Growing Pains: Hong Kong Junior Golf Development
David Lau Summer Intern August 2003
Table of Contents Introduction
Current Junior Golf Programs and Development in Hong Kong
Sports Development Board and Funding Policies
The Hong Kong Golf Association and its role in Junior Golf Development
Issues at Hand and the Challenges Ahead
Introduction In 1889, Captain Rumsey and his group of golf enthusiasts introduced the game of golf to Hong Kong and built the first golf course on the present-day Happy Valley Racetrack. The ground was often flooded, however, making it less than ideal, nevertheless it brought the mostly British expatriate golfing community together. The course was called Happy Valley Course. In 1898, the Royal Hong Kong Golf Club found its first home in Deep Water Bay. Now, one hundred and fifteen years later, Hong Kong boasts five golf clubs, four private and one public, two driving ranges in the city and several more in the New Territories. With the economic boom in the last two decades, golf has been transformed from an elitist sport to an affordable one enjoyed by the middle class in Hong Kong. Due to the increasing popularity of golf, youngsters, whose parents may be golfers themselves, are taking up the sport at a rapid rate. The junior golf programs offered by the Hong Kong Golf Association, private golf clubs, the public golf course, and even driving ranges are in high demand. The number of junior golfers who have attended the golf program at Kau Sai Chau Public Golf Course has increased from one thousand to six thousand per year in the last five years and there is always a long waiting list. At the recent 36th McGregor Hong Kong Open Junior Championship, one hundred and fifty two juniors from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, and China teed up at the event, and over forty boys and girls had their applications turned down. Although Hong Kong players once again failed to clinch the overall Championship title, the younger players in the age groups of 11-12 and 10 and under managed to score some low scores to place first and second in their respective age groups. No doubt the interest in golf among juniors is gaining momentum, and there is a pool of young talent to be developed. In recent years, the Hong Kong Golf Association (HKGA) also has increased its focus on developing junior golf. However, Hong Kong still lags significantly behind in junior golf development when compared to other countries in the region, let alone the United States and Europe. Hong Kong is still struggling to produce junior golfers who can compete on an international level. The reasons are attributed to lack of facilities, funding problems, lack of sports culture, pressure to perform well at school, and the historical and complex role played by the government and the HKGA in junior golf development. This paper outlines current junior golf programs offered by various organizations and their respective objectives. It examines the policies and the organizations responsible for funding sports development in Hong Kong and their relationships with the HKGA, which is responsible for overall golf development in the territory. Finally, the paper offers observations made through interviews and research on the issues and challenges faced by the organizations and players involved in junior golf. The recommendations made in this report, which still need detailed action plans to be drafted up for implementation, will serve the purpose of forming a platform for discussion by all parties who are interested in junior golf development in Hong Kong. Current Junior Golf Programs and Development in Hong Kong I.
Private Golf Clubs The first junior golf program in Hong Kong was run by the Royal Hong Kong Golf Club in the early seventies. The program was offered to club members’ children who were interested in the game. Mr Hugh Staunton, a well-known amateur golfer in Hong Kong and a strong advocate for junior golf development, recalled, “It was a very structured program. Competitions were held three times a week, and during school holidays. It was very competitive.“ The program was conducted at the Deep Water Bay site, a par 3 golf course that could accommodate players of various skill levels. The club used a system of tags, still in use today, to indicate the skills and competency of the junior players. It also served as an incentive for the juniors to sharpen their skills, for as they climbed the scale, they were awarded more playing privileges. “The objective of the program was merely to cultivate the interest in golf among young people, and had no intention of grooming a champion like Tiger Woods. If young players wanted to become professionals, that’s great, and if they just want to enjoy golf, that’s fine as well,” commented Mr. Staunton. Currently, the junior golf program at the club, which has been headed by Assistant Professional Ms Joanne Hardwick since 1994, is in high demand. At the Fanling site, which is equipped with 54 holes, a driving range, and a short game area, the club offers two one-hour lessons to club members’ children on Saturdays and Sundays free of charge. There are 12 students to a class, with skill levels varying from novice to a 6 handicapper. Monthly stableford competitions are held for three different levels of ability. In addition to passing a playing proficiency test in order to play competitively, students must also have a fair knowledge of the rules and etiquette on course. The club also organizes skills challenges for all age groups, competing in driving, chipping and putting. Golf 1
camps are held twice a year during the school holidays and tournaments are held monthly for junior tag holders. All these programs are available to children of club members only and there is a long waiting list for enrollment. Joanne commented that the programs have helped to raise the skill level and improve handicaps of junior players. Some of the junior players participate regularly in local tournaments organized by HKGA and a few of them compete internationally. Presently, the resources for these junior programs have been used to the fullest. More golf pros should be assigned to the junior program, and students should be separated into Beginners, Intermediate, and Advanced classes, according to their abilities. It is unfortunate that out of the four private clubs in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Golf Club is the only club that offers a structured junior golf program. The other three clubs only offer private lessons for the juniors through the club pros. II.
