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March dinner report – Metropolitan Golf Club 23 March

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A well-attended first dinner for the year, saw members and guests enjoy some Metropolitan Golf Club hospitality.

The committee was incredibly pleased when James Sutherland CEO of Golf Australia accepted the invitation to speak at the dinner.

James quickly had his audience engaged, sharing some facts and figures about female participation numbers and the recent general playing increases that clubs have seen since golf came back after covid lockdowns.

His insight into where Australian golf sits compared to other large sports and the ongoing challenges the game faces gave us all something to think about.

After his talk James took questions from the floor.

President Graeme Ryan and committee thank James for generously giving us his time.

Read more as Committee member John Trevorrow recaps James Sutherlands talk.

Speaker – James Sutherland CEO Golf Australia

A sport for all

“Where have all the female golfers gone?” That was one of the challenging questions posed recently by James Sutherland, the new CEO of Golf Australia.

Mr Sutherland, in a speech to a Golf Society of Australia dinner at The Metropolitan GC, identified two crucial challenges facing all golfers and clubs: how to inspire more women and the next generation of young people, to discover and enjoy the game.

He said 20% of all golf club members across Australia today are female. In 1970, this figure was 34% and the zenith for women club membership was 1993 when 114,000 women across Australia were paid-up members. By 2019, this figure had fallen to 77,000 – a drop of more than 33%

“It is part of our ‘social licence’ as custodians of this great game to do better,” he said.

Mr Sutherland, who spent 17 successful years as CEO of Cricket Australia, was reflecting in late March on his five key observations after six months in charge of Golf Australia. As well as the challenge of falling female participation, he identified:

Golf is thriving. But is this real and sustained, or a fool’s paradise?
Club competition rounds played are up 20% and membership is up by 42,000 golfers after the Covid-affected year just past.
“We have to wait and see if these newcomers are here to stay beyond Covid,” he said.

Golf is a fragmented sport, but what is its potential?
Mr Sutherland believes exciting times are ahead with a national alignment and strategy. Golf Australia plans to run a survey of key people involved in the game. And the imminent move into the new Australian Golf Centre under construction at Sandringham, which will house Golf Australia, the PGA of Australia, and Golf Victoria, offers better collaborations.
The centre, funded by a $15.3million investment from the Victorian Government, includes a revamped Sandringham course plus practice and tuition facilities, and is due to open by late July.

We golfers are getting older
The average age of female club members in Australia is 63.9 years. The average male is 54.7 years old.
“Our number one KPI should be to attract new kids to play golf. All Golf Australia and PGA people, and all members of clubs, need to be doing more to attract and inspire the next generation of golfers.”

Tournaments are important, but are they good or bad for business?
He said that having to cancel important tournaments, including the 2020 Australian Open and 2021 Women’s Australian Open, were among the major decisions forced on Golf Australia because of the global Covid pandemic.
Mr Sutherland said such calls were met with a range of reactions.
“When you’re faced with the obvious health concerns, but also the commercial realities of putting on a tournament that might not meet some of our stakeholders’ expectations, it becomes a very delicate balancing act.
“Tournaments have traditionally been the shop window of golf to many, so it becomes imperative to think outside the box to keep golf front of mind.”
He left the audience pondering the challenges by asking: what was the biggest single television audience for golf in Australia? The answer was the first episode of “Holey Moley” – the reality TV show which features sudden-death matches on a super-sized mini-golf set whose resident pro is Greg Norman. Its first Australian episode attracted one million viewers.

“Many of these people were new eyeballs for golf. We have to ask ourselves what we all can do to make golf more appealing to younger players and to a wider participation,” he said.

Now THAT is food for thought.

John Trevorrow

2018 Dinner at the RMGC

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‘The Intertwined Lives of Sam Snead and Ben Hogan’

4 June 2018 – The Royal Melbourne Golf Club

100 members and guests were treated to a thoroughly enjoyable and informative night as speakers Richard Allen & Christopher Leach presented ‘The Intertwined Lives of Sam Snead and Ben Hogan’

American golfers Sam Snead and Ben Hogan were born ten weeks apart in 1912 and dominated American golf in the 1940s and early 1950s, winning between them a total of 230 tournaments, including 16 major championships.

They also captured the imagination of millions of their countrymen recovering from the hardships of World War II, and inspired generations of golfers.

