PGA of America Bringing its ‘Grow-the-Game’ Mission to Asia

Singapore: The largest working sports organisation in the world, the PGA of America is positioned to extend its influence and support across the golf industry in Asia.

An Executive Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation (AGIF), the PGA of America already has a variety of projects and partnerships around the region, including golf academies and merchandise licensing. Plans are also under way to introduce the PGA Jr. League.

“It’s all part of our mission of growing the game and getting more people interested in the game,” said Sean Thornberry, Senior Account Executive, Global Development with the PGA of America.

Speaking during the latest in a series of AGIF podcasts with prominent figures from the golf industry, he said: “I reference The R&A’s Around the World report every year. When you look at Asia it continues to be the largest region in the world for golf development. So, this provides us with a platform with the most opportunity.

“One of those opportunities is the PGA Jr. League, which has been in the US now for six or seven years. It’s an interesting format for juniors under the age of 13, which kind of mimics the Little League World Series in baseball. We’ve been actively sourcing operating partners internationally and this has now started in Asia.

“We’ve licensed that in China and Japan and that’s getting children interested in the game in a fun environment. Potentially we have the opportunity to create a global competition or a global platform where we can all come together and celebrate this wonderful game where it’s not necessarily about the score, it’s more about taking part and enjoying the game for what it is.”

PGA of America coaching methods are also taking root in Asia with properties in operation in China and Hong Kong and a first academy in Vietnam scheduled to be unveiled next year.

Thornberry said: “We had a couple of PGA members in China and Hong Kong who were doing great things across a variety of areas such as management and media services. We licensed some of our teaching and coaching content to them and they’ve built this network of PGA Academies, specifically focused on youth development.

“It buys into the Chinese culture and community of extra-curricular opportunities and includes golf with other learning opportunities, whether it be physical education or learning the English language.”

There’s been similar success in merchandising. “We look at licensing our brand for properties and golf facilities. To date we have a couple in Asia. Growing that gives us the opportunity not just to establish our footprint in these international markets, but also to be able to provide best practices, consulting services and player development programmes.

“We have partners in China and South Korea and they’ve been in the stage of manufacturing, putting these products out through digital channels and e-commerce. That really lays the groundwork to establishing our brand and having golf consumers and others outside the industry in Asia understand who we are,” he said.

*To listen to the full interview with Sean Thornberry, please visit

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