Sights Set on Attracting ‘Brand New Golfing Audience’

Sean Thornberry.

Singapore: The PGA of America is aiming to capitalise on a surge of interest in golf among non-traditional golfing sources sparked by last month’s Covid-19 charity relief match involving Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Playing alongside National Football League superstars Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, Woods and Mickelson helped to raise US$20 million in Capital One’s The Match: Champions for Charity.

Broadcast live on television across the United States, the match drew enviable ratings, including a large percentage of non-golfers.

In the wake of the widespread exposure accorded to the team match play contest, Sean Thornberry, Senior Account Executive, Global Development with the PGA of America, believes there’s an opportunity to bring new players into the game.

“The numbers (of television viewers) were unbelievable. Hopefully that can help us to capture a brand new audience that we wouldn’t have been able to capture pre-Covid. Golf needs to take advantage of what we’re able to do right now to capture that new audience,” said Thornberry, a Board Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation (AGIF).

Speaking during the latest in a series of AGIF podcasts with prominent figures from the golf industry, he added: “During this Covid period, we’ve seen the emergence of plenty of golf content – above and beyond what we’ve seen prior. It’s our role as leaders in golf to ensure that we maintain that level of enthusiasm coming out of Covid.”

As golf courses continue to open up around the world following enforced lockdowns during the pandemic, Thornberry says the game needs to highlight its position as a safe and healthy activity and grasp opportunities to grow the game.

He said: “One of the things that has made golf stand out during Covid is that being outdoors and with all its health benefits, golf is something you can experience without too much concern or worry with other people, as opposed to other activities, and specifically other sports.

“It gives us a great opportunity. As we recover, we should be on a stronger footing than most industries. I hope during this time people will realise the enjoyment and benefits of the game.

“Going forward, I think there will be a desire to maintain some level of the health and safety measures that we’re now seeing at golf facilities – temperature checks and social distancing, in particular.”

Given its status as the largest working sports organisation in the world with more than 29,000 golf professionals working in more than 35 countries, supporting those in need has been a consistent theme for the PGA of America throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thornberry said: “We understood from the beginning the financial stress and concern, not just for our members, but for others in the industry who were affected. We put together a golf emergency relief fund which satisfied short-term financial assistance for golf industry workers, focused on the US industry.

“We initially put in US$5 million with the hope to raise that to US$10 million with some matching. These grants varied from US$500 through the different phases to potentially US$3,500 for those that were affected, just to maintain them through that period. Specifically for our members, we also have the PGA Disaster Relief Fund, which offers financial assistance to those medically affected by Covid-19.”

The PGA of America also took a lead in providing guidelines to the industry on best practices with its Back2Golf playbook promoting a three-phased approach, available in the Covid-19 Resources section on the AGIF website at https://agif.asia/covid-19-resources/

“We constantly evolve and evaluate where we’re at to edit those guidelines. We’re listening to the experts to understand what they’re saying about the disease and the recovery. The playbook is our interpretation of the current status and how can we, as one of the leaders in the game, provide the best opinion and the best practices on how to operate our facilities as best we can through this,” he said.

*To listen to the full interview with Sean Thornberry, please visit https://agif.asia/agif-podcast/

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