Singapore: A back-packing voyage of discovery as a teenager paved the way for Phil Ryan’s lifelong love affair with India.
Ryan and the Pacific Coast Design (PCD) company he founded in 1986 have been the most prolific golf course architectural firm in India with more than 20 projects to their name, comprising a combination of new courses, renovations and a variety of innovative short courses around the vast country.
Reflecting on the work that he and business partner Paul Reeves have conducted on the Sub-Continent, which is now into a fourth decade, Ryan cites his first visit to the country as the catalyst for all he’s accomplished in the world’s second most populous nation.
“When I was 19, I spent many months back-packing across India. It left a significant impression on me,” said Ryan, speaking during a podcast in an exclusive Asian Golf Industry Federation (AGIF) series.
He added: “While I was there, I visited a few golf courses because I was always keen on golf. I met some really nice people which gave me a bit of an understanding of the market. So, in 1992 when PCD was looking to expand into Asia, I made another exploratory visit to the country … and I got lucky.
“It just so happened that I met an industrialist who wanted to redevelop an existing golf course that was actually established by his grand-father. He was doing it more as a family trust scenario. After we got that job, we just kept going and we got introduced to other people.
“While we saw that the golf market there was not large, it did have opportunities and we’re lucky we’ve managed to get a project in India every year or so from that time onwards.
“One of the key factors, I suppose, was the language, with English being spoken widely. This made working with clients far easier than when we had to have interpreters, like in some other countries.
“Another plus was that we really enjoyed working with the people we met. They were passionate about their golf and their cricket, both key sports in Australia. We made friendships easily and many of those friendships are still going to this day. Both Paul and I have attended weddings of clients’ children in India.”
As well as his role in developing India’s golfing landscape, Ryan was also instrumental in the setting up of the India Golf Industry Association (GIA), a body which enjoys close ties with the Asian Golf Industry Federation.
Ryan said: “When we started the India Golf Industry Association it was intended to be solely focused on trying to bring the Indian industry together in one forum. As well as education, the idea was to set the standards and also raise awareness of the industry, because in those days it was a very scattered industry. Bringing everyone together has really helped.
“When I was Vice President, one of the key things we did was to sign an Associate agreement with the Asian Golf Industry Federation so that we could promote the educational programmes … and we’ve had success in that.
“I think there are six Indians currently doing the club management programme through the AGIF. We’ve also had several golf course superintendents attend AGIF management programmes in Malaysia. We see the two organisations as being very complementary.”
*To listen to the full interview with Phil Ryan, please visit https://agif.asia/agif-podcast/