Turning back the tide of pessimism and despondency sweeping over the game, the 2011 Asia Pacific Golf Summit (APGS) called for ‘seismic changes’ in the golfing industry, writes Spencer Robinson.
Citing declining rounds, failure to retain new players, high cost associated with the game, the time-consuming nature of the sport and its degree of difficulty, a series of world-class speakers urged delegates from around the globe to unify and turn their attentions to thinking outside the box in order to grow the game.
“We need seismic change in golf,” said Scottish motivational speaker Bill Sanderson, during a powerful keynote address. “This gathering at the fifth edition of the Asia Pacific Golf Summit can be the catalyst for that change.
“We have to address these challenges before they become insurmountable problems. The early response is to meet the challenges head on, think positive and come up with effective solutions.
“It’s all about being ready. It’s all about being solutions oriented. And it’s all about growing the game of golf inAsia.”
Defying the floods that have struck the capital of Bangkok, more than 400 attendees gathered at the Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Hall to tackle the theme of the Challenge of Change at the APGS and the Golf Course Superintendents of Asia Summit, PGA Conference ofAsiaand ASEAN Golf Tourism Forum.
Sanderson’s sentiments were echoed by a high-profile series of speakers, including golfing greats Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tony Jacklin as well as special guest Jimmy Connors, the tennis legend.
Also outlining the urgent need for the game to open up and introduce new and innovative formats of play were James Cronk, President of the Cronk Group, Terry Anton, President of SNAG Golf, who is aiming to take the game to 100 million children in schools around the world in the coming years, and English amateur golfing great Peter McEvoy, the founder of PowerPlay Golf.
Adding further weight to the argument that many of the antiquated rules and restrictions governing the game need to be loosened were John Kawaja, TaylorMade-adidas Golf (USA) Executive Vice President, who spoke about Growing the Game Against the Winds of Change, Masao Nagai, Mizuno’s Global Director of Research and Development, and Dave Felker, one of the driving forces behind the controversial self-correcting Polara Ball.
All warned of the perils facing the game if drastic change is not embraced and implemented by the game’s ruling authorities.
There was a special focus on China and India with hard-hitting panel sessions entitled China – The Crucible of Change and India – The Awakening Giant in Golf featuring experts on those countries.
Mike Sebastian, Chief Executive Officer of the Asia Pacific Golf Group, owner and producer of the events, said: “Be it in Japan, South Korea, China, India or Southeast Asia, golf is experiencing challenges. There’s no denying the fact that the problems faced by golf in the West are beginning to creep into Asia. It’s only a matter of time before the malaise threatening golf’s growth will spread throughout the region.
“The Summit had perhaps the most powerful gathering of some of the best brains in the golf industry – men and women who have their finger on the pulse of the state of the industry and who are, therefore, best positioned to guide and lead us into the future.
“The message is very simple – the industry as a whole needs to be receptive to change and to work in a cohesive manner to grow the game of golf in Asia. We need to get out of a state of self-denial that everything is hunky dory in the golf industry inAsia.
“Let us cut out the lip service and embark on programmes that are designed to evoke change … change for the better. This has got to happen right across the industry and, in the process, we all need to educate our people to acquire better skills at all levels of the industry.”
During the week-long activities, four-time European Ryder Cup captain Jacklin, Thai great Thongchai Jaidee, the most successful player in the history of the Asian Tour, and Kyi Hla Han, Executive Director of the Asian Tour, were all honoured with Asia Pacific Lifetime Achievement Awards.
Meanwhile, Player was inducted into the Asia Pacific Golf Hall of Fame, while Connors became the first recipient of the Asia Pacific Excellence in Sports Award.
There was also a moving tribute to Dr David Chu, the founder ofChina’s Mission Hills Group, who passed away this year, with a eulogy read by course architect Brian Curley.
The week-long activities were sponsored and supported by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT) and Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB).
For further information, please contact Spencer Robinson at email@example.com
Asia Pacific Golf Summit www.golfconference.org