To the causal observer they might just seem like a group of golfers out enjoying a round of their favourite sport. But the members of the Wyke Amateur Golf Society – WAGS for short – also have another, more serious purpose to their golf, as they use it to raise money for local charities. Last month the society handed over two cheques for £1,000 each, one to the Ducks & Drakes Cancer Trust and the other to Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance. Indeed, the group was originally founded as a fund-raising venture – albeit for a slightly different purpose at the time.
‘Our records go back to 1998 but we know it existed before then and it started by raising money for Wyke primary school,’ says the WAGS club chairman Dan Faulkner. ‘Then over time people’s children grew up and it has been expanded to donating to local good causes and charities.’ However, though WAGS now has members from outside Gillingham, it has kept its Wyke ties, and holds its monthly committee meetings in the Buffalo Inn there.
The way the society works is that its members arrange to go and play a round at a golf club and have a meal there. The society strikes a deal with the club to get a discount on the cost, and the money they ‘save’ is then put into the society’s charity fund to be distributed each year. The players also take part in various competitions among themselves which allows them to raise even more money.
For example, the members all chip in £2 each towards a prize for anyone who needs just two shots on any hole. If no one wins – which is often the case – then all the pot goes into the charity fund. ‘The system allows our members to play courses they would not necessarily normally play, and obviously we raise money for charity,’ says Dan. ‘We are 100% about raising money. As golfers we are of varying ability. The lowest handicap is 12 while the majority of our members have a handicap of over 20,’ he says.
‘We are very much amateurs out for a bit of fun. If someone comes along and starts throwing clubs around we’re not the right society for them – we are here to have a social round of golf has a bit of fun and nice meal afterwards and raise money for charity. It just so happens we get to do something we enjoy to help people out.’ In all the society calculates it has raised £17,300 for good causes over the years.
Liz Tite, secretary of the Ducks & Drakes Cancer Trust which raises awareness of bowel cancer among young people in Dorset, and who received the cheque at a presentation at Henstridge Golf and Leisure club, said they were very grateful for the support. ‘We could not do all the things that we do without people raising money for us,’ she said.
Tracy Bartram, Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance communications manager said: ‘We are extremely grateful to Wyke Amateur Golf Society for their donation of £1,000. With no direct funding from the Government or the National Lottery, we rely on the generosity of the public to help us raise the funds we need to keep flying. Our operational costs are over £2 million a year and the approximate cost per mission is £2,500. Our sincere thanks go to everyone at Wyke Amateur Golf Society for their support.’