Golf Australia

Where to now for Australian golf?

Adam Scott Green Jacket
What will Adam's victory mean for the Australian golf industry?

In a gymnasium in southside Brisbane around 9am last Monday morning, a group of Queensland Academy of Sport athletes completing a session gathered around a television to see if Adam Scott could break Australia’s 79-year drought at the Masters. They included Cameron Smith, 19, the Australian amateur golf champion, a young man who aspires to be the next Adam Scott.

History records that Scott closed the deal, and Smith was stoked. “We were all cheering. It was awesome, great to watch,’’ he told Golf Australia this week. “It definitely made me get up the next morning and practice, and want to be in his shoes, you know? It was awesome.’’

Smith’s story is a snapshot of what was happening at that moment right throughout the diverse golfing industry and right across Australia. As the dust settles on what amounts to be the biggest-ever single achievement by an Australian professional golfer, the industry has a collective spring in its step. By consensus, Scott’s victory has put golf on the radar; now it is up to the industry to capitalise.

A Golf Australia survey of key people in the industry this week found strong optimism that this could be a major shot in the arm for the game. And secondly, that there is plenty of work to be done.

Grassroots golf

Junior Clinic
Kids are inspired by sporting heroes.

Golf courses around Australia were throbbing with players this week. At Moore Park Golf, Sydney’s biggest public course, the phones were humming. They have 60,000 players through that complex in a year, and punch out a million range balls a month, but Adam Scott has given them a lift.

“My gut feeling is that this could be a turning point for golf,’’ said Moore Park’s general manager, Erich Weber. “We hope it sparks some interest like the Norman era, and if Adam Scott can even deliver 50 percent of what Greg Norman has delivered to the sport nationally, that would be great for our game and great for our facility. We’re seen as a bit of an absence in the market, that real grassroots level, getting away from that elite level. We’re focussed on growing the game through juniors, women, beginners and so on, so I think it’s going to be great. Adam Scott’s win will drive some of those programs for us.’’

The same was true at Yarra Bend Golf Club, the popular public facility in inner Melbourne. “Our time sheets into next week are filling faster than they ordinarily would,’’ said Yarra Bend’s business development manager, Dayle Marshall. “The biggest thing for Australian golf is that the sport is on the radar; it’s in mainstream media and the public radar. People who ordinarily wouldn’t be thinking about golf or talking about golf are doing that. I think it’s important that the industry as a whole maintains or extends that enthusiasm for the sport for as long as we can, because it’s golf’s turn to shine. We have to take advantage of the ripple effects of that.’’

Around the country, people claimed Adam Scott as their own. For instance at the Top End, they remembered that Scott won his first national title, the boys’ amateur, at Alice Springs in 1997. “We know he’s a Queenslander, but we’re pretty happy with that,’’ said Jason De Araujo, secretary of Golf Northern Territory. “It’s a little feather in our cap.’’

In Adelaide, they were claiming Scott as a South Australian. “He was born in Adelaide, so I think everyone here is really pleased to see him succeed, said Dominic Fitzsimons, recreation manager at Adelaide Shores public course. As with other public courses, Adelaide Shores was firing this week. “Like Adam Scott said after his win, it’s moments like these that inspire younger golfers to keep working on their game,’’ said Fitzsimons. “We think it’s going to be a real boost for golf in Australia.’’

The Australian Golf Industry Council’s regular survey shows that rounds of golf are on an upturn in Australia, 3.5 percent up on the latest figures. The game is scarcely dying. But Adam Scott has helped, that’s for sure.

Tournament golf

Jason Day
Will the crowds flock again to see our best in action?

Trevor Herden was in Bunbury this week running the interstate matches that are part of the elite amateur golfing calendar. Like everyone else, Golf Australia’s tournament director is excited. “For Australian golf, it’s rejuvenation,’’ said Herden, who runs both men’s and women’s Australian Opens. “It needs a shot in the arm and that’s exactly what this gives the sport. All the younger boys and girls who want to play golf, this gives them a person to look up to and see what can be achieved. It would spark a lot of people, club members, who’ll want to get involved and play more. It’s a breath of fresh air, really.’’

One of GA’s first tasks is to convince Scott to commit to the coutries premier golf event, the Emirates Australian Open at Royal Sydney at the end of November. The Queenslander has been a strong supporter of Australian tournaments, and would be expected to defend his Australian Masters title at Royal Melbourne in December, but Herden will be happier when he knows that the world No. 3 is coming to Royal Sydney. “What you need are major-winners,’’ he said. “You need quality and depth. But with major-winners, your corporate hospitality is there, people want to connect with them.’’

Herden believes golf is well-placed to surge forward. “We’ve got most of the basics in place and there’s no doubt we’ve got these young kids who are interested. We’ve got great courses, cheap golf. We just need to get the right drivers around the country to keep pushing the kids. And they’ll get there. There’s no doubt they will get there.’’

Read more of what the golf industry said after The Masters

Elite development

Adam Scott with National Squad
Scott's achievement builds a winning culture in emerging amateur stars.

For people like Brad James, head of Golf Australia’s high performance programs, Adam Scott’s win is an easy sell. It makes his job – convincing talented young players that they can go to another level – so much easier.

“Everyone in the industry has a spring in their step,’’ said James. “It’s the injection that the game needed from the point of view of many stake-holders. You could ask the PGA, the golf clubs, the junior programs, everyone needed it and sometimes things like this can really help grow the game.’’

Scott came through GA’s programs in the late-1990s. “It’s an easier story to tell to your current squad, whether they’re Australian junior champions or the best amateurs in Australia, that they can also reach that level if they continue to work hard and move along the same pathway,’’ said James. “The culture is the thing you want to create. That’s the thing that we strive for in the GA program, that winning culture. Any sporting organisation wants to create that and we certainly want to create that with our young players.’’

In terms of game development, Scott’s win is perfectly-timed. According to GA’s head of game development Cameron Wade, the nation’s peak body had already planned to relaunch the popular MyGolf program for children along with the PGA later this year. GA also is well-advanced with plans to roll out a new program to encourage women to play the game, and a program to encourage casual golf.

“When something like that (Scott’s win) happens, kids see what the game brings, and what values the game brings,’’ said Wade. “Hopefully we see a spike in participation in the game, and the timing could not be better for us.’’

Summary

Industry insiders believe Australian golf is a sleeping giant that might just have been awakened. “We all believe it is a turning point,’’ said Gary Thomas, chief executive of Golf WA. “One of Golf Australia’s planks from a high performance point of view they want to produce major winners because they are of the view that if we can get people to win majors, it would drive people to the game. It’s come early. Everyone you talk to was watching on Monday morning, it led the news around the country and front page in every newspaper. Golf hasn’t had that for many years. It’s put golf on the map.’’

Others caution that it would be dangerous to hang everything on one player, notwithstanding the quality and marketability of Scott. “Tennis is struggling and Lleyton Hewitt was the poster boy for a time,’’ said Craig French, Golf Tasmania’s general manager. “It’s a lot to carry for one individual and there’s a big risk in that, if he doesn’t win another one or continue on the same way. It’s too early to say it’s a turning point, but it’s certainly the first rung on the ladder, I suppose.’’

Many believe what Adam Scott did at Augusta National last Monday has presented Australian golf with a gold ticket. “This is our opportunity and we have to take it,’’ said Brad James. Another major win might not come for 10, 20 years, who knows? We have to steal it.’’

Read more of what the golf industry said after The Masters

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