is exactly what is needed to promote junior golf, especially as this scheme is reaching sectors of the market that would otherwise not have the chance to experience the game. It is high quality golf with full USGA Specification and we have not put any bunkers out there but have, instead, used grass features throughout to provide the challenge - there is a large swale running through the middle of the course. We have also included a lot of Ryegrass in the fairway mix to make sure it's hard-wearing."
When complete, Luton Borough Council will maintain the academy - having already donated the land to build it on. Although it would appear that Duggan's work will then be done he is keen to emphasise that the fundraising will continue in order to offer further support to the academy - both course and teaching bays.
Declan Duggan never gives in, as proved by his campaign to change the law on testing drunk drivers - in simple terms; a driver who is unconscious after the accident could not be given a blood test as this would constitute an assault. With four years campaigning, Duggan's name is now in the statute books with the passing of 'Duggan's Law' which means that blood can now be taken for testing at a later time.
This man gets what he wants and his plan to get Tiger Woods to attend the academy once it has opened in April 2004 should not be laughed off, he is very persuasive and is powered by grief coupled with a vision. "This is my way of grieving I suppose" mused Duggan, "I have never grieved 'normally' because I have just immersed myself in this project."