By Shane Gillespie, Head Instructor, TOUR Academy , International Development
In 2010 when CIMB started its sponsorship of the first PGA TOUR event held outside the United States, it also made the commitment to help develop elite junior golfers within the region.
In the summer of 2010, the TOUR Academy sent two instructors to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to begin the CIMB Junior Golf Development Program. After three years of working with CIMB on this project, and after conducting 27 camps in four separate countries (Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore), here are a few observations regarding the potential for future PGA TOUR and LPGA TOUR stars coming from Asia.
Yes, the talent within the region exists. In 2012 alone, players within the CIMB Junior Golf Development program include a 16-year old Indonesian boy who successfully made it through the local qualifier to take part in the Indonesian Masters -- a co-sanctioned professional event between the European and Asian Tours. A 16-year-old girl qualified and competed for four days in the LPGA event held here in Kuala Lumpur.
A 13-year-old boy from Thailand shot a 62 while competing in an International event in Las Vegas, and 15-year-old girl from Thailand won the Callaway World Junior by an amazing seven shots. When it comes to talent, there are plenty of talented golfers competing in this region.
However, some paradigms within the region do exist, and perhaps they need to be changed before we start seeing these players reach their full potential. Fortunately, CIMB’s program is working with players and parents to educate them on the importance of shifting the thinking within the region and to look for proven pathways of success. Here are some top areas of concern:
1. Turning professional much too early. Sometimes, as early as 15 or 16 years old.
2. Parents and young players who think that if they are winning tournaments, “Why should they change their swing ... or short game?” Unfortunately, many of these players miss out on the development of their fundamentals, and as they age, they find that they are no longer winning tournaments.
3. Playing college golf. While stars like Rory McIlroy and Ryo Ishikawa made it into the big leagues at 18, the vast majority of PGA TOUR players used the college golf system to mature physically and mentally as well as to further develop their golfing skills before heading out into the world of professional golf. It also prepared them for a career if they do not become one of the super-elite players who actually earn a living playing professional golf.
Each year I am amazed by the progress and improvement we are seeing from the players within the CIMB Junior Golf Development Program. While there is much excitement surrounding this year’s CIMB Classic, one can only imagine the excitement that would be generated by a hometown boy winning on the PGA TOUR, or a girl winning on the LPGA Tour.
Shane Gillespie is the Head Instructor of the TOUR Academy's International Development. For more information on the TOUR Academy, click here .