A YOUNGSTER from a special education school in Calne has been building his social skills and love of golf at Bowood Golf Club, hoping it will lead to a career in the sport.

14-year-old James Verdin, who has autism, studies at The Springfields Academy, and has been taking part in a bespoke golf training programme which not only helps his game but teaches him how to interact with others.

A few years before pupils leave Springfields, they prepare them for life outside of the school, and help them see if their interests can become a potential job.

Deputy SENCO at Springfields, Beckie Deacon, said: “James is a member of Salisbury South Wilts Golf Club and High Post Golf Club.

“He has an ability and as a school we want to promote, celebrate and extend that with the view of getting him to think about life past Springfields, to see if he can use any of those strengths.

“He saw a careers advisor a few weeks ago and said he would like to be a greenkeeper.

“Two to three years before the children leave Springfields we like to prepare them for the transition, and we want to build up James’ passion and love of golf to help his journey.

“He comes back absolutely buzzing about how he has played and the people he has met.”

The school approached Bowood and PGA teaching professional Gregg Hood, who specialises in junior development, has now been training James for 10 weeks.

Mr Hood said: "James has got on really well and the amount of people he has met, he hasn’t been shy, everyone knows James.

“I soon realised he enjoyed playing more than just being stuck on the driving range. I’ve seen improvements from when I first saw him.

“If you can produce the next generation of happy golfers, it is all about having fun and supporting them, and that is the reason to promote the sport.”

Playing golf at Bowood also gives James a chance to work on his social interactions with other people.

Mrs Deacon said: “He has been working with Gregg at Bowood who has been extremely accommodating of his additional needs and devised a bespoke training programme for James to expand his ability, but also to get involved in the local community.It is important to us that we get him involved in the community.

“He has built relationships at Bowood, he feels safe at Bowood.

“James can struggle with acceptable social conduct, it is about practicing those in a safe environment.”

“He has created a scrapbook to show his social skills journey.

“The next stage will be work experience opportunities, and this is something we plan to continue for James next year, in the hope of work experience either here or at another golf course.”

James said: “I want to work and play at Bowood one day.

“I have always loved golf, I play it with my Dad and my Mum takes me. I have been playing nearly seven years, I am very good.”

This Sunday for Fathers Day Bowood has a fun golf tournament for Dads/Grandads with children up to the age of 13 on the Academy Course including a flag competition and two-course lunch, with prizes. Full details at www.bowood.org