When talking modern golf in Australia, conversation invariably drifts to names such as Greg Norman, Karrie Webb, Geoff Ogilvy and Adam Scott – our major champions.
They move the needle in terms of public interest, involvement and perception.
Golf Australia recently chose its national squads with a specific aim in mind – to find the next superstar to add to that list.
About five years ago we changed selection criteria to reflect that goal. From being a program geared around short-term results, we consciously implemented a program aimed at developing world No.1s, major champions and Olympic medallists.
Rather than purely achieve short-term goals such as the World Amateur Teams championship – which we still covet –we needed to take a longer-term focus on producing players who can achieve those things.
The reason for that is that those players put the most back into golf in terms of driving membership, participation, they’re fantastic role models for golf and importantly help it generate more funding.
We still want to see a range of players reach their potential, but ultimately we are looking for that highest level of success because that has the greatest impact on the game.
Because we are making estimates on which players are the best ones into whom we can invest, it means the criteria aren’t as firm and fast as they once were. We’ve deliberately put ourselves in a position where we can have bigger queries on selection.
But we’ve already established a track record of success that we think encourages people to have faith in the program. We were criticised a few years ago for putting Oliver Goss and Minjee Lee in before their results kicked in. Some players had achieved better results, but that’s the decision we make – and stand by.
These are players who we really believe can make it at the pointy end of golf. Sometimes that’s a subjective decision that can’t be quantified by short-term results and how players have performed up until that point.
You can’t necessarily look at those people in terms of the results they might be having at a specific time and extrapolate them into high-level success 15 years later. It’s an art more than a science and it’s partly based on physical and technical attributes, but also mental aptitude – the psychological makeup to get on tour, persevere and ultimately succeed.
Golf is littered with people with great talent who didn’t make it because they weren’t prepared to make the sacrifices they needed. We’re looking for players who will set up the right training environment, support services framework and take every step they can towards being successful. And we’re unapologetic about that.
We have a very capable high performance staff within GA and in support positions – we have a really strong network of national coaches – who are doing an outstanding job and giving a high level of feedback around the selection process.
If they have scope to do that job, the list of Aussie golfing greats will grow more rapidly – and that’s what we’re all in it for.