The crucial issue of how to attract future generations to take up golf as a regular sporting activity was discussed by 300 representatives of 35 countries at the inaugural World Conference of Junior Golf in Rome over three days last week.
In the face of fierce counter-attractions from multiple rival sport and leisure pursuits, golf took its opening global step towards ensuring that every possible avenue is available to each nation to meet the common aim of maintaining the flow of young newcomers to its ranks.
The gathering, initiated by the Italian Golf Federation and co-ordinated by conference technical adviser Donato Di Ponziano, director of the PGA of Europe, provided the first-ever opportunity for a detailed dialogue between countries on the concept of making golf more attractive and accessible to modern schoolchildren and teenagers.It was staged with the support of the R&A, the European Golf Association and the PGA of Europe.
One necessary ingredient, it was unanimously concluded, was that children must be taught that taking up golf is a passport to fun and enjoyment as well as to comradeship and sporting competition.
“It was a very successful conference and a wonderful opportunity to assemble some of the world’s top administrators for an exchange of ideas,” said Donato Di Ponziano.
“To put a smile on a child’s face through golf, is the future golf and the future of those of us who work in the sport. Golf is fun and while we must maintain standards they do not have to be the standards of a hundred years ago. “We must always update ideas to attract children to play the game.”
Among six key presentations to the gathering of officials from the world professional and amateur communities, was one from Joe Beditz, president and chief executive officer of the National Golf Foundation of the USA.
The responsibility of the global community to junior golf was expertly embraced in the presentation by Murray Macklin of the New Zealand Golf Foundation. The Kiwi aims include:
- having 20% of the membership population taken up by juniors
- having the ‘right attitude’ to junior golfers
- one ‘age group criteria’ worldwide for juniors(currently the age limit varies from country to country.)
- for PGA’s around the world to accept their responsibility as ‘THE’ trainers of golf coaching and open up their doors, establishing teaching divisions.
There were also presentations, providing ample food for thought, from Keith Williams (English Golf Union), Worden Teasdale (Royal Canadian Golf Association), Mike Round (British Golf Foundation), Mattias Sjogren (Swedish Golf Federation) and Donato Di Ponziano.
The in-depth three-day programme featured workshops on the relevant topics of Etiquette, behaviour & justice; Golf & school; Introducing Children to Golf or Golf to Children; Recruiting Juniors; How much psychology and physical training?; Camps and Competitions and was concluded by Noel M Stephens of the R&A whose enthusiastic conclusion was to call for plans to be set in motion for the second world conference of Junior Golf.
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