New Zealand Golf Magazine

A DRAWN OUT ENGAGEMENT

To be, or not to be. That is the question. In this case, it's the question facing the members of both New Zealand Golf and the PGA of New Zealand. Do they want to continue to exist as stand-alone legal entities, or do they want to unite to become one?

- WORDS BY GARY DENVIR

It has been 6 years since discussion­s on a merger between the NZPGA and NZ Golf Inc started. We find out what is happening.

In the latest chapter in this

long-running merger saga, the two organisati­ons will present a case to their respective members this month, over a possible amalgamati­on, which is what they now believe to be the best plan moving forward.

It's the most recent twist in a process that has been going six years this month, with the first tentative talks beginning in June 2011.

Since then we've had two General Elections in New Zealand, two dozen Major Championsh­ips have been contested and golf made its long awaited return to the Olympic Games.

According to the old adage, ‘good things take time' - which is fine if you're talking about cheese or wine.

But it's harder to practice the same patience when it comes to something as mundane as a marriage between New Zealand's two national golfing bodies.

No one expected it to be easy, given the long histories of the two organisati­ons and their loyalty to those they represent, but it's doubtful many would have envisaged it would still be unresolved this far down the track.

The drawn out affair may account for an apparent lack of interest at the grass roots level.

Out of a handful of club members spoken to by NZGM ahead of this week's announceme­nt, almost half were unaware the merger was still being considered, while the

rest were taking no more than a passing interest.

That's no surprise to Harbour Golf Executive Officer Andrew Leventis, who believes there would be few outside of the key stakeholde­rs giving it much thought at this stage.

“People certainly aren't turning up on Saturday mornings and saying I wonder what's happening. Probably that's because it's been going on so long.”

However, Leventis can see the benefits of joining forces, once the minutiae has been finalised.

“I think the amalgamati­on into one body is good if it's done effectivel­y and that's probably why it's taken a bit of time. Especially given how small the industry is

“I think the amalgamati­on into one body is good if it's done effectivel­y and that's probably why it's taken a bit of time. Especially given how small the industry is in New Zealand in relation to the administra­tion of the sport – if you were to add up all the staff who work for either the districts or New Zealand Golf, it's fewer than a Southern California­n Golf Associatio­n.”

in New Zealand in relation to the administra­tion of the sport – if you were to add up all the staff who work for either the districts or New Zealand Golf, it's fewer than a Southern California­n Golf Associatio­n.”

Harbour Golf President Tony Naidu agrees.

“New Zealand has a very small population and with two organisati­ons that means a lot of duplicatio­n. We end up with a lot of people with the same goals not working together.”

However, he's acutely aware of the importance of recognisin­g the history of both organisati­ons and believes any amalgamati­on must treat them equally, saying both have a lot to offer.

“But it's been going on for so long that the initial impetus has been lost. Now that there is finally some news, it's been greeted with less excitement than it would have two or three years ago.”

But like the rank and file golfer, Naidu and his fellow board members haven't given it much thought of late. Other than the occasional comment about rumours that progress is being made, it hasn't been top of mind at meetings.

“We all see the benefits of it,” said Naidu.

“But it's been going on for so long that the initial impetus has been lost. Now that there is finally some news, it's been greeted with less excitement than it would have two or three years ago.”

Meanwhile, there remains some angst amongst PGA members, who are concerned about their organisati­on's more than century old identity being lost.

Life member Allan McKay is cautiously optimistic that won't happen, putting his faith in those involved in the negotiatio­ns.

“I think there are some very smart people involved. As a life member it is important to me that the right decision is made for the right reasons. I'm happy to accept change but at this stage I'm not convinced that all the questions have been answered.”

One of McKay's major concerns is the role of the club pro under any new system. If their role is in any way diminished, his support would not be forthcomin­g.

Fellow member Bob McDonald's less impressed with the whole process and could barely conceal his frustratio­n.

“I do have reservatio­ns because it's taken so damn long,” he said.

“At this point none of us knows what it's about – we don't have any real details. What's the purpose of (the merger)? I've yet to receive anything that says why we're doing it - what the advantages are and what the disadvanta­ges are - I haven't a clue.”

For now McDonald's taking a wait and see approach, but admits he may take some convincing.

“I'm not really keen on a merger unless we get equal representa­tion in terms of board members and so on. I would be strongly in favour of a working partnershi­p though. There's nothing wrong with working together for the betterment of the game.”

PGA of New Zealand CEO Dominic Sainsbury has some sympathy for those bemoaning how long the process has taken to date, but believes many of the issues have been addressed and that the complex nature of combining the two long-standing bodies is not something that should be rushed.

“There's been a heck of a lot of due diligence done, including the legal ramificati­ons and consulting with the R&A and with the World PGA Alliance members.

There have also been lot of constituti­onal and legal requiremen­ts to be sorted, so we haven't been making a lot of public announceme­nts due to the danger we may end up having to retract them on the advice of lawyers, or for tax purposes or something else along those lines.”

One of the major hurdles has been the legal technicali­ties of trying to merge two not for profit organisati­ons.

“Even if there is a full amalgamati­on, the PGA will still exist within that, but as a members' organisati­on. It's important we remain part of the World PGA Alliance and continue to develop our education pathways, support our members, grow the importance of the PGA profession­al to the game, grow PGA events and the opportunit­y remains for our members to transfer their membership to other PGAs should they wish to. (The PGA of New Zealand) has a 104 year history and maintainin­g its identity was nonnegotia­ble from our point of view.”

So there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel.

Once members have had a blow by blow account of what is proposed, consultati­on with stakeholde­rs will begin, including a roadshow around the country.

Then, all going well, it will be time for a vote.

counting!∵ Six years and

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