Public Golf Course Kau Sai Chau Public Golf Course (KSC), the only public golf course in Hong Kong, offers golf instruction programs to any child interested in golf, charging at very affordable fees ranging from $60 per hour to $240 per hour depending on the type of instruction. The objective of the programs is to provide golfing experience to the general public. Like the program at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the programs are very structured with a maximum of six students per class. There are four basic modules of instruction: playing, full swing, short game and on-course instructions. Currently, there are three full-time golf professionals that teach this program. Junior players with handicaps under 29 are eligible to qualify for the KSC Junior Squad and the Junior Elite Squad through a two-day qualifier that is held twice a year. The purpose of this program is to refine skills of outstanding players using a systematic approach, and aim to develop individuals who see golf as a major role of their lives in the future. There are 12 spots on the Regular Squad, and 8 spots in the Elite Squad. This program is extremely competitive. Those who qualify are provided with weekly training with golf pros and on-course playing privileges free of charge. The players are ranked by the Order of Merit system, based on their performance at tournaments organized by KSC. The top players will be sent to compete in local tournaments as KSC Representative Players. Last year, KSC launched the Golf Ambassador program. Two golfers were selected based on their achievements and sportsmanship to help pros in running the junior training programs in the morning during the summer holidays. They act as role models for the other juniors. In turn, the Golf Ambassadors are able to learn from the pros and practice their games in the afternoon free of charge. This year, three junior golfers were chosen for this program. Mr. Kevin Yuen, General Manager of KSC commented, “KSC’s mission is to provide golf to the general public, not to produce a Tiger Woods. Although we do not have a fixed budget set aside for the junior golf program, we consider KSC as one of the leaders to promote junior golf in Hong Kong. In the past six years, the number of juniors who joined the training program increased from 1,000 to 6,000 per year and is still is growing. We do not have a measurement of our success, but I can tell from the long waiting list and number of disappointed kids and parents.” Mr. Mark Reeves, Golf Director of KSC added, “ [The] success of the golf program is measured by the necessary evil of competition. However, we put great [emphasis on the] enjoyment and the creation of [a] harmonious environment.” In January 2003, the KSC team came third in the 5th Dr George Choa Cup Junior Team Championship. More recently, a junior from the KSC program in the 15-17 age group was placed 5th in the Hong Kong Junior Open Championship. This program is reviewed from time to time, and adjusted to suit the needs of the players. As more and more beginners become more competent players, the demand for on-course instruction increases. KSC also supports junior programs run by the HKGA. Complimentary tee times are offered to the HKGA squad members on a weekly and monthly basis. KSC also hosts several tournaments sanctioned by the HKGA and is working to host more tournaments in order to raise the public interest in golf. KSC, while a public golf course, is a self-financed operation, and does not receive funding from any organization. All its revenue is generated from the golfing facilities and the food and beverages services. As a result, the amount of funding available to the junior golf program is limited because its revenue has to cover operating expenses, capital investments, on-going maintenance and the upgrading of the two courses. Mr. Kevin Yuen said that the idea of setting up a trust fund for junior golf development has been discussed, but because this involves a great deal of planning and the approval of the Board of Stewards, it will not happen in the near future. 2
Driving Ranges In addition to the junior programs run by the private golf clubs and the public golf course, driving ranges in Hong Kong also play a role in making golf available to the juniors. The largest driving range in Hong Kong, the Oriental Golf City (OGC) at the old airport site in Kowloon Bay, has over 250 practice bays, with 60 teaching golf professionals. OGC offers introductory classes to juniors, which comprises of teaching basic knowledge of the game and the fundamentals of a golf swing. The program consists of four hours of instruction with four students in each class. Approximately one thousand juniors are enrolled in the program. OGC also sponsors after-school golfing programs to schools in Hong Kong. OGC provides practice bays and golf clubs free of charge to the schools. Teachers are responsible for bringing the students to the range, and the students then receive training from the teaching pros from OGC on the fundamentals of the game. If the school requests a teaching pro for the class, this service is also provided free of charge. However, OGC hopes that in the future the school would take a more active role in administering the program. Currently, there are 30 schools in this program. Mr. Laurence Tsui, Assistant Managing Director of OGC, said that OGC has received a lot of positive feedback from the schools about these programs. Last year, OGC launched a pilot project called “Learn English through Golf”. A group of high school students from Hong Kong International School acted as mentors to a group of primary school students from Tsuen Wan, helping them to improve their English communication skills through golf lessons. By the end of the 6-week program, there was a marked boost in confidence among the primary school students in speaking English. OGC, together with City Golf Club, are sponsors of the Talent Identification Days run by HKGA. Both driving ranges provide free practice bays to the Hong Kong Junior Squad Teams throughout the week. OGC also helps the HKGA to promote their handicap system to their members by installing a terminal on site free of charge. Mr. Laurence Tsui estimated that currently, less than 2% of Hong Kong’s population plays golf, as compared to other developed countries, which boast an average of 5%. Currently, OGC has over 30,000 members. There is still great potential to develop the game of golf in Hong Kong, which is reflected in the marketing efforts put forth by OGC.
