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PGAs of Europe Annual Congress and ITC at Costa Navarino, November 2017

11 December, 2017
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PGAs of Europe Annual Congress and ITC at Costa Navarino, November 2017

PGA Leaders and Professionals from twenty-eight member countries of the PGAs of Europe joined together recently for the 2017 Annual Congress and International Team Championship at Costa Navarino in Greece, raising the bar once again for the Association’s flagship event.

The first staging of these two events in the heart of Greece’s Messinia region was hailed the best yet by Annual Congress delegates and ITC competitors, with a varied and engaging programme of events, outstanding levels of hospitality, service and cuisine – and a couple of excellent golf courses which were enjoyed in fine weather.

Congress sessions included a wide range of speakers and subject matter, ensuring a strong mix of presentations, discussions and forums, with breakout sessions and workshops each day designed to keep delegates on their toes.

“National Collaboration & International Guidance” by PGA of Norway's Anders Thelberg and “Pros and Cons of Volunteer Coaching” by Kyle Phillpots from the PGA of GB&I were two of the topics on offer during the first full day of congress, along with talks from Tony Bennett on GoGolf Europe (a European Commission-funded trans-national partnership on sport, health and participation), and Alastair Spink of Love.Golf, which encourages female participation in golf and currently has twenty-four clubs involved in this development around the UK.

After lunch, delegates then had the opportunity to play in round 1 of the President’s Challenge Golf event, a shotgun start 9-hole competition on the Bay course, where twenty-two pairs of golfers representing the President and the Chairman played against each other in eleven match play ties.

In the evening, a joint education event with ITC competitors was held with Jamie Gough, the PGA of South Africa Professional and coach to players such as Hao Tong Li and Andy Sullivan. The renowned tour coach took part in a Q&A session with PGAs of Europe Education Committee Chairman, Jonathan Mannie, who asked a number of questions before inviting attendees to contribute to a very informative session.

Day 2 of the congress began with Costa Navarino’s wellness team delivering a golf stretching session aimed at reinvigorating the delegates and teaching them simple, yet effective exercises that can be used not only for golf but in everyday work and life. They were then allowed to sample Interleague.golf on The Dunes Course short game area, enabling them to trial a new initiative from the PGAs of Europe and GSA Golfsports. This was followed by an overview of the successful Golf Foundation and European Tour-led Golf Sixes Academy.

The morning was then rounded off with an in depth presentation from Mark Brooks of Thomas International entitled “Developing Personal & Business Performance” which shone a light on to working and personal styles, characteristics and behaviours, showing how this can affect the relationships that attendees have with their respective PGAs and other organisations.

After lunch, delegates once again had the chance to play in round 2 of the President’s Challenge Golf event, played on the back nine of the Bay course, with a short prize giving and sponsor networking session taking place back at the Dunes course clubhouse once the golf was finished.

The third and final morning of congress began with the Annual General Meeting, followed by a discussion on attaining European Education Level System recognition and an introduction to the PGAs of Europe Travel Club’s new partner Golf Escapes.

Bill Owens then presented the most thought provoking address of the entire congress. Living in France since 1991, Bill’s objective with his Golf Educatif programme for young people has been “stimulating social integration and sharing civic responsibility through golf… not only to share the rules and etiquette of the game but also, and probably first and foremost, social and moral values like self-respect, the respect of others, the environment and all other forms of civic responsibility.”

“Ultimately, our young golfers are invited to develop other ‘noble’ qualities like humility, fair play, honesty and dignity. Concentration, coordination and discipline enter naturally into the configuration. All children, regardless of their age, sex, size, handicap or background get access to a (physically and mentally) healthy and educationally enriching activity… also, and importantly, integrating those with a mental and/or physical handicap into society”

Bill takes the game to the people by using school yards, football pitches, public parks, even derelict land to lay out short courses, collaborating with schools, public services and golf clubs to provide construction materials. If ever there was a grass roots golf scheme that deserved wider support then Bill's Golf Educatif is just that very project.

Ralf Putter from the PGA of Germany then talked about what was involved in obtaining his MSc in Research and Instruction in Golf before Johan Hampf from the PGA of Sweden asked the question “What can we learn from Golf Development in Costa Rica?” Johan concluded the formal sessions of congress along with three colleagues during a workshop called “Developing the PGA to Influence the National Market”.

Running simultaneously to the Annual Congress, the 2017 ITC was played out over The Dunes Course at Costa Navarino, where the eventual 3-man winning team, the PGA in Ireland, triumphed by an astonishing sixteen shot margin over joint runners up, the PGA in Scotland and PGA in Holland.

Teams representing PGAs of a hundred or less members also competed within the ITC event for the International Team Shield and home nation the PGA of Greece came out on top for their first Team Shield win and a very commendable sixth place finish overall.

The week culminated with the presenting of six Annual Awards at the Gala Dinner in the evening, held in The House of Events, which celebrated individuals deserving recognition for their work in the sport.

There were two President's awards for golf development, the first of which went to Bill Owens, with the second given posthumously to Liam Duggan, the 37-year-old professional from County Limerick who tragically died earlier this year from a rare form of colitis, and this token of recognition for his golf coaching in Irish schools was accepted by his widow, Catherine.

Scott Evans, managing director of The Centurion Club, also picked up an award, as did the aforementioned Jamie Gough from South Africa. A special recognition award was given to Sam and Tom Ryder-Smith, the grandsons of Sam Ryder, with Donato Di Ponziano collecting the final award of the evening for services to the game.

The Gala Dinner was supported by Rolex, one of several Corporate Partners who assisted during the week. Along with Costa Navarino’s incredible hosting, BMW provided transfer services and Aegean Airlines acted as Official Airline Partner, offering preferential rates to all delegates and competitors.

The Ryder Cup Development Trust also continued its support of the Annual Congress, assisting the activities that took place during the week and ensuring the Association’s members have the opportunity to share knowledge, resources, and experience within the network.

The Botanist, The Blue Beetle, Bulldog, and G’Vine gins, together with Fever-Tree Premium Natural Mixers, supported the Welcome Reception with a fantastic gin tasting evening, whilst Marendry apperitivo provided the pre-Gala Dinner cocktail reception.

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