with Robert Bicknell
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, more and more juniors are showing up at the driving ranges with their parents, looking to get a set of golf lessons. The VGA (Vietnam Golf Association) followed the lead set by the BRG Group in Ha Noi and arranged a series of junior golf tournaments here in the southern half of the country.
This is all good stuff, but it is only a beginning and needs to continue to grow until golf is an option open to every child in Viet Nam, regardless of their financial situation or location. There's a better chance that the next superstar comes from the countryside than the city, simply because of the different lifestyle. But the problem is that we need to find a way to bring golf to them.
Driving ranges are primarily located in or near the cities in order to maximize their profits. However, portable hitting cages and mats can be transported anywhere and set up in minutes, provided we can get them into schools out in the provinces.
I have no illusions about golf ever overtaking football in the hearts of Vietnamese kids, but if they never have the chance to even try golf, how can we make any headway?
I have spoken out many times over the last 20 years of the need for public golf courses in Viet Nam. These are not to be confused with private or corporate-owned golf clubs. A public course is open to everyone who can pay the green fee which is quite low compared to the previously mentioned clubs.
Any large city or province can find the land for the course if they put their mind to it. There are designers who don't charge an arm and a leg and maintenance doesn't have to be the same level as the clubs which charge US$100 per round. It can be less and still provide an acceptable golfing experience for the players.
I would also make it a point to hire the poorest kids around. We can give them a chance for a career that they might never have in any other industry.
These clubs would also act as a school for the kids working there. They would learn one aspect of the golf industry half a day, and normal school curriculum for the second half of the day.
The bottom line is that the State would make a LOT of revenue; kids get an education and career training and more people can play golf without spending a fortune.
This how you grow the game.
Unfortunately, 20 years of harping on this issue has produced no interest at all from the powers-that-be, which is sad. They are really missing the boat on this.
It's a total win-win scenario, but until the time comes when public courses become reality, we will continue to only appeal to the upper five per cent of the population and thus, limit ourselves in regards of identifying potential future local golf stars.
In other news… A few of my comrades in golf are all hot and excited this week as the President's Cup gets under way. Thrilling. If there is nothing else on TV, I might decide to tune in for a few minutes, but otherwise I really couldn't care less.
The Internationals have won the event ONCE since 1988, with the US winning nine straight times.
Note, the "President's Cup" is not part of Obama's family jewel protection system, nor is it issued by the Secret Service. It's a golf tournament between US golfers and International golfers who are NOT from Europe, which is a good thing because we all know the recent US record in Ryder Cup…
I just cannot get revved up about the event. Look, if it were the Ryder Cup, OK, because I know it would be a fight right down to the wire, but the President's Cup just doesn't have the same dynamics.
I also don't buy into Tiger Woods newfound love of his teammates. Tiger isn't a warm and fuzzy kind of guy. He's an egotist, and a go-it-alone type. Yes, there is always the possibility that his recent troubles have changed his outlook, but tigers don't change their stripes that easily.
Perhaps I am becoming an old curmudgeon, but I'd like to see better events created. — VNS