Hong Kong Golf Association While the above programs build the breadth of interests in golf, the programs at HKGA focus on building depth of talents in Hong Kong. Over the past few years, under the leadership of Mr. Iain Valentine, the Chief Executive, and Mr. Nicky Au, Golf Development Manager, HKGA has increased its focus on developing junior talents in the territory. Most notably are the Talent ID Days and the weekly Junior Squad training programs that are held at two driving ranges under the supervision of Mr. Brad Schadewitz. The objective of the Talent ID Days, which are held at Oriental Golf City and City Golf Club, is to scout for talents. Talent ID Days are targeted towards golfers who have already some exposure to golf, and have already mastered some basics of the game. Approximately twenty to thirty juniors try out for one or two spots on the Junior Squad. Most that attend are under the age of ten, some as young as three years old. Those that are selected will join the Hong Kong Junior Squad and attend weekly practices at Oriental Golf City or at City Golf Club. Within the Hong Kong Junior Squad are four different levels: the Elite Squad, the Senior Regular Squad, the Regular Squad, and the 10 & under Squad. There is limited space on the squad due to lack of resources. To move up in the ranks, players must perform well in the tournaments. A player who is on the Regular squad cannot become an Elite Squad member unless he or she places in the top three places in a HKGA tournament. Junior Squad members on the whole must have a strong commitment towards the discipline of learning and practicing. If a member misses three consecutive weeks of training without giving prior notice, he or she will lose his or her spot on the team. Elite Squad members must be competitive players and have a high level of commitment to training. The Elite Squad members also have top priority for attending other HKGA junior programs, which include psychology and rules workshops, monthly and weekly 18-hole rounds at KSC, Shek O, and the Hong Kong Golf Club. At present, only two or three juniors are allowed to play with the National Squad, and they must be from the 15-17-age division. The Junior Squad members are ranked by the HKGA Junior Order of Merit. The winner may be awarded with an overseas training program. Currently, there are about 60 juniors in the program, 16 of which are on the Elite Squad. The enrollment in the Squad is expected to top 100 by the end of 2003.
The cost for training, organizing local tournaments and attending overseas competitions is funded primarily by the Sports Development Board (SDB), Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), key commercial sponsors like Omega and McGregor Golf, and to some extent by internally generated funds from the contributions by the four private clubs and fees collected from administering the handicap system. Sports Development Board (SDB) and Its Funding Policies The principal agencies that are responsible for delivering sports services and funding sports programs are the Hong Kong Sports Development Board (SDB), the Leisure & Cultural Services Department (LCSD), and the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong (SF&OC). These agencies spend more than HK$2.5 billion annually. The annual budget for LCSD in 2000-2001 was HK$2,235 million. The SDB receives direct funding from the Government and in turn provide funds to NSAs for the development of sports in Hong Kong. It is also responsible for the operation of the Hong Kong Sports Institute. Its annual subvention from the Government for 2000-2001 amounted to HK$195 million. Total expenditure for 20002001 was HK$260 million, out of which HK$88 million (33.85%) were used for national sport association (NSA) subvention and support and other sports development expenses. Both the LCSD and SDB are responsible for funding NSAs in Hong Kong. Generally, the LCSD’s funding is related to promotional activities such as fun days or sports training classes at the local community sports venues. The SDB, on the other hand, is responsible for the funding of national squad training and development programs, participation in international competitions, organization of international events held locally, training of officials and attending conferences of international federations. The level of subvention varies from 100%, for training programs to 50% for international tournaments depending on the level of international participation. Currently, there are four teams of subvention officers at SDB responsible for the review and approval of the subvention to 57 NSAs, 13 of which have been identified as an “elite” sport. The general philosophy behind the SDB’s funding policies for NSAs is based on the performance of the athletes. There are five levels of tournaments eligible for SDB’s funding: from the highest level, such as the Olympic Games, to the lowest level, the interport competitions. In order for a NSA to continue to obtain funding for their athletes to participate in a certain level of tournament, the athletes must place in the top onethird of the field of competitors. Also, for the achievement to be recognized for funding, there should no less than four countries represented in the tournament. If the required level of achievement is sustained, then the NSA will be eligible for funding for the same level of tournament next year. If the athlete won a medal or the tournament, the NSA will be eligible to apply for funding to attend tournaments for the next level up. The higher the level of performance of athletes can achieve, the higher the subvention percentage level. Funding for legitimate expenses related to preparation, training and incidentals for the event then also increase. Elite sport athletes have total access to the facilities at HKSI free of charge. If the athlete fails to achieve placement in the top one-third, no funding will be granted for the same tournament next year. However, the NSA is still eligible to apply funding for tournament at the lower levels. Presently, the HKGA is only eligible to apply for junior golf tournaments, possibly at the lowest two levels, for example, the China Junior Open. In order for the HKGA to apply for funding for higher level tournaments such as the Asia Pacific Junior Open, the HKGA would need to look for sponsorship elsewhere. The NSAs are required to submit statements of accounts within two months of the completion of the event. Failure to do so will result in the suspension of funding for future events. The SDB merely advises the NSAs with regards to the direction of development of sports but it does not get involved with the daily management of the association nor its internal affairs. The Hong Kong Golf Association and its role in Hong Kong Junior Golf Development The Hong Kong Golf Association (HKGA) was founded in 1968 and was initially responsible for sending teams overseas to represent Hong Kong in international tournaments. It was an umbrella organization that brought the golfing community in Hong Kong together. Over the last thirty-five years, the HKGA has grown to become a national sport association that is responsible “for the coaching, training and selection of Hong Kong international team representatives at all levels.” The association is committed to promoting golf and the development of golfing facilities in the territory. The HKGA is also responsible for organizing and promoting international and domestic golf tournaments, with funding from SDB and long-time sponsors such as MacGregor Golf and Omega. It also offers a comprehensive and centralized handicapping service, which conforms fully to USGA standards, for all golfers in Hong Kong. 4
