By Ian Randell (Chief Executive)
Although, on a global perspective, golf is now more or less an all-the-year round sport, it is when Spring arrives and thoughts of the upcoming Masters sets the pulses racing that we tend to regard ‘ The Golf Season’ proper as being underway.
This is no disrespect to the wonderful tournaments that take place in the sunnier climes of the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere, with the magnificent golf that they offer, but in most of Europe the sport has been on the back burner throughout what seems a long winter.
But now, as March arrives, golf is ‘about to break out all over’ and as we compile and study the 2012 Events Schedule of the Confederation of Professional Golf, comprising those tournaments, educational opportunities, trade shows and so on that we organise, endorse or support in some way, the reaction is of anticipation, enthusiasm, excitement even.
Since, as golfers, tournaments are our ultimate activity my opening look at the months ahead brings the rewarding feeling that we have now a trio of truly representative championships. These are the Glenmuir-supported International Team Championship in the Algarve, the UniCredit PGA Professional Championship of Europe (Pravets) and the Fourball Championship, supported by Costa Daurada at Lumine Golf and Beach Club.
With these supplemented by such well-established and superbly-staged international Pro-Ams as the Beko Classic, the Aegean Airlines and the Kempinski ‘The Dome’ events, we have a schedule of at least six outstanding tournaments, all at attractive venues and embracing five different countries…Turkey, Spain, Greece, Bulgaria and Portugal.
I hope I’m not over-stating the strength of our 2012 schedule but I suspect it is the strongest we’ve ever had.
Naturally we have burning and realistic ambitions to build on this schedule but this must not deny us the satisfaction of dwelling on, and appreciating, what we have. The Fourball contested by 58 pairs from 18 different countries opened up phenomenal possibilities at Lumine and Costa Daurada and will surely grow from strength to strength.
This addition of a new location to our portfolio following only months after Pravets Golf Resort and SPA’s inaugural staging of our 72-hole individual championship in Bulgaria, where an appetite for golf is developing steadily, filled a void that had existed for some six years. And not only did it fill that void, but it also opened up more new horizons for us.
In the coming weeks and months national PGAs will be staging their qualifying competitions for places in this individual championship, currently proudly held by Portugal’s Hugo Santos but coveted, no doubt, by an array of fine players from across the membership. The days when a UK winner could almost be guaranteed have long since been assigned to history.
As I indicated earlier golfers tend to think of tournaments as the ultimate activity but here I must emphatically stress that our No.1 priority is, and always will be, Education. It is via education and education only, that playing standards have improved in recent years to take Europe to the very forefront of world golf.
The appointment of Tony Bennett as the association’s first Director of Golf left no doubt of our commitment in this regard and the way our structure and schedule has been upgraded since then endorses that philosophy.
At the time or writing the ground-breaking Coaches Circle, followed by a Heads of Training conference, at Lumine Golf and Beach Club, Costa Daurada, is coming up on the schedule.
Another upcoming event in a busy year is the PGA World Alliance Conference to be staged at The Belfry, UK, on July 13-16. The Confederation of Professional Golf is a founder member of the fledgling organisation, one that seems to me to reflect an attitude that we have striven to engender over the years, that of official golf organisations, wherever they may be, working together.
All this, and I’ve not even mentioned the Ryder Cup, of which we are a proud stakeholder, in Chicago this September. With the current strength of European golf and the recent rise of a new generation of Americans to join the likes of Woods and Mickelson, it is shaping up to be a memorable match. This and all, of the other mouth-watering tournaments that will now be coming up quick and fast…think of the tussle to be world No.1, the question of whether Tiger Woods will get back to being the player he once was, the Race to Dubai…I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait!