The question of developing New Zealand’s golf talent
By Dean Murphy
New Zealand Golf Chief Executive
Not many days go by without me being asked either one of two questions: Why does New Zealand Golf invest money into developing talented players? or Why doesn’t New Zealand Golf invest more money into developing talented players?
For nearly 30 years New Zealand Golf has led, in one form or another, a talent development and refinement programme for the emerging golfing talent throughout the country. Over this time these programmes have been well regarded internationally and this continues to be the case today.
While our investment in this area has significantly reduced in recent years to make way for increased investment into club support programmes, developing talent remains a core part of our business and in my view rightly so.
The purpose of investing in this area is to inspire the growth of golf in New Zealand. We do this by supporting the development of players who aspire to win golf majors and medals. When our players perform on the world stage the whole game benefits by way of increased profile, positive perception changes and lifts in participation levels.
Initially New Zealand Golf programmes were considered to be at the cutting edge of player development as very few such programmes existed. In recent years, international focus and respect continues to be shown to New Zealand programmes given the success of various players on the world stage, including the likes of Danny Lee, Ryan Fox and the sensational Lydia Ko who reached the No 1 position in the Rolex World Rankings soon after turning professional. The key factors in the New Zealand programme successes to date are:
• A strong base of young players from around the country who have good support from their golf clubs, their districts and their coaching teams.
• A long-standing club, district and national competition schedule that forms the competition pathway for these players.
• Well-established district and national development programmes that provide extra support to the very best of our emerging talent.
While we have been successful in the past, the performance golf landscape continues to evolve. As time has gone on most of the national bodies New Zealand competes against now have sophisticated, professional, competitive and well-funded development programmes.
The tailoring of individual programmes for players, the maintenance of them by their coaching teams and the level of investment into their overall programmes by national bodies has seen the evolution of the ‘golfing athlete’. The golfing athlete and their team now leave no stone unturned in their quest, and are continually asking the question; will ‘doing this’ improve my performance?
The challenge for those of us in New Zealand who support our emerging talent, including district programmes and New Zealand Golf, is to sustain the excellence of our programmes in this increasingly competitive and professionalised international sporting environment.
To do this we are going to need increased levels of investment across all aspects of our programmes. I think, conservatively, we currently need an extra $750,000 per year to just keep pace with our international counterparts — twice that if we want to develop the types of programmes and facilities that will increase the probability of more successful New Zealand golfers being produced. It’s a tough problem to solve but very important for the future success of our game.