Date: March 01, 2016
Author: Stephen Pitt, CEO

Pitt: Credit goes to the athletes

It’s with enormous pride that Golf Australia can announce a world-first program to help develop our champions of the future.

The “Give Back” program means our new wave of elite professional golfers will help fund the next generation of Australian golf by giving part of their prizemoney back to the high performance and development pathways that helped make them successful.

Each player since 2015 to have been in the Golf Australia national or rookie squads has signed a commitment to be part of “Give Back”.

Once athletes reach a world rankings threshold – top 125 for men and top 50 for women – a small percentage of their prizemoney will be returned to high performance programs throughout Australia.

This money will be reinvested into helping develop the future stars of the game.

No athlete will be asked to give back until they are firmly established, nor more than the funds they received through the program when they were participants. There is no compulsion for players who don’t reach those benchmarks to contribute and endorsement deals aren’t taken into account.

Money will only be given back once an athlete reaches his or her sixth year as a professional. This allows athletes time to establish themselves before the commitment begins.

Not only do we believe this to be first of its kind in world golf, but also a first among major sports in Australia.

And it’s a huge credit to all involved – particularly the athletes who’ve so readily agreed – because we think it’s a massive win-win for the Australian golfing industry.

We’ve got to the point where we invest significantly in players and we think it’s vital that we build a culture in which players think it’s important for them to give back to the game – to pave the way for new players coming through and to make the game stronger.

This is the first major step in that philosophy. We’ve put a lot of thought into how we structured the “Give Back” initiative – to make sure it wouldn’t be onerous on players, or have them struggle to meet any commitments.

We’ve gone in deliberately low and our thinking is of  building a culture of wanting to give back rather than put in place a Draconian program that forces players to give back more than they can comfortably manage at any time in their careers.

We are quite sophisticated in terms of knowing how much money we invest into players and what the responsibility is for players to give back.

But ultimately we hope this is just a starting point and that players will feel like they want to give back more as they progress through their careers.

From our perspective, we’ve got to make sure we have programs that players think are worthy of investing into, whether they be game development or high performance programs, so there’s a responsibility on us to deliver them well.

And we are conscious that we have strong relationships with players – and their parents – that are built through their formative years, so families are buying into the programs as well. We’ve seen that turn around in the past 5-6 years or so, and hopefully the players feel the same way.

We think it’s a major step for golf – and something of which we’re very proud.

It’s unique. It has been thought through very well and other countries in the world are already looking at what we’ve done and I’d expect a few of their golf programs to have their own schemes in the future.

Golf Australia has taken the leading position in this space globally, but realistically it’s only been recently that amateur status rules have allowed for these things to come into being and deliberately changed to allow this.

Governing bodies saw it as a really positive thing for golf because we are in an environment where our best players are earning more dollars each year and I think there’s a responsibility to put something back to make the game stronger in your country.

And allow me to pay special mention and thanks to one of our shining young talents, Cam Smith, who’s shown his absolute commitment to the culture we are trying to create by generating a scholarship in his name.

To his credit, Cam identified very early on in his professional career that he wanted to do something for young players and help them along. He’s now in a wonderful position that he’s been able to achieve some level of financial success and wanted to do something sooner rather than later.

It’s commendable that he’s in a position that he’s able to do that and more that it’s the choice he has made.

It will have a measurable impact on the opportunities for younger players coming through. In this first instance, Louis Dobbelaar is someone Cam believes would benefit from additional funding and has earmarked him as someone he’d like to receive a benefit from what he’s doing.