As war with Russia rages on, Ukrainian golfers gather in St. Andrews for memorable camp
When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February, a group of young players from the Ukrainian Golf Federation’s development program were transferred across Europe.
For the first time since being forced to flee their war-torn country, seven children reconnected in Scotland during the Project Ukraine golf camp last week, organized by a group of women as part of the leadership development for women in golf from the R&A.
The women were inspired by Veronika Rastvortseva, a colleague of theirs who emotionally recounted what her family experienced in Ukraine while participating in an online workshop. From there, Project Ukraine was founded to support the golf community in Ukraine.
“We all saw the horrors unfold in Ukraine and were compelled to help after listening to our colleague Veronika Rasvortseva describe what was happening around her at the start of the invasion,” said Toni Zverblis of Project Ukraine. . “Fortunately, she managed to move her family out of the country, but since then she has been working tirelessly from her temporary home in Belgium on this project. She has helped the group liaise with the Ukrainian Golf Federation and the families that we support.
The camp at the Macdonald Cardrona Hotel Golf & Spa included golf clinics, mental health and skills sessions, and rules of golf workshops. Last Saturday, a match opposed players from the Stephen Gallacher Foundation, a junior golf program in Scotland. On Sunday, the camp attended the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St. Andrews where they were interviewed on Sky Sports and even met Rory McIlroy, Adrian Meronk and event winner Ryan Fox.
“I am convinced that this experience has changed their lives. The support they have had during this camp from the Project Ukraine team is tremendous. I can’t describe how important it has been for these kids to get together as a family, get them back to the tee to play golf, and just sit and chat in the lobby and share what they have lived in the past month,” said Rastvortseva, who attended the camp with her two daughters.
“Our goal was for the camp to bring hope and inspiration,” Zverblis said. “We want to ensure that the dreams and ambitions of these young golfers are sustained despite the devastation they are experiencing at home in Ukraine.”
“Their dreams came true – they met Rory McIlroy and shook his hand. They had a welcome message from Tommy Fleetwood – it’s a dream for any junior. Sadly all these kids have trauma – but for us, it was so important to get them away from that for a short time,” Rastvortseva added. “We hope that Project Ukraine will continue to be able to help other families and junior golfers, because there are many others who need our help. They need educational support and regular return to the golf course. They need to remember those emotions they felt when they were able to play the golf in their home country, which unfortunately they haven’t been able to do for a long time.
“When these kids grow up in a few years, they will understand even more how this camp has impacted their journey. It’s inspiring.
The story originally appeared on GolfWeek