The members of the association are the four private golf clubs in Hong Kong: the Hong Kong Golf Club, the Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club, Shek O Golf Club and the Discovery Bay Golf Club. The members of the Executive Committee are comprised of the President and a Vice President who are nominated by rotation by the four member clubs, and one delegate and an alternate delegate from each club. The four delegates have votes depending on how many qualifying members their club has. The principal subcommittees include handicapping, international, ladies golf and tournament. Mr Iain Valentine, the Chief Executive of HKGA, together with his team of staff, is responsible for the daily management of the association. One of the missions of the HKGA is “to establish and run a Junior Development program aimed at bringing golf to children in Hong Kong and producing international standard players.” At present, no junior golf subcommittee has been formed to drive this mission. However, in the past few years, with subvention from SDB and LCSD and sponsorships from McGregor Golf and Omega, the HKGA has been active in promoting junior golf in Hong Kong. Currently, the HKGA Golf Development Manager, Mr Nicky Au, is responsible for amateur golf development, including junior golf. The HKGA junior golf development program has come a long way. Twenty years ago, the only junior golf program was the one organized by The Hong Kong Golf Club. Winners of the local Junior Championships were sent to compete in the World Junior Championship in the States and in other regional tournaments representing Hong Kong. In 1995, however, when the Tuen Mun driving range was built, the HKGA, together with the LCSD, started golf programs for juniors at the driving range for the local community. This was the start of the HKGA junior golf program. Now, with the Talent ID Days Program, and a more systematic approach to the training of the Junior Squad, the program is taking its shape. However, it still lacks the environment and resources to groom these young golfers into players of international standards. Issues at Hand and the Challenges Ahead At present, HKGA, which is responsible for training top junior golfers in Hong Kong, finds it difficult to take on such a task. It does not have total access to a “home course” for training and coaching. The amount of funding HKGA is able to obtain from SDB is highly dependent on the amount of allocations SDB has received from the government and the performance of the junior golfers at local and international tournaments. Also, the lack of sports culture, and the pressures of academic excellence on children in Hong Kong all have a major impact on the development of junior golf in Hong Kong. I.
Lack of Facilities and Professional Coaching HKGA, which does not own any golfing facilities, relies completely on private clubs, KSC and the driving ranges to support its programs. KSC, being a public golf course, is very supportive of the HKGA junior program. Complimentary rounds are provided whenever possible. However, complimentary tee times are provided by private clubs on a “generosity” and “good gesture” basis, because the clubs have their obligations towards their members first. Recently, both Discovery Bay Golf Club and the Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club have cut back on junior members’ playing privileges by only allowing them to tee off after 4:00pm on weekends. The clubs had to implement such a policy due to the pressure put on them by the club members who have trouble booking teetimes on weekends. The majority of the members at these private clubs had paid a hefty sum of money for the club debenture and certainly would demand their right to have a round of golf at their leisure on weekends. Even the delegates of the member clubs of HKGA who have every intention to support the junior golf program may not be in the position to influence their own clubs’ policy over these matters. Mr Brad Schadewitz, coach for the Junior Squad, commented that in order to raise the skill level of the junior golfers, the Squad needs more on-course training and tournaments experience, which requires more tee-times made available to the juniors by KSC and the private clubs. He added, “As the players’ skills mature, they need to test what they have learned on the range on a golf course. I should be playing with Squad members from different age groups once a week. I believe there should be at least one tournament for all the juniors in Hong Kong every month. You learn a lot by playing with better players and by losing. Right now, with just five tournaments in a year, our players lack tournament experience, and therefore they generally do not compete well. For the top players, they should have all the opportunities to play with the amateurs and the professionals in Hong Kong. This is one way to learn course management and become better players.” The restrictions on teetime for juniors only reflects the general attitude of Hong Kong golfers who enjoys the sport for a leisure, and the community still lacks the culture of grooming the next generations. With all the effort 5
spent on identifying talents through the Talent ID days, if the squad players can only learn on the range, their talents will never be developed. The Squad needs a “home course” where they have total access to its own facilities for training. The possibility of building a second public course may not happen in the foreseeable future. KSC had planned to build a third course on the island few years ago, which would have cost HK$200 million. The project was shelved because of the economic downturn. Recently, Airport Authority Hong Kong advertised to invite interested parties to develop and operate a 9-hole executive golf course with ancillary facilities located in the middle of the 57-hectares SkyCity next to the Hong Kong Airport. The course, if built, which is at a more accessible location than the public course on KSC, can be an ideal training ground for the juniors. As one of the missions of HKGA is to help develop golf facilities in Hong Kong, this may be a worthwhile project for the HKGA Executive Committee to work with the Airport Authority. II.
