Pattaya golf summit calls for seismic changes in the game

Friday, 11 November 2011 From Issue Vol. XIX No. 45

Turning back the tide of pessimism and despondency sweeping over the game, the week long and star studded 2011 Asia Pacific Golf Summit (APGS) held at the Royal Cliff’s Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Hall called for major changes in the golfing industry.

Citing declining rounds, failure to retain new players, high cost associated with the game, the time-consuming nature of the sport and its degree of difficulty, a series of world-class speakers urged delegates from around the globe to unify and turn their attentions to thinking outside the box in order to grow the game.

Golfing great Tony Jacklin (left) receives a welcoming gift from Suraphon Svetasreni, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.Golfing great Tony Jacklin (left) receives a welcoming gift from Suraphon Svetasreni, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

“We need seismic change in golf,” said Scottish motivational speaker Bill Sanderson, during a powerful keynote address.  “This gathering at the fifth edition of the Asia Pacific Golf Summit can be the catalyst for that change.  It’s all about being ready.  It’s all about being solutions oriented.  And it’s all about growing the game of golf in Asia.”

Defying the floods that have struck the capital of Bangkok, more than 400 delegates gathered in Pattaya from Oct. 31 – November 6 to tackle the theme of the Challenge of Change at the APGS and the Golf Course Superintendents of Asia Summit, PGA Conference of Asia and ASEAN Golf Tourism Forum.

Award winners pose for a group photo at the Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Hall, Wednesday, November 2.Award winners pose for a group photo at the Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Hall, Wednesday, November 2.

Sanderson’s sentiments were echoed by a high-profile series of speakers, including golfing greats Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tony Jacklin as well as special guest Jimmy Connors, the tennis legend.

Also outlining the urgent need for the game to open up and introduce new and innovative formats of play were James Cronk, President of the Cronk Group, Terry Anton, President of SNAG Golf, who is aiming to take the game to 100 million children in schools around the world in the coming years, and English amateur golfing great Peter McEvoy, the founder of PowerPlay Golf.

There was a special focus on China and India with hard-hitting panel sessions entitled China – The Crucible of Change and India – The Awakening Giant in Golf featuring experts on those countries.

American tennis legend Jimmy Connors (right) receives an Asia Pacific Excellence in Sports Award from Akapol Sorasuchart, President of the Thailand Exhibition and Conference Bureau, as Pattaya Mayor Ittiphol Khunplome looks on.American tennis legend Jimmy Connors (right) receives an Asia Pacific Excellence in Sports Award from Akapol Sorasuchart, President of the Thailand Exhibition and Conference Bureau, as Pattaya Mayor Ittiphol Khunplome looks on.

Mike Sebastian, Chief Executive Officer of the Asia Pacific Golf Group, owner and producer of the events, said: “Be it in Japan, South Korea, China, India or Southeast Asia, golf is experiencing challenges.  There’s no denying the fact that the problems faced by golf in the West are beginning to creep into Asia, (but) we have here at the Summit some of the best brains in the golf industry – men and women who have their finger on the pulse of the state of the industry and who are, therefore, best positioned to guide and lead us into the future.”

Royal Cliff Hotels Group’s Managing Director Panga Vathanakul (right) presents a ‘Green Certificate’ to Mike Sebastian, Chief Executive Officer of the Asia Pacific Golf Group, for helping to reduce global warming by opting to have their event at the Royal Cliff Hotel.Royal Cliff Hotels Group’s Managing Director Panga Vathanakul (right) presents a ‘Green Certificate’ to Mike Sebastian, Chief Executive Officer of the Asia Pacific Golf Group, for helping to reduce global warming by opting to have their event at the Royal Cliff Hotel.

During the week-long activities, four-time European Ryder Cup captain Jacklin, Thai great Thongchai Jaidee, the most successful player in the history of the Asian Tour, and Kyi Hla Han, Executive Director of the Asian Tour, were all honoured with Asia Pacific Lifetime Achievement Awards.

Meanwhile, Player was inducted into the Asia Pacific Golf Hall of Fame, while Connors became the first recipient of the Asia Pacific Excellence in Sports Award.

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