Forget the penguins – it could be the golfers of Madagascar after input from PGA Master Professional David Johnson.
The island off the south east coast of Africa, which served as the focus for a hit Hollywood kids’ movie, has benefited from the golfing expertise and knowledge of Johnson.
Johnson, based at the Lavender Park Golf Centre in Surrey, is one of the PGAs of Europe’s 22-man golf development team playing a key role in implementing the R&A’s Working for Golf programme.
In 2014 PGA pros have been active in similar projects in Chile, India, Bulgaria and Brazil with Johnson charged with lending his expertise to Madagascar’s fledgling golfing scene.
Johnson, who previously helped Botswana develop its golf education programme, spent 10 days on the island with a wide ranging brief all with the aim of raising standards of golf.
It included coaching its junior team, training its trainers, guidance on the strategic development of the Federation of Madagascar Golf, giving advice on the quality of golf courses on the island and reviewing the handicap system.
“Madagascar is very sparse as far as golf is concerned with only about five courses,” explained Johnson. “The clubs have a lot of talented caddies and I was helping to teach them how to coach but also being mindful that they were not becoming golf professionals. “My brief was to assess golf on the island, to teach the caddies and juniors and players at a couple of clubs because they don’t have a single golf pro on the island.”
“I was also trying to achieve some unity between the golf clubs and the Federation so it will become a body that reports to the R&A,” he added. “While I was there I also met the British ambassador to see how golf can be brought to the island. While Madagascar has only about five courses and it’s five times the size of Britain so there is a lot of potential.”
Since his visit Johnson has regularly kept in contact with the country and hopes to go back as part of the PGAs of Europe development team.
He clearly made an impact too with a golf academy for underprivileged children renamed the David Johnson Golf Academy.
“That tickled me, it was lovely when you think those kids don’t have two halfpennies to rub together. Madagascar is crying out for golf development and we looked at several sites for potential golf courses.
“I think it offers a fantastic tourist opportunity and also a great opportunity for local people where the average wage is only £1 a day.”
Also helping the R&A deliver its Working for Golf programme in 2014 have been Steven Orr (Cranfield Golf Academy) and Jonathan Mannie (Swiss Golf Association) in India, Craig Thomas (The Golf Academy) in Brazil, Kevin Flynn (Tournerbury Golf Centre) in Chile and Tony Bennett in Bulgaria.
Bennett, who is the PGAs of Europe’s director of education and membership, added: “These PGA Professionals have been selected to make these visits by the PGAs of Europe and are part of our Golf Development Team, which is a group of 22 professionals from ten different countries.”