Lack of Funding The Sports Policy Review report published by the Home Affairs Bureau in May 2002 highlighted its concern over the criteria and mechanism used in public funding for sport. It reported “there is a perception that SDB’s regular subvention to NSAs are unduly weighted in favor of medal–winning sports to the disadvantage of other, often more widely-played sports.” The philosophy of linking funding for the NSAs directly with the ability of athletes to win a medal or a tournament across the board totally hamstrung the development of junior golf in Hong Kong. Junior Golf in Hong Kong has a relatively short history, and yet it is measured by the same yardstick used for measuring the “elite” sports or those sports with a longer history of development. Due to lack of facilities and funding to train the junior golfers, their ability to perform well in competition has yet to mature. Brad Schadewitz commented “as the coach of the Junior Squad, ideally I would like to accompany the team to any tournament. I could be the person with whom they can trust their swing with if there’s a problem. I could also be the team’s motivator. Also, I can get to know the squad better as tournament players. This has not happened yet. I believe this is a funding issue. Now, my contact with them is only on the range, and occasionally on the course.” At present, training is fragmented between skills training and course playing. Brad’s concern is reflected in the Sports Policy Review. It summarizes that NSAs of non-“focus” sports generally receive funding from the SDB to employ part-time coaches. Only a few NSAs manage to raise funds to employ full-time coaches to supervise the training of their national squad and to help plan programs for the development of the sport. Furthermore, the Review Team recognized without on-field support from coaches, physiotherapists, and other professional support for the athletes, it is unlikely that they are able to perform to their full potential. This contributes to the self-perpetuating vicious cycle of players not being able to bring home the medals that will help HKGA to obtain more funding for their training and tournaments, which feeds into lack of training, and thus translate into poor tournaments results. Also, in golf, it takes much longer time when compared to other sports to train up a player of international standard. Instead of evaluating the performance of the athlete by a pre-set standard, the rate of improvement in performance over a period of time may be a fairer criterion for funding. Thus sports like junior golf, which is still very much in its infancy in terms of development, would have a more realistic time frame to groom its athletes and bring them to the international standard. A comprehensive set of criteria for funding should be set up to look after the different stages of sport development by the NSAs. This will require fundamental change of mentality of winning medals as a sole measurement of success in sports development by the government. While HKGA expresses the difficulty in obtaining funds, and players are under the pressure to perform, the actual amount of subvention it receives from SDB, sponsors, and contributions by member clubs for junior golf development are not disclosed. Under the company ordinance in Hong Kong, as a private company, HKGA has no obligation to disclose details of its financials. SDB also cited confidentiality as a reason for not disclosing the amount of subvention for junior golf development received by HKGA. The lack of transparency precludes stakeholders’ understanding of the funding difficulties faced by HKGA, and possibly their participation in raising funds. The concept of a setting up a trust fund dedicated to amateur golf development may be a viable long-term solution for the shortage of funds faced by HKGA. Instead of relying on contributions from member clubs, the trust will be funded by a levy of HK$5.00 on every round of golf played on all courses in Hong Kong. It is also possible to include number of hours of practice at the driving range as a basis for levy as well. In order to implement this concept, strong government support for the levy is vital, and significant organizational and structural changes are needed at the HKGA. Its 6
membership will have to be opened up to the golfing community at large, and the Executive Committee will be held accountable to its members with greater transparency. For any organization to raise funds for its cause, it is necessary to be proactive in seeking out potential sponsors, and to work with them and the media to raise the profile of the partnership in the community. For junior golfers to take ownership in raising funds for training or participation in tournaments, under the guidance of HKGA, this can create a win-win situation for all parties concerned. Firstly, the junior golfers will learn about leadership, accountability and the role they can play as a golfer in the community. Also, they will really appreciate the opportunity they have earned. Secondly, the appropriate sponsors and HKGA will have their profiles raised in the community, which in turn will raise the profile of golf, as a sport. These types of fund-raising activities are very common among national junior sports associations in the States. Another area of concern raised in the Sports Policy Review Report is the excessive procedures the NSAs have to go through when applying funds from the SDB. Also, there are several independent funds administered by various government agencies that NSAs are eligible to receive subvention from for sports development. However, to navigate through the bureaucracy is knowledge in itself. The Report recommends forming a Sports Commission to replace the SDB, under which funding related to sports development will be centralized and administered by a single body. This will eliminate redundancy in administrative work, and will create greater transparency in funding policies. Needless to say, there will be some turf wars when the recommendations are implemented. III.
