The Community Coach of the Year award is dedicated to the coach within New Zealand that is inspiring the growth of new players to the game and demonstrating innovation, community connection and generating visible and accessible pathways. This years deserving recipient was none other than PGA member, Stuart Thompson. A man that consistently displays all these traits and more.
Throughout his golfing career, Stuart has jumped on board with as many community based programmes as possible.
Why? Simply because he likes helping people, and if that leads to introducing those people to the game of golf, even better! He's all about connecting with others and believes the key to this is to treat everyone equally - one of his own personal rules to live by.
When asked how he feels about being this years community coach of the year, Stuart says he feels 'extremely humbled'.
'It's great to do what you do as a coach but even better to hear someone saying you do better than you thought did!'
Stuart proudly stated that he thinks of his job as a responsibility. He describes it as "not about the game itself as much as the community around it". A community which he claims is the best one in the world.
His aim is simply to know everyone around him and get them involved with this com m unity.
He goes on to say he wouldn't have been able to do any of it without the PGA, NZG , Counties Manukau, Blind Foundation and everyone else he has collaborated with or worked alongside.
Over the past year alone, Stuart's community involvement has been huge.
Earlier in the year he was a part of the Hine Toa Programme in association with the New Zealand Police. The Hine Toa Programme aims to help at-risk youth to build their confidence and a better future for themselves. Stuart had several sessions with the girls, getting them out on course for first time.
"They teach me far more about life than I teach them about golf"
When the New Zealand Blind foundation came to Stuart asking for help, he was all ears. He helped introduce 15 visually impaired people to the game, saying that for him it was more about inviting them to the club and creating a connection to the community with them than anything else.
Stuart's passion for teaching all abilities shines through in both his words and his actions. Reflecting on previous coaching, Stuart discusses his time with Special Olympics in South Auckland. He comments that in these sessions the participants taught him far more about life than he taught them about golf.
It was from Special Olympics that he made a connection with one gentleman in particular, who he fondly refers to as 'Beechy'. They met around 15 years ago and Stuart says they go out for a hit every week to this day, whether they're hunting for balls or playing 18, Stu says it's the highlight of his week.
When it comes to schools, Stuart says it's more about the life skills and values that you can provide for the children and that golf is just the vehicle for that. He currently has involvement with Willow bank Primary School, where he sees over 300 children throughout terms one and two, as well as Ormiston Intermediate where he provides after school tasters for 27 kids who are brand new to golf. He says getting paid to do these sorts of gigs is just a bonus and that for him it's not about the money, it's the achievement along the way.
More schools, more kids, more programmes and more golf - that's what's in store for the rest of the year Stuart says.
This includes 'have a go' days alongside his trainee professional, Stacey, as well as anything else he can get involved in.
Ever the humble man, Stuart mentions he already knows who he's voting for as next years community coach of the year, commenting that he couldn't be happier to have won but any good community coach recognises another and that he wants to see as many as possible.