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Thomas a driving force to combat anti-social behaviour; PRO GOLFER JOINS CRIME CAMPAIGN IN CARDIFF.

Byline: ANTHONY WOOLFORD

WELSH professional golfer Rhian Wyn Thomas has put her face to a campaign to help drive down crime and anti-social behaviour on the streets of Cardiff.

The 23-year-old Vale of Glamorgan player, in her second season among the Ladies European Tour ranks, is encouraging youngsters in the disadvantaged areas of the Welsh capital to pick up a golf club and help make a swinging success of their lives.

"I am thrilled to support such opportunities for children and young people, golf is a wonderful sport and it is fantastic to see the sport being popular in areas of Cardiff," said Thomas.

"With more golfing and football opportunities planned for February half-term, Easter and the summer holidays who knows the coaches may unearth a new professional golfer for Wales."

The 2009 Vagliano Cup player herself happened to come across golf by accident after tennis was her chosen sport.

It was a trip to the Royal Welsh Show that she first gave golf a go and now the Aberystwyth-born player aims to follow great friend Breanne Loucks by cashing in on her talents on the professional circuit.

"I happened to be at the right place at the right time - the Royal Welsh Show," said Thomas.

"There was just a little net there, in a sports console, and I hit a couple of shots.

"David Llewellyn, the Welsh coach at that time, asked what my handicap was and how long I'd been playing, but I'd never really played before.

"It all kicked off from there really.

that was the first time I'd really tried. I'd played tennis before at quite a high level, so I guess that helps.

"It requires the same sort of hand-eye co-ordination and I've always been around sport as well.

"I had a couple of golf lessons with Robert Ryder in Ashburnham Golf Club.

"After about a year I just thought I'll get into golf as it was going quite well, so I just gave it a go.

"I started off with a handicap of 25 and after about a year I was down to about 13. After three years I was in the full Welsh ladies squad. It's been a bit of a whirlwind really!

"It's definitely important to give sport a go, any sport, any age, any time.

"If you enjoy it, then keep at it.

If you've got a talent for it, you have to stick to it and try your best."

As an amateur, Thomas was the 2007 Welsh Open strokeplay champion and a quarter-finalist at the 2009 British Ladies Open Amateur Championship at Harlech.

She also finished tied for 50th on the same golf course playing as an amateur in the S4C Wales Ladies Championship of Europe on the LET.

Now she's doing her bit to get youngsters involved in the game and help cut down on anti-social behaviour.

Golf, football, and street hockey just some of the sports being used in the area to help refocus and enrich the lives of children and young people of all ages and backgrounds in Cardiff.

And the result has seen a 15 per cent reduction in anti-social behaviour incidents.

From sports camps and training to inspirational visits to football clubs and stadiums across the UK, Voluntary Action Cardiff (VAC), South Wales Police, Communities First, East Cardiff Neighbourhood Management Team and the Rumney Forum have all been working alongside professional sports clubs to provide youngsters in the area with opportunities to really turn their lives around.

Peter Griffiths, head coach and development officer, said: "Disadvantaged areas have so much to offer and we are coming across some really talented youngsters that have now gone on to develop their skills at professional academies.

"Golf and football in particular have been the most popular with some players, who would otherwise be hanging around on street corners, being snapped up and playing against Premier League and Football League clubs.

"The work has not only transformed the area but also young people's lives.

"Sport and crime affects us all as individuals and communities, whether it's car theft, arson or anti-social behaviour, playing or watching your favourite sport or team.

"By working together we can help make Cardiff a safer, healthier and more prosperous city."

Chair of Sport Wales, Laura McAllister, added: "While the Vision for Sport in Wales focuses heavily on the improvement and development of Welsh sport, it also recognises the ability it has to positively influence an array of personal, community and nationwide developments."

CAPTION(S):

Rhian Wyn Thomas in action Rhian Wyn Thomas, coach Peter Griffiths and PCSOs Samantha Johnson and Lindsey Thomas
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 4, 2011
Words:768
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