Sports Development and Academic Performance Most people in Hong Kong are interested in sports. The sports section of local newspapers is probably the most well read section. A feverish atmosphere was stirred up in Hong Kong by Real Madrid’s visit to the territory on July 2003. The match between Hong Kong and Real Madrid brought people both young and old to line up for days and nights for tickets. The event was one of the most successful sporting events marketed in recent years. The game was attended by record numbers, and was watched by 98% of TV viewers when it was broadcasted live. However, when it comes to participating in sports, according to a survey done by SDB, the majority of respondents cited lack of time, work commitments and pressure of study by full-time students as the three major reasons for not participating in sports. The Education Commission (EC) report, published in September 2000, emphasized that physical development should be a “key learning experience” as one of the eight Key Learning Areas of the education curriculum. In recent years, schools in Hong Kong have made great strides in including physical education as an integral part of the school curriculum. The Schools Sports Federation also plays a key role in providing sports activities outside the Education System. Two studies done by Dr Koenraad Lindner of the University of Hong Kong in 1999 and 2001 found that students, especially boys, who are active in sports, are more confident of their academic ability. The reports also concluded that participation in sports does not affect the students’ actual and perceived academic performance at school adversely. Indeed sports and academics can go hand in hand. However, the response from the Hong Kong Schools Sports Federation on the Sport Policy Review report reflects the reality and how deep-rooted the misconception and prejudices on the relation between sports participation and academic performances. It stated that while the report addressed the misconception issue, it does not “seem to provide any viable solutions to ease the mind of parents and schools (including principals and teachers) that sports participation could never be a threat to academic achievement.” Without exception, all individuals interviewed for this report, whether they are coaches, general managers of golf facilities, individuals who are involved in junior golf, all agreed that academic performances should always come first, and that it is very hard for parents and young athletes to find a balance between academic performance and sports training and competition. For golf, in order to participate in major tournaments that are held overseas, the athlete will have to take at least a week off from school. This poses immense pressure on the juniors to catch up with schoolwork and at the same time concentrate on training. There is little support from the education system in Hong Kong to allow gifted athletes to pursue academic and sports achievement hand in hand. There are no athletic scholarships for talented golfers in any of the universities in Hong Kong. The Sports Policy Review report revealed that “ despite these [athletic] achievements, and the financial rewards and assistance that are available to the top athletes, many of the SAR’s elite sportsmen and women sometimes face considerable social and economic pressure during the 7
course of their competitive careers. In particular, concerns about their education and their future career prospects often made it difficult for them to concentrate on pursuing excellence in sports.” If that is the reality elite athletes are facing now, and Hong Kong has still a long way to go before producing a locally trained top golf professional, it is understandable why parents and teachers would not encourage junior golfers to put their education at risk and to make such a career choice. During the post-match interview, the 16-year-old Malaysian winner of the 2003 Hong Kong Junior Open, Hanafiah Jamil, disclosed that he practices ten hours a day, six days a week and occasionally goes to school. This intense level of commitment to training is very common among golfers who compete internationally. If this is the type of training required to become a junior golfer of international standard, it will be very difficult for parents in Hong Kong to accept. They would rather see their children to do well academically which is the pre-requisite for admittance to highly competitive tertiary institutions in Hong Kong. The majority of Hong Kong people still perceive golf as a sport for the affluent. Indeed, most of the members of the private golf club who come from the middle class play golf for leisure and enjoyment. For their children, golf is not a career. To most parents, golf is a leisure activity when a person has a successful career. Becoming a golf professional through the caddy system, which was popular in the seventies, is not an option for junior golfers nowadays. With the pressure of academic demand, the reluctance from schools and parents to support junior athletes to commit the time needed for training and the lack of culture in pursuing excellence through sports, junior golf development in Hong Kong has yet several more hurdles to cross. Changing cultural and value perceptions of a society always take a long time. IV.
