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May 8, 2019
Hillside, Southport, England
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thank you for joining us here today is in what is a very special day for everyone connected with The European Tour.
For those amongst us in the media who are with us at our annual dinner at Augusta Country Club during Masters week, you would have heard us talk.
Then about a special announcement being made during this week. Therefore, I am delighted to today unveil The European Tour's Golfers With Disability Programme. As you will see from the press material on your seats, we plan to set the ball rolling this year with two tournaments which will run alongside two of our biggest Rolex Series Events. We will start with a 36-hole EDGA Scottish Open alongside The Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club, and we will follow that with a 36-hole EDGA Dubai Finale, along side our season ending DP World Tour Championship at the Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai.
I made mention there of EDGA, which for those of you not aware, the European Disabled Golfing Association, who we have been in partnership with for a number of years. There are many people involved in driving that organisation forward but none more so than president Tony Bennett who is here with us today on Keith's left. I think it would be appropriate, ladies and gentlemen, for a small round of applause for Tony for the sterling work he has put in over the years.
Before we arrive in Scotland in July, our link with Golfers with Disability began earlier today when Juan Postigo Arce, Brendan Lawlor and Caroline Mohr more played with European Tour winner and RSM Ambassador Paul Waring in this morning's Pro-Am, and I am delighted they have joined us here today.
All three of these golfers have excelled in their own right on the golf course. Caroline was the European women's champion in 2014. Juan was twice European Men's Champion in 2016 and Brendan was a three-time winner in 2018. I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more from this talented trio in the future.
A mention of RSM is important because they are also one of our Tour Suppliers, and as well as supporting Paul, they are also supporting the players that travel to Scotland and Dubai later in this year. Aside from that, they are assisting the EDGA production of the film and the launch of their book, which is entitled, "Mulligan, Tough Love and Second Chances." It's a book that showcases the power of the human spirit. Each has 18 real life stories of golfers with disability. We are delighted that copies of "Mulligan" a picture on the table behind you, will be available for everyone after today's conference has concluded.
Before we hear from the five people I've already introduced I'm now delighted to hand over to the man completing the top table link this afternoon, European Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley. Keith, I know you want to talk a little bit more about today's initiative.
KEITH PELLEY: Thanks, Scott. Appreciate all of you coming today at a spectacular venue at Hillside and certainly proud to be having the Betfred British Masters here.
This is such an important initiative for us that even our chairman, David Williams came up. He was in China for the Volvo China Open and its 25th anniversary and came here today to be able to talk to the athletes and to thank all of you for coming, so thank you, David, for joining us today.
About two years ago was our first involvement with the European Disabled Golf Association in the Portugal Masters of which it was the actual charity that was the benefit of any money raised in Portugal. I very quickly met Tony, and to say that I was impressed would be a gargantuan understatement. If you talk about people that are great and how they affect other people's lives, Tony is a PGA professional. He has worked around the world, working currently for the PGAs of Europe and has for many years, but he has done this off the side of his desk as a volunteer.
And I very quickly became a member of the EDGA in terms of their board and we started talking about how we could grow Golfers With Disability. The first conversation that we had with the International Golf Federation, which is run by Anthony Scanlon, was a very positive conversation but it was very clear to me at that particular time that all of us, every governing body that was involved in the game was very behind in terms of commitment they had made to golfers with a disability and that was a concern to all of us.
We certainly like and believe there should be a Paralympic sport and it isn't currently right now and we are committed to doing such, and we had conversations at that particular time saying what are we going to do to move the sport along and what are we going to do in terms of individually and collectively and we went back shortly after that meeting and congregated all our senior executives and tried to come up with an actual plan and what our short-term and what our long-term plan is, and I can tell you that we are in the infancy stages of what we are going to commit with golfers with a disability.
This is our first little foray into it, but it is not going to be our last. Our clear aspiration is for us to have a world tour and to help with the other governing bodies in making that a reality down the road.
This year changed in January, when WAGA, the World Amateur Golf Rankings started to sanction the rankings for golfers with disability, and that was a game changer for this particular discipline in our sport and at that time it gave us an opportunity come up with a plan of what we were going to do in 2019.
