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Missing the sponsorship cut

WHILE golf is one of the most popular sports in Western Australia, it could be argued that it is going through a bit of a form slump due to a lack of sponsorship dollars.

In 2002 golf was the sixth most popular activity in WA with a participation rate of 8.3 per cent after, in descending order, walking, swimming, aerobics/fitness, cycling and running.

That participation rate increased on the 7.8 per cent in 2001 when golf was again the sixth most popular sport.

However, Western Australian Professional Golfers Association executive officer Stuart Kemp said sponsorship was the biggest issue facing the sport in this State.

“The PGA is doing as well as it could but we’re losing out to other sports at the moment,” he said.

“We’re competing against football and the like. I think it’s a cyclical thing.”

Mr Kemp said the product of golf might also be the problem.

“We’re trying to provide a better product for the corporate dollar,” he said.

“A lot of sponsors use it to look after their clients.

“But on the golf course you can have your good days and your bad days.”

Another key to ensuring that the sponsors keep on paying to take part in the pro-am tournaments that provide valuable funds to golf is to make sure that each event has the best ratio of players to professionals.

Too many players can result in long delays for others to make their way around the course.

The quality of the professionals on offer can also make a huge difference. Tour professionals high on the money list are sure to be drawcards to any pro-am event.

“You have to make sure you don’t have too many players,” Mr Kemp said. “It can also come down to what professionals you have on the course.

“Things such as golf clinics before the event can also prove invaluable.”

Then there’s the quality of the after-event ‘19th hole’ functions to take into account. The better the hospitality, the better value for the sponsors.

According to figures from the WA Department of Sport and Recreation 29,669 people were active members of the women’s and men’s golf associations in 2002-03.

That is down slightly from the 29,927 in 2001-02.

There are about 240 professional players in WA, split evenly between employment as golf club professionals and those trying to make a living on the various golfing tours around the world.

For its small population Western Australia is doing surprisingly well on the professional golfing scene.

Home-grown golfer Stephen Leaney finished second in this year’s US Open and Nick Ahern is ranked in the top 30 in the European tour.

Graham Marsh and Terry Gale are doing well on the seniors tour and Michael Sim and Rick Kulacz are showing great promise, even though they are amateurs.

Bunbury golfer Shani Waugh is performing well on the Women’s PGA tour.

And whenever WA can secure professional golfing events such as last year’s Johnnie Walker Golf Classic, it can have a positive effect on the State’s economy.

Colmar Brunton research showed the Johnnie Walker Classic last year was a big earner for the State.

Visitors to last year’s tournament spent about $1.75 million, with the bulk of that being on accommodation, food and beverages.

It is estimated the event had a direct economic impact of about $5.9 million.

The Vines Classic was a big earner for the State until naming sponsor Heineken decided to move it to Melbourne.

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