By Robert Bicknell

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May 28, 2006

Stop crying about corporations taking over the game…

For the record, last week’s HSBC – Sofitel Metropole Vietnam European Corporate Golf Tournament (aka EuroVision 2006) was held at Kings’ Island Golf in Dong Mo.

To ensure that everything went smoothly and everyone got around the Mountainview Course quickly, Kings’ Island Golf sponsored electric buggies for everyone who wanted one and I gotta tell ya, if you want fewer headaches in a shotgun tournament, use buggies and you can keep the vans and the trucks in the garage where they belong.

Big thanks from Kings’ Island Golf to all the sponsors and participants!

Now, on the subject of corporate golf…

While many people, including yours truly at times, have bemoaned the corporate takeover of the game in some respects, the fact of the matter is that corporate interest is good for the development of the game.

On a professional level, corporations spend millions of dollars to put their name on a high profile event knowing that they will receive a strong return on investment through advertising and name recognition…especially if Tiger Woods is playing in the event.

Here in Vietnam, companies such as HSBC, BMW, Vietnam Airlines and Gannon, (just to name a few of the many) have put their names on "open" tournaments year after year in the knowledge that it helps to boost brand recognition and attract new customers.

Other Invitational events, such as Mercedes Benz Classic and the Norfolk Tournament, for example, combine the above mentioned benefits while also rewarding loyal customers with an invitation-only event they can call their own.

Both types of events play a vital role in promoting golf in the local golf market and create some excitement for the local players. Even if they do not have their "own" event, companies usually provide sponsorship for the same reasons.

Heck, nobody complains about a Mercedes Benz or a BMW as a Hole-in-One prize!

Professional events, such as the APGA Carlsberg Masters, contribute in a different, but no less important way to the future of golf in Vietnam because it gives young players the opportunity to dream about what the future could hold if they practice diligently.

Personally, I’d like to see companies forming "corporate golf teams" and the golf courses participating to help form a league. Imagine the fun and friendly rivalries which could develop from such an event. You know that a "Pepsi vs Coke" or Tiger vs Carlsberg" event would generate a lot of excitement.

Another alternative would be for local corporations to sponsor young players or clinics to help kids get a start in the game. As I’ve often said, the next Tiger Woods or Michelle Wie could be Vietnamese, but we’ll never know unless the kids are given a chance.

However, should motorised buggies be used in tournaments?

When Casey was suing the PGA Tour for the right to use a buggy, more than a few professionals, yours truly included, were aghast at the idea. Golf, we reasoned, was a game which required walking, not riding. A person riding in a buggy would have an unfair advantage over someone who was using up precious energy by walking up and down the hills in the hot sun.

However, now that I’m older and have arthritis, I find myself in the same boat and have to rethink my views a little. Ok, call me a hypocrite.

However, when I play in the Gannon Vietnam Open in Phan Thiet each year, I have to walk, which is not an easy thing for me to do and requires Celebrex or strong Ibuprophen and ice packs afterwards. Yet, I tolerate the discomfort because I enjoy participating in the event each year and more importantly, while it is a "fun" event, the local pros take it pretty seriously as we don’t have too many opportunities to compete with each other.

Important Note -- while I mentioned my occasional use of Celebrex for arthritis pain, I do not recommend it as it has been linked to some potentially dangerous side effects. Ibuprophen is a much better and safer choice.

On the other hand, when playing for fun, which is seldom nowadays, I use a buggy because I don’t like taking medication and I’d be in no condition to give my daughter "pony rides" that night otherwise.

Funny, how your priorities change as you get older.

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