Ukrainian junior golfers’ visit to Scotland ‘has changed their lives’

A mother who fled Kyiv when Russia invaded has hailed the visit of a group of young Ukrainian golfers to Scotland as “life-changing”.

The seven players from the Ukrainian Golf Federation’s development pathway programme, who had relocated to various locations across Europe, came together for the first time to take part in the Project Ukraine golf camp.

The camp was organised by a group of women who are undertaking the R&A’s Women in Golf Leadership Development Programme and was inspired by one of their colleagues, Veronika Rastvortseva.

Before escaping from Kyiv with her two youngest daughters – her eldest is at college in the United States – Rastvortseva joined Women in Golf’s monthly Zoom meeting and gave an emotional first-hand account of what her family was going through, testimony which led to the launch of Project Ukraine.

As part of the golf camp, the young Ukrainian players enjoyed high-quality coaching and clinics, were supplied with golf equipment and attire from PING and played in a match against juniors from the Stephen Gallacher Foundation.

They were also invited to the final day of the Dunhill Links Championship in St Andrews, where they met Rory McIlroy and Adrian Meronk and posed for a picture with champion Ryan Fox on the Swilcan Bridge.

Rastvortseva, who attended the camp, said: “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 just to sit and chat in the lobby and share what they have been through over the past months.

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy met junior golfers from Ukraine during the Dunhill Links Championship (Steve Welsh/PA)

“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.

“I have been in touch with all the families throughout this time and so I know all their stories and some are really heartbreaking. I have felt a huge responsibility to make this happen.

“I am so thankful to the whole Project Ukraine team that they supported me with this initiative and put so much effort into making this camp happen.”