I recently arrived back to Arizona from the far east. I was asked by the TOUR Academy to travel to Malaysia, with another TOUR Academy instructor, Shane Gillespie, to teach the first ever of its kind junior developmental program.
This all came about because of the birth of a brand new PGA Tour sanctioned event, the CIMB Asian Pacific Classic, held at the Mines Resort on October 28th-31st. CIMB, which is the regions second largest bank, is the title sponsor for this brand new ‘invitation only’ event. In conjunction with this event, CIMB is sponsoring a junior golf development program and has contracted the TOUR Academy to teach it.
Why is this so interesting? First of all, I have never seen or heard of a program of this kind anywhere in the United States. This is how we have structured it in 2010.
Round 1 was in June of this year. CIMB invited eight kids from Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore to attend an all expenses paid 5 day camp at the Mines Resort in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. The age groups are under 12 and under 15. We had a total of 32 kids attend from each country in each age group. We put them through 5 days of intense training and ‘on the course’ instruction. Round 2 was the latest go around. All 32 kids were invited again for an additional follow up 3 day camp. We reviewed their lessons from June and then progressed onward to more advanced training concepts, such as how to practice effectively and how to prepare for tournament golf. It was amazing to see how these kids improved from the first camp in June. At the end of round 2, Shane and I selected two kids from each country to travel to the TOUR Academy TPC Sawgrass for 10 more days of intense training. This will happen in December, 2010.
While in Malaysia, I was blown away at the drive and desire these kids possessed. I was also blown away at the support given by their parents. Some of the kids have traveled to the states to play in some of the top junior tournaments and have done very well. We had a 10 year old boy from Thailand win the prestigious Callaway event this summer.
Golf in this region of the world is growing in popularity at a rapid pace. Over the last 10 years, according to Malaysian officials, golf has grown 3 times. This is a trend we are not seeing in the United States, as the growth of the game has remained flat in that same time period.
One of the big reasons for the growth is a healthy economy. The Malaysian economy is very healthy which allows corporations such at CIMB to sponsor PGA and LPGA Tour events and junior development programs like ours. Take a look at the LPGA Tour. Next year, almost half of their tournament schedule will be played overseas.
There is no doubt, golf is becoming an international sport. Watch out for upcoming stars in countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia. I was very impressed at the level of play our junior golfers possessed and there is no doubt some of these kids will play golf at a very high level in college and in the pro ranks.
John Stahlschmidt is the head instructor for the TOUR Academy TPC Scottsdale home of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. To comment or to schedule a lesson email john at email@example.com.