Hong Kong Golf Association (HKGA) and its role as a national sport association (NSA) The present organizational structure of HKGA that has remained the same since its inception serves well as a body for sending amateur golfers representing Hong Kong in international tournaments. As a national sport association (NSA), HKGA may be one of a few athletic associations in Hong Kong whose members are not made up of the athletes themselves, but instead are the four private clubs to which the athletes belong. The number of votes each member club of HKGA is entitled to is directly proportional to the number of members the club has. It is logical to assume that the Hong Kong Golf Club, which has the largest membership among the four private clubs, will have its interests well looked after. However, HKGA has grown from its initial responsibility of sending teams overseas to assume the role of a NSA. Its goals and objectives are stated in its mission statement. Given the unique membership structure of HKGA, it is appropriate to look at whether its existing membership and organizational structure is best suited to assume the role of a NSA and to accomplish its goals and objectives. HKGA is the “overall governing body for Amateur Golf in Hong Kong. [It is] responsible for the coaching, training and selection of Hong Kong International team representatives at all level.” As a governing body of Hong Kong amateur golfers, in principle its membership should be open to all golfers in Hong Kong and should not be limited to private golf clubs. At present, golfers who do not belong to the member clubs do not have their interests represented by anyone in the HKGA. The eligibility of HKGA’s membership should comprise of corporate memberships for the golf clubs, the KSC public golf course, driving ranges and businesses involved in the golfing industry, and individual memberships for all golfers in Hong Kong. The Executive Committee should be elected by members of HKGA only. This will legitimize its representation of the golfing community and will also broaden the base for its membership. With this, HKGA can tap into connections and talents of its members when building new programs and driving new missions, creating greater transparency of its operation and accountability. Furthermore, the new structure will minimize conflict of interest among the private clubs. To illustrate this, the HKGA, as a national sport association, is committed to promoting development of golfing facilities in Hong Kong when appropriate, as stated in its mission statements. With HKGA’s membership made up of private golf clubs only, one would question why would the clubs be interested in promoting development of more golf facilities for the community, when these facilities will eventually be their competitors. There is no doubt the golfing community would welcome more golfing facilities that are available to the general public. With more golfing facilities, the association can fulfill its role in promoting the sport to the general public, as well as securing a “home course”, that is so desperately needed, for training the Hong Kong International Team Representatives at all levels, including the Junior Squad.
Another example of conflict of interest that the HKGA member clubs now face is when under the pressure of their members, both Discovery Bay Golf Club and Clearwater Golf and Country Club had to cut back on the junior members’ playing privileges, which in effect contradicted HKGA’s commitment “to establish and run a junior development Program aimed at bringing golf to children in Hong Kong and producing international standard players.” As a profit-making organization, it is the clubs’ right to serve its members’ interests. However, as a member of the HKGA, the clubs are morally obligated to assist and uphold HKGA’s commitment. If the clubs choose not to, there is nothing the HKGA can do about it. It is interesting to note that while HKGA is committed to junior golf development, yet its Executive Committee has yet to set up a committee to take on the task. There will be about one hundred players in the HKGA junior golf program by the end of 2003. This constituency certainly warrants the attention of the Executive Committee. At present, as discussed in the current junior golf programs section, basic golf training is done through programs run by private golf clubs, public golf course, driving ranges, and at LCSD venues. HKGA is responsible for training the National Junior Squad and to build the depth of the talent pool. In addition to securing funding and facilities, a partnership built on the relationship among the HKGA’s junior golf committee, the team coach, the players and their parents will only bring more resources to run the program successfully. Under the umbrella of the HKGA, the “Golf Partnership” could take on the organizational structure similar to that of a Junior Golf Association in the States. The players that are now on the HKGA golf-training program would become the founding members of the “Golf Partnership”. Executive Members of the Partnership should include appointed representatives from HKGA, the head coach for the junior golf program, representatives of the players’ parents, and selected Junior Advisors. This would also create an opportunity for the juniors to serve as role models for the others and to serve their fellow members. Every member who is twelve or older would be eligible to apply for the position of Junior Advisor. Eventually, the membership of this Partnership should be made available to all junior players who are interested in becoming tournament players. Therefore, one of the objectives of this “Golf Partnership” would be to provide and organize a calendar of tournaments for its members using the resources in Hong Kong and Southern China, as tournament experience is so badly needed by the junior players now. An entry fee would be charged for each tournament to cover all expenses involved. Players can earn points through their placements at these tournaments. The points would then count towards the HKGA Junior Order of Merit. No doubt this will require a team of parent volunteers to run the events throughout the year. The “Golf Partnership” could also offer the service of a resource center providing information on golf camps, overseas golf training programs, information on collegiate golf, and athletic scholarships. This resource center could also organize seminars for parents and players on topics such as time management, study skills, and preparation for tournaments. This information would be helpful to parents, teachers and players on how to balance between playing competitive golf and their education. Conclusion The interest in golf among young people in Hong Kong is here to stay. Whether Hong Kong will be able to develop and nurture a young golfer who will one day be a champion in a major international event, depends on how soon the problems and difficulties faced by junior golf development receive support from the government, funding organizations, national sport association and parents and educators. The issues that have a major impact on junior golf development in Hong Kong are outlined as follows: • Lack of appropriate training facilities and full-time professional coaching for the athletes contribute to insufficient skills training and tournament experience. • The current funding policies which link funding with “medal-winning” are unduly weighted in favor of “elite” sports as defined by SDB. This philosophy only perpetuates the vicious cycle of “no results, no funding and vise versa”. • Excessive procedures required by funding organizations and the overlapping and not well defined of roles played by each funding body confuse the sports community. • The mind-set of not accepting achieving excellence through sports and a career as a full time athlete is deep-rooted in the culture of our society, and the pressure of academic performance leads to parents and educators discouraging young golfers to pursue such dreams. 9
The existing membership structure of Hong Kong Golf Association may not allow the association to fully function as a true national sport association dedicated to develop amateur golf in Hong Kong.
