IT was a Tiger on the prowl – and not so-called sightings of a lion – that created a real buzz on the Wirral.
The return of the Open Championship to Royal Liverpool after a near 40 year absence and the chance to watch the world's No 1 at the time pit his wits against the second oldest links in England attracted more than 220,000 spectators and created a real stir among the local community.
The upswing in interest in golf was a factor that local golf supporters wanted to capture for the future to help introduce more potential players to the sport.
Tiger Woods was the name in every headline as he eased his way to Open glory in 2006, but his victory has left a more lasting legacy for the area.
Once Hoylake's return to the Open rota was confirmed a committee of interested parties had been formed to discuss the development of the sport in the area and out of that came the new role of community golf officer as part of Wirral Council's sporting portfolio. The role was filled by Neil Price, who had started out as a junior at Arrowe Park and graduated to being a professional at Leasowe while competing on various pro tours. It is a legacy that continues to grow as Price looks to build on the success of the initial forays into Wirral primary schools to deliver Tri Golf sessions.
To fill the gap that comes between Tri Golf and helping youngsters develop their skills towards future club membership, Wirral Council established the Club TG, based on the Kings Parade at New Brighton.
The nine-hole pitch and putt course is open from Easter to September, six days a week, and anyone can turn up and pay to play, but for just £10 a year, membership of Club TG allows free use of the course, a regular Saturday coaching session and competitions . . . with a free cap thrown in.
The club is aimed at five to 12 year-olds and from small beginnings is beginning to grow, with 55 children taking part this summer, more than double its first year of operation.
"It is a chance for children, many of whom are too young to join a golf club, to learn the skills of the game and take part in competitions," explains Price. "We have our own mini Masters and mini Claret Jug competition, for example. It means the youngsters also have an interest in the Majors when they are played.
"The first couple of years in my role concentrated on going into the classrooms and introducing children to golf, but they had nowhere really to go from there. Club GT encourages them to carry on and gives them an outlet before possibly going on to join a club when they are older.
"The emphasis is on a relaxed atmosphere – we had a family fun day in the summer which attracted more than 300 people and we have events like a parent and child competition – but it helps prepare the youngsters for taking their interest further if they wish.
"We are working with the clubs on Wirral to help break down the barriers to making the sport as accessible as possible."
Plans for the future include taking golf out more into the local community, with backing from the HSBC Plus fund helping create links with the Wirral Youth Service. Price has use of a portable inflatable net, which can be set up anywhere from a shopping centre to a youth club.
"It can be difficult to engage older children because teenagers want to be hitting real balls with proper clubs, but the inflatable net is a chance for them to do that," explains Price.
As part of the work going on to make golf open to all comers, Price has also run a number of golf disability sessions with the pitch and putt course providing an ideal starting ground.
Given his own background in the sport, Price is also hoping to build up the junior offering at the municipal courses as well.
Wirral offers pay and play at Arrowe Park, Warren, Brackenwood and Hoylake, with Price adding: "We already feed our youngsters into the Warren when they are ready to move onto a bigger course and that is an area we are keen to develop."
The imminent arrival of the world's best women golfers will once again put golf in the spotlight.
A group from Club TG will be visiting Hoylake during the tournament, which will be at the centre of a host of Get into golf activities, and Price is hoping the renewed awareness of the sport will help boost participation figures. Club GT offers free taster sessions to groups like scouts, brownies and guides and local youth groups.
"Parents are looking for something for their children to do to get them some healthy exercise outdoors and not everyone is into football," he says. "Golf is a great sport that can be enjoyed on a number of levels and offers both an active hobby and social environment."
Anyone interested in Club TG can contact Price on 077699 13894 or email email@example.com