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2006 GOLF 20/20 Conference Develops Strategies for Global Growth


ST. AUGUSTINE, FL - More than 240 golf industry leaders converged on the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Florida October 30-31 for the Seventh Annual GOLF 20/20 Conference - a strategic alliance of the golf industry that combines insightful research with strategic acumen aimed at furthering the industry's knowledge, creating new programs and identifying areas ideal for the sport's expansion. Its mission is to align the golf industry behind a plan that addresses the future of golf in a strategic manner, with an emphasis on accelerating growth and participation, and creating new avenues of access into the game.

The day and a half symposium began with an examination of the past six years and a discussion about where the industry has come in that time in terms of its fan base, participation, rounds played, facility development, and international growth. PGA of America President Roger Warren outlined successes this past year of the Play Golf America program, and workshop sessions focused on the continued development and integration of the Player Development calendar of programs that has evolved under the Play Golf America banner.

A new program, GOLF 20/20's Link Up 2 Golf Corporate Program, received considerable attention and a strategic approach to expanding the program across the nation will be a priority in 2007. Link Up 2 Golf is a corporate player development program that provides companies with a turn-key, cost-effective way to engage employees in the game of golf while at the same time enhance team-building skills, promote camaraderie in the work place and increase job satisfaction and performance. The program creates a customized golf school curriculum for groups of all sizes at a golf course conveniently located near the work site, taught by PGA of America and LPGA teaching professionals, and then encourages the "graduation" of participants into leagues. The program was pioneered by Club Car at its Augusta, GA, facility.

"This program addresses everything that we know impacts the attraction and retention of golfers," said Ruffin Beckwith, GOLF 20/20 Executive Director. "It presents a comfortable group environment that helps eliminate the intimidation factor and emphasizes fun, it's extremely affordable, and the league or structured play aspect addresses retention and frequency. This can be a very important program for the industry moving forward."

The symposium also included an in-depth look at trends affecting the growth of golf provided by Charles Kennedy of research company DYG: Aging baby boomers and time restraints imposed by increasingly busy, integrated and mobile lifestyles; the increasing influence of women in the marketplace; economic influences, including a decline in middle-income families; shifting demographics and an increased emphasis on child-rearing; and the emergence of a new approach to health & well-being that combines life goals with spiritual, physical and emotional wholeness. According to Kennedy, all of the trends examined offered both obstacles to, and opportunities for, growth in the game of golf.

Other significant industry programs were reviewed during the Conference. Benna Cawthorn, Director of The First Tee National School Program {www.thefirsttee.org}, provided an update on the program's success since its debut in 2003. The First Tee National School Program trains physical education educators to introduce school children to the basics in golf skills, etiquette, values and play as part of the elementary school physical education program. Since piloting the program at 130 elementary schools in eight communities in 2003, The First Tee National School Program now reaches more than 500,000 students at 1,600 schools in 70 districts across the U.S.

Among other programs highlighted, PGA of America Member and former LPGA Touring Pro Suzy Whaley provided a recap on the golf industry's growing Women's Golf Week program, an initiative established by GOLF 20/20 which next year will be overseen by a consortium of four organizations: the LPGA, the Executive Women's Golf Association (EWGA), the PGA of America and the National Golf Course Owners Association (NGCOA). In 2006, more than 20,000 women participated in complimentary golf instructional programs and golf-related social and networking opportunities at more than 500 golf facilities across the U.S. as part of Women's Golf Week - a 160% increase, up from 225 host facilities in 2005.

One theme of this year's conference was the expansion of the 20/20-type collaborative effort to both the state and international level. A few years ago there were just a few such alliances of state golf organizations, and now there are more than 20. "Our job is to encourage the formation of additional alliances, and to push player development as a lead agenda item with the alliances that do exist," said Beckwith. Conference attendees also heard from leaders of growth of the game efforts in Canada and England that were, in part, modeled on GOLF 20/20.

GOLF 20/20 is managed by the World Golf Foundation (WGF), which also oversees the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Florida and The First Tee program, which creates golf facilities for kids who have not had the chance to be exposed to the game. For more information on GOLF 20/20, please visit www.golf2020.com.


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