The recommendations are: • The Hong Kong Golf Association should set up a sub-committee to look after junior golf development as soon as possible. The committee could take a leading role in securing more practice facilities for the junior squad members under the supervision of a full-time coach. • This junior golf sub-committee could work closely with the “Golf Partnership” to maximize the relationship for the benefits of the junior golfers. For example, the “Golf Partnership” can take the load off the HKGA administrative staff in organizing monthly tournaments for the juniors, who needs more tournament experience and provide information for those who are interested in golfing as a career. • SDB needs to develop a new set of funding policies to look after different stages of development of a given sport, especially those non-“focus” sports, such as golf. There should be a centralized funding body, responsible for formulating all funding policies, reviews and approvals. This will bring efficiency to the sports funding system, and more dollars are spent on sports development rather than on administration. • In order to truly function as a national sports association, HKGA may need to take a bold step in reviewing its organizational and membership structure, taking into account of the issues of solving the conflict of interests between member clubs, assuming a proactive role in seeking funds for golf development, and opening up its membership to the golfing community so that their interests are fairly represented. • By opening up the membership of HKGA, sources of funds for operating expenses and sports development could be generated from a levy charged on each round of golf played, in addition to subvention received from the government. This will translate into greater transparency and higher accountability for its operation. • Junior golfers should take ownership of their training and development by taking an active role as a Junior Advisor in “Golf Partnership”, and participate in fund raising activities. The recommendations made in this report will require major changes with regards to funding policies by the government for developing athletes in Hong Kong. The Sports Policy Review report published by Home Affairs Bureau recommends that a Sports Commission should set up to replace SDB. The report is now tabled for debate in the Legislative Council. With the uncertainty of not knowing which organization will be responsible for sports development in the near future, it is reasonable to assume that changing funding policies will take even longer. To change the mind-set of parents and educators in accepting pursuing excellence through sports may need a junior golf celebrity of the stature as Lee Lai-Shan, Marco Fu or Zhang Lian Wei to serve as a role model for the younger golfers and their parents. This will take time. For a sports association like HKGA that has rich traditions and has served the community well in the past, it will also take some time to adjust to the changes that are necessary for it to function as a national sports association in the twenty-first century. Meanwhile, for the junior golfers, they must also ask themselves how they can participate in this process for their own benefits as well as for the junior golfers to follow. They have to be willing to have more responsibilities and take ownership for developing their own game and making the most of the opportunities that have been given to them. Works Cited Au, Nicky. Personal. 31 July 2003. Chui, David. Personal. 28 July 2003. England Junior Golf Development Plan. English Golf Union. 10 August 2003. <www.ecomailbiz.com/iwm17/englandjuniorgolfdevelopmentplan/> Hardwick, Joann. Email. 11 July 2003. Hong Kong. Home Affairs Bureau. Sports Policy Review Report. Hong Kong: Home Affairs Bureau, May 2002. 10
Hong Kong. Hong Kong Sports Development Board. Research Highlights: Sport and Study can Go Hand in Hand. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Sports Development Board, May 2001. Hong Kong School Sports Federation. Views of the Hong Kong Schools Sports Federation on the Report of the Sports Policy Review Team. LC Paper No. CB(2)2342/01-02(10). 14 June 2002. Index. Hong Kong Golf Association. 14 August 2003 <www.hkga.com> Leung, Vincent. Personal. 25 July 2003. Linder, K.J. “Sport Participation and Perceived Academic Performance of School Children and Youth.” Pediatric Exercise Science 11 (1999): 129-144. Linder, K.J. “The Physical Activity Participation – Academic Performance Relationship Revisited: Perceived and Actual Performance and the Effect of Banding (Academic Tracking).” Pediatric Exercise Science 14 (2002): 155-170. Mak, Ki Wai. Email. 15 August 2003. Robinson, Spencer. Festina Lente: A History of The Royal Hong Kong Golf Club. Hong Kong: The Royal Hong Kong Golf Club, 1989. Schadewitz, Brad. Personal. 12 June 2003. Skycity Golf Course at Hong Kong International Airport. Airport Authority Hong Kong. <www.tradepartners.gov.uk/files/sports_golfcourse_hongkong_airports.doc> Staunton, Hugh. Personal. 22 July 2003. Tsui, Laurence. Personal. 25 June 2003. What’s New. Hong Kong Sports Development Board. 15 June 2003 < http://www.hksdb.org.hk/hksdb/html/front/e_wn1.html> Wong, Johnny. Personal. 24 July 2003. Yuen, Kevin. Personal. 9 August 2003.
20 June 2003.
KSC also supports junior programs run by the HKGA. Complimentary tee times are offered to the HKGA squad members on a weekly and monthly bas...