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Golf News: - Posted 21st February 1998

New initiative to raise golf's profile with Britain's public

Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham - A fresh new initiative is to be made to attract more people to golf, a sport with an ageing population and one which is perceived as being both elitist and expensive.

The Professional Golfers' Association is going round Britain with the launch of a mobile "game improvement centre" to provide members of the public with free tuition.

The road show is a joint initiative with the Guardian Royal Exchange Group and PGA executive director Sandy Jones said on Friday: "This is the ideal vehicle to promote the game to everyone and is a moment we have all been waiting for, the opportunity of taking golf to the public.

"We estimate that more than 10,000 people will benefit from free golf lessons by PGA club professionals."

The centre will make its debut during the PGA's national golf week on 11th -19th April and will also have a presence at six European Tour events this season and also Seniors and Women's events.

Meanwhile, one of the United Kingdom's most deprived areas is to benefit from an inner city golf initiative being developed by the PGA and Callaway Golf.

The Borough of Sandwell in the Black Country has been chosen for a three-year community pilot scheme which will determine the merits of taking the initiative into urban areas across the country by 2001, the PGA's centenary year.

The 20,000 scheme which is funded by Callaway and the PGA, is centred around the municipal courses operated by Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council. It is aimed at a cross section of the community who otherwise could not consider golf as a sporting option.

All participants will benefit from free tuition and the use of equipment. Phase one will target seven junior and two senior schools involving 80 children and phase two targets ethnic minorities, senior citizens, unemployed and disabled groups.

The aim for Golf Week itself is to attract 20,000 new golfers.

"The bottom line is that we need to encourage new golfers and to make the game more accessible and more user friendly," added Jones.

"We hear stories of doom and gloom and that golf club professionals are a dying breed. Perhaps we are a changing profession, but we are certainly not a dying breed.

"The European Tour is the shop window of the game, but the PGA is the lifeblood and we are working very hard behind the scenes.

"Clubs have an ageing membership. I spoke to one recently where the average age of the players was 60. That creates a cash flow problem with older members paying less and playing more.

"I would like clubs to face that issue and one of the ways they can solve it is better usage of their course by making people more welcome. It would be nice if once in a while they could take a look outside their own gates. Sometimes it's self interest that they don't, but sometimes it's because they just don't think about it."

The PGA also announced that it has secured the future of the British Professional Golf Tour with Mastercard continuing its sponsorship for the next two years.

The Tour, a stepping stone for young professionals hopeful of graduating to the European circuit, will carry a prize fund of 305,000 this season and will feature 10 events, eight of which will be televised.