These two wonderful speakers cleverly presented along side each other and explored the lives of these two men, enhancing their presentation with audio-visual images.

2018 Dinner at Metropolitan

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19 Feb 2018 – Metropolitan Golf Club

Record attendance at February Dinner
by Renny Cunnack

The first dinner of the year on the 19th February at Metropolitan GC was attended by a record 140 guests. They were attracted no doubt by the unique opportunity to hear three legends of Victorian – indeed Australian – golf; Head Professionals Bruce Green (Royal Melbourne), Brian Simpson (Victoria) and Brian Twite OAM (Metropolitan).

Hosting the session, Tony Rule was able to elicit many interesting and very entertaining observations from each of the distinguished panel, even going back to the very first jobs in their collective 147 years of service. Brian Simpson was a clubmaker and Brian Twite’s journey to Metropolitan started at Sunningdale in England. He recalled being rebuked as a junior professional by Henry Cotton for having the temerity to speak to him at Wentworth. Cotton added insult to injury by telling Brian, “If you can’t improve on that last round, you’ll never make it.” Brian then had the last laugh by outscoring Cotton by five shots and beating him in the event.

Bruce Green caddied for six shillings (caddies now command $140 plus tips!) and hunted for lost golf balls. Then as Assistant Professional at Peninsula, Bruce applied for the Head Professional position at Victoria, where manager Jack Merrick told him that the job involved being starter on the tee for 30 hours a week. Bruce baulked at that, and went to Royal Melbourne, where he has been ever since – “you find a job you like, and you never have to work!” The Victoria job went to Brian Simpson, who later told Bruce, “The first thing I did was hire a starter!”

Asked who was the best golfer they ever saw, Brian Simpson named Peter Thomson and Tom Watson, who “could play in the States, here, anywhere”. Brian Twite said Sam Snead was the best swinger he ever saw. Bruce Green cited Bob Stanton and Lee Trevino, who “had the ball on a string all day” – except on a famous occasion when he stormed off

6W at Royal Melbourne, never to return, saying “No wonder you b*st*rds don’t have any hair, putting on these greens! I’m outta here!” 6W is Bruce’s favourite hole: “a challenge to drive, a challenge to get it on the green and keep it on, and a challenge to get it in the hole.” Brian Twite likes 9 at Metropolitan: “a thinking hole – Lee Trevino birdied it four times out of six, because he could work the ball.” Brian Simpson’s favourites are 11 and 15 at Victoria.

Asked about the most memorable lesson, Brian Twite had a new pupil who was having great difficulty making contact with the ball, which led Brian in some desperation to suggest left-handed clubs. Brian got great credit for the resultant progress; later it transpired that the person was blind in the right eye. Brian added that he himself shanked a ball onto the next fairway at Rosanna and was asked by an indignant player what club he belonged to. When he said, “Metropolitan”, he was told, “Well, you should get a lesson from Brian Twite!”

Bruce Green also had a blind pupil, one Eric Hales, who despite his disability shot 47 for nine holes at Peninsula. Eric challenged Bruce (Victorian PGA champion at the time) to a match for $100, giving Bruce 7 strokes – on just one condition: the match to be played at 3 a.m.

Brian Simpson recalled Gary Player, plagued by a persistent low fade in a tournament at Victoria, turning to him for advice. Brian gently offered, “I think you might be hitting it a tiny bit late, Gary?” Good results followed.

Finally, asked “How do you get into, and get back, into the zone?”, Brian Simpson’s answer was, “Play the course a thousand times in your mind”. Doing this before a round, about which he was rather nervous, he shot 63. He also believes in balance and rhythm, and the need to hit the ball in the centre of the club, which small clubheads made you do.

Bruce believes there is too much “paralysis by analysis”, but how to get back into the zone: “impossible!” Brian Twite reflected that the modern preoccupation with gym work gives players such as Tiger Woods, and potentially Jason Day, big, wide shoulders with muscles that actually don’t relate to the golf swing. Muscles must be relaxed, he said.

The Society is very grateful to Bruce Green, Brian Simpson and Brian Twite for being so generous with their time and making possible a memorable evening which the audience acknowledged with enthusiasm.

Brian Simpson, Brian Twite & Bruce Green at Metropolitan Golf Club Dinner