WHO SHOULD PAY TO BUILD PRO CAREERS?
GolfRSA spends millions every year, drawn from the a liation fees of golf club members and the bene cence of sponsors, to send groups of elite young golfers, boys and girls, around the world to improve their games and add to their general experience. This policy has been ongoing for a number of years, but recently the trips have become more numerous, and as the number of elite golfers has grown, so has the total expense.
This year has been a rewarding one for GolfRSA, with outstanding achievements from their national squad players, but unfortunately it didn’t translate into particularly good results at the biennial World Amateur Team Championships in Ireland.
The girls did well in the rst week, with a T-15 nish in a eld of 57 countries in the Espirito Santo Trophy. Considering how few outstanding female golfers we have in South Africa, where women’s golf just does not grow as a sport, this was a superb achievement. We nished ahead of the likes of England and Scotland, and 16-year-old Caitlyn Macnab from Serengeti estate did herself proud by being T-12 in the women’s individual standings. She rose magni cently to a dauntingly big occasion.
Our young men, unfortunately, disappointed once again, with a 30th place
nish in a eld of 72 at the Eisenhower Trophy. None of our three team members were in the top 60 of the individual standings. While men’s golf in South Africa may have an abundance of talent, our stars seldom display themselves prominently at international team events. Yet several of these boys, unlike the girls, will become successful professionals and multi-millionaires.
A question must thus be asked: Why are club golfers and sponsors spending so much money on these young players at this stage of their development without much glory in return? It wasn’t that long ago that the previous amateur body would pick a team for the world champs on a minimal budget, send them o with one manager and very little preparation, and enjoy far better outcomes. We were regularly in the world top 10.
Why don’t we therefore leave these youngsters to build careers at their own expense? It may be the duty of national sporting bodies to promote our young sportsmen and women and give them every opportunity to succeed internationally, but how much do you invest in them with public money? Today’s amateur bodies cannot continue to overspend on training squads, overseas trips for junior and senior teams accompanied by o cials, without checks and balances. Is the current system working, for a start? What are we accomplishing?
Golf Australia came to an interesting conclusion ve years ago. They were using taxpayers’ money to develop the talents of young golfers, and with a much larger gol ng population than South Africa’s the programme was costing millions of dollars. Even though they enjoyed good results, they realised that in today’s economy they could not continue in that vein without stricter governance.
The feeling in Australia was that they were paying to build the careers of professional golfers from an early age without recouping anything in return. It was free tuition to enhance their bank balances. Golf Australia changed the system. Promising young players are now asked to sign contracts which stipulate that if they become top professionals with sizeable incomes, they will pay back the money spent on their amateur gol ng education by Golf Australia. This can then be reinvested. Cameron Smith, ranked No 32 in the world, was one of the rst players to enter this system, and has already paid back his debts to Golf Australia. Those who don’t succeed have no such obligations.
Under the new regime, Australia went on to win the Eisenhower Trophy in 2016. This might be a coincidence, yet contracts of this nature can focus individuals and gain the support of the public. GolfRSA would do well to follow Australia’s example, and for once all our world-class professionals would be giving money directly back to the game to help others.