“By working closely together, again and again, at every stage of the project, Selected Hotels, the Costa del Sol Tourist Board and the PGA of Europe have truly shown how golf sponsorship can pay dividends, not only to mutual benefit commercially, but to the enjoyment of everyone involved.”
This was the reaction of Lawrie Thornton, general secretary of the PGA of Europe, after several weeks of activities involving the three corporate partners and other business associates, staged at Atalaya Park and Don Miguel Hotels, the Atalaya Park Golf and Country Club and Los Flamingos Golf Club.
The PGAE play an integral role in the Selected Hotels three-month Festival of Golf, organized by the hotel group’s promotional and marketing arm Selected Events, but have a specific week both in December and in January when their projects take centre stage.
In every way the programme was an unprecedented success, including:
the ground-breaking ‘Working Together’ PGAE Annual Congress, described as ‘golf’s greatest gathering’ of key administrators ever staged in Europe
International Team Championship
Three major gala presentation dinners
The Don Miguel Fourball Championship
The Media Masters golf tournament
The Media Starter Clinic
The launch of ‘Beach Golf’
“During the entire programme there was an inescapable feeling of business and golf working in harmony. A role model, if you like,” added Lawrie Thornton. “This remember, is not the usual form of sponsorship which is restricted, in the main, to prize funds being provided for professional golfers.
“Here we have a package whereby the club professional golfers, the general public of both sexes and all ages, including golfers and would-be golfers, along with the golfing and travel media, can all be involved at a time of the year when golf is adversely affected by the weather in much of Europe.”
This something-for-everyone mixture was achieved partly by the PGAE inviting every amateur union and federation in Europe to discuss with the main ruling bodies the best way forward for every golfer on the continent. In addition, the Atalaya Park Academy offered free coaching for all, while some 40 non-golfing journalists were introduced to the rudiments of the sport.
After that came the launch of ‘Beach Golf’ – not a PGAE activity but one of which the Association thoroughly approves because it is designed to attract more and more families to the pleasure (and the pain) of the golf swing and all that goes with it. This new and intriguing initiative was staged with their usual flair, professionalism and sense of fun by Selected-Events.
Yet it was, of course, the activities for the club professionals which were the PGAE’s main concern and both the International Team Championship, (staged with the support of the Ryder Cup Committee) and the Don Miguel Fourball Championship, increased their profile and status in the region officially recognized as the ‘winter home’ of the PGAE.
Spain’s successful defence of the team championship will have made the other nations determined not to allow them to complete a hat-trick in December 2003 while the 80 pairs who contested the 4-ball event look certain to return to their regions and recommend more and more of their colleagues to participate in the future. The inclusion of the attractive Los Flamingos course added considerably to the appeal of the event which, after two years, looks like a permanent fixture on the PGAE schedule.
“Over this three-day period we heard professional after professional praising the concept of arranging for them to have a few days in the sun, playing competitive golf when they would otherwise have been denied by the weather in central or northern Europe,” added Lawrie Thornton.
“Not only that, but these pros thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to play what they described as a ‘relaxed’ style of better-ball golf with the possibility of returning home with some prize money from the fund of 50,000 euros, whilst also joining the local social scene and meeting other golf professionals from different countries and cultures.”
By staging the media events simultaneously it was guaranteed that a multi-national press gathering was also present. “Selected Hotels and the Costa del Sol Tourist Board, along with the Tourist Board of Andalucia, Niza Cars, Iberia and the rail authority displayed admirable initiative in attracting such a large number of journalists and photographers to the region,” concluded Lawrie Thornton.
“One only has to imagine the publicity that will be generated for the Costa del Sol in general, over a massive part of the continent, as this considerable army of press representatives write their articles and spread goodwill by word of mouth after a few days in which they were treated like golf professionals, accommodated in luxury style and entertained at two spectacular gala dinners.
“All of the events fell neatly into line with our ‘Working Together’ Congress. Every appropriate authority from both professional and amateur golf sat in the same conference room for three days and found a sense of harmony and unity concerning so many crucial topics effecting our sport.
“As our new President, Sir Michael Bonallack, subsequently put it so succinctly to reporters: “I don’t think in terms of ‘amateurs’ or ‘professionals’. I think only of ‘golfers’. As we go out and talk favourably to others about golf we are all, in a sense, ‘missionaries’ spreading the word.”
Sir Michael has met with his predecessor, Jaime Ortiz-Patino, whose work he will continue in furthering the cause and status of the club professional and golf in general.