Mizuno to set up golf academy here

SINGAPORE - David Leow and Mizuno want to break a common misconception about golf.

Tell Leow, senior manager of Mizuno, that golf is an expensive sport, accessible only to the elite and he is likely to scoff and shake his head.

"Not any more," he said, in an interview with The New Paper.

"Many people don't realise that a decent, full set of golf clubs costs ($299) less than a high-end tennis or badminton racket.

"But golf in Singapore is still lacking support from people in the industry. There are so many predicaments for someone wanting to take up the sport - from clubs to coaching to club membership."

To make golf more accessible to the Average Joe, Leow believes the work must start from junior development.

It is why Mizuno is planning to set up a golf academy in Singapore by the end of the year.

The academy, similar to the Mizuno and Golf House academy in Kuala Lumpur that opened in 2009, will be aimed at developing junior golfers to compete at the international level.

"What is lacking in Singapore is a proper golf programme in schools," said Leow, who pointed out that - although there are around a dozen golf schools here - only a handful of primary and secondary schools offer golf as a CCA (co-curricular activity).

"This is important so that when students complete schooling, they would have had proper training in golf.

"We have the hardware and software, it's just a case of the sport being given the opportunity as a CCA.

"If more young people, from all income groups, take up the sport, the faster it will grow."

The academy here will focus also on training local instructors.

Mizuno "master teacher" Joe Thiel, who has been honoured as the PGA Teacher of the Year thrice in the United States, will visit Singapore twice a year to help local instructors.

"Only with sustainable, long-serving instructors will the academy succeed," Leow said.

"It takes years and a structured programme to groom a champion. Local instructors must be certified and able to carry out such a programme."

Leow added that after the academy is in place, Mizuno will also reach out to schools to incorporate the sport in their CCA syllabus.

He believes it is possible, given the number of driving ranges that already extend their premises to students from neighbouring schools.

"One of the challenges is convincing parents to encourage their kids to take up golf," Leow said.

"The Mizuno teaching methodology is not so much about grooming a champion than it is about grooming a good human being.

"Golf is so relevant to life. Not only is it a good networking platform, but the good mannerisms one learns on the course can also be used off it.

"Once parents are convinced that golf is not necessarily expensive and that it can be useful in their child's development, the sport can thrive from the junior level up."

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