Tuesday, February 12, 2008

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australia's Professional Golfers Association is taking a hands on approach to helping develop the booming Chinese golf market from the bottom up.

Under a five-year deal announced Tuesday, China's golf coaches will be trained under the PGA of Australia's education program.

PGA of Australia chief executive Max Garske said his organization would direct the entire Chinese coach accreditation curriculum, providing resources, course materials and lecturers in the hope of producing thousands of highly qualified coaches within a decade.

``This appointment is testament to the worldwide respect our Association, its members and our education program command on the international stage,'' Garske said.

Zhang Xiaoning, executive vice chairman of the China Golf Association, said the agreement would help develop the golf industry within China.

``The PGA of Australia boasts one of the world's best coaching programs which has no doubt been instrumental in producing world quality players,'' he said in a statement.

Garske said his organization would offer up to four training courses, each lasting five to 10 days, per year in China.

The first two would likely be in the capital, Beijing, and in southern China in late March, he said.

And the PGA of Australia and the China Golf Association will jointly issue certificates for qualified coaches.

Most golf coaches working in China are foreigners and local authorities want to develop the Chinese coaching structure to boost all levels of the game.

Garske said under the program, it would take 10 years for coaches starting at the initial level to reach an elite standard.

``There's a huge demand in China which is ever increasing,'' Garske said. ``We've emphasized this program will be about quality - to make sure it works, we don't want the tutor to student ratio to be too high.''

Golf's popularity in China is soaring amid the country's economic boom.

The European Tour opened its season with the US$5 million (3.45 million) HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai last November, one of five events it is co-sanctioning in China.

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