Ukraine golfers get break from war with Russia at St. Andrews

When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February, a group of young players in the Ukrainian Golf Federation’s development program was relocated across Europe.

For the first time since they were forced to flee their war-torn country, seven kids reconnected in Scotland at the Project Ukraine golf camp last week, which was organized by a group of women in the R&A’s Women in Golf Leadership Development Program.

The women were inspired by Veronika Rastvortseva, a colleague of theirs who gave an emotional account of 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’ve all watched the horrors unfold in Ukraine and we were compelled to help after listening to our colleague Veronika Rasvortseva describe what was going on around her in the early days of the invasion,” said Project Ukraine’s Toni Zverblis. “Thankfully, she managed to move her family out of the country but has been working tirelessly from her temporary home in Belgium on this project since then. She has helped the group liaise with the Ukrainian Golf Federation and the families whom we are supporting.”

The camp at the Macdonald Cardrona Hotel Golf & Spa featured golf clinics, health and mental skills sessions as well as Rules of Golf workshops. Last Saturday, a match was held against 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 in St. Andrews where they were interviewed on Sky Sports and even met the likes of Rory McIlroy, Adrian Meronk and event winner Ryan Fox.

“I have no doubt this experience has changed their lives. The support they have had during this camp from the Project Ukraine team is enormous. I can’t describe how important it has been for these kids to be back together like a family, getting them back to the tee to play golf, and to just sit and chat in the lobby and share what they have been through over the past months,” said Rastvortseva, who attended the camp with her two daughters.

“Our goal was that the camp provided hope and inspiration,” said Zverblis. “We want to ensure that these young golfers’ dreams and ambitions are kept alive despite the devastation they face at home in Ukraine.”

“Their dreams have come true – they met Rory McIlroy and shook his hand. They had a welcome message from Tommy Fleetwood – it’s a dream for any junior. Unfortunately, all these kids have trauma – but for us, it was so important to keep them away from that for a short time,” added Rastvortseva. “It’s hoped that Project Ukraine will continue to be able to help other families and junior golfers because there are many others that need our assistance. They need support with education and getting them back out onto the golf course regularly. They need to remember those emotions that they felt when they were able to play golf in their home county, 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 path. It’s inspiring.”

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