So the first thing we want to do is showcase unbelievable golfers and grow the game and show what you saw with Brendan and Caroline today and see that at two are our biggest tournaments.
So the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open will have ten players that will play on the Saturday and Sunday, a 36-hole tournament, that will happen just before our players tee off. They will play the same tee boxes and the same golf course that the pros will play and if you -- I think it was David earlier today that said that some of the best shots he saw all day came from Brendan, Juan and Caroline. You will know very, very quickly that they can compete at the very highest level.
The second event will be eight players and that will take place at the DP World and again it will be Saturday, Sunday, just prior to our players teeing off.
The qualifications will be from the World Rankings, predominately from the World Rankings what couple of invites, and we will count the World Rankings for Golfers With Disabilities, so there will be points awarded in both these tournaments.
Finally, before I pass it over, I'm incredibly proud of our internal people that have been involved in this and have turned this around very quickly.
And I want to I think single out -- I don't know if he's still here, is Andy Stubbs. Andy ran the Senior, now Staysure Tour, for many years. Was a professional golfer for eight years on The European Tour, and we gave him this project just a couple of months ago, and to say that he's embraced it would be a massive understatement. He has come up with Tony this concept, and we are very proud of this.
Inclusivity I think is something that is critical in the world today. We are obviously doing a lot in terms of diversity and even more so with ladies and women golf. We are going to have a similar commitment, if not greater, with the Golfers With Disabilities.
Again I wanted to say thank you for coming today and thank you for playing, and of course, Tony, thank you on behalf of everybody that's involved in our great game. What you've done for the sport is truly tremendous. Thank you.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Tony, mentioned "game changer" and that's a phrase you used in the quote in the press release. Maybe you'd like to expand on that and why it is so important for the organisation?
TONY BENNETT: He I can't, first and foremost, thank you for those kind words, Keith, but there's a whole bunch of people behind the scenes that do a lot and they volunteer their time and do a tremendous amount of work.
So I thank those people that are on the board and to the people that are working with the tournaments and eligibility and so they do a really good job on that. Yes, it is a game changer, but certainly to have good players play, we always see them play. We think to ourselves sometimes, well, maybe they are very blessed.
Well, the athletes that we have, they are very blessed but blessed in different ways. That's the nature of disability. Everybody has a slightly different disability. They all compete together. We don't separate people and put them into different boxes. What we do is try to get them to compete together and that is the power of the sport. To have our players playing alongside and together in tournaments together with professional golfers at the highest level that we find on The European Tour is absolutely an aspiration for many of ours player.
Our goal is not only with elite golf. It's about trying to change the lives of people with disability and our overarching goal is to have 500,000 new people playing the game. One in seven people in the world is disabled and so when we look at that figure, by the way, many of that is unseen disability. So when we look at that figure, we all know people. We all know people who have been affected by disability and so therefore, it's just a genuine part of our society and we should embrace it.
I think the work that we are doing together with The European Tour, and again, I'd like to single out Andy, thank you very much for the work you are doing. It's a pleasure to work with you, and will help to change the game.
Golf certainly takes the heat a lot of the time for being an exclusive game, but ironically -- I'm going to steal somebody's quote -- it would be the most inclusive game of all because we have people with all kinds of disabilities competing together.
Thank you very much to The European Tour and thank you very much to the people working, and of course, mainly the thanks go to the players because without their efforts to go on the driving range and become the best players they can be, we wouldn't be able to have these kind of conversations.
So thank you very much.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Paul, give us your thoughts on today, your playing partners and how you enjoyed the experience out there with the guys.
PAUL WARING: I need a microphone, a little bit hoarse, obviously there was a football game on last night.
It was an amazing sort of experience, sounds a bit funny but today is not about me but it's about these guys. Until you actually see them play, you can't kind of grasp it. It's a funny thing to say that, but like ball-striking, the actual general ability is by far greater than what you can actually imagine, and to be a part of it, and obviously I've got a connection with RSM, again, who have a part with this.
So it's great that my sponsors are aligned with what my views are on the subject, to actually, come out, play; the great thing about this game that we do play, it's fun. We had a laugh today, as well. We've been in 20-mile-an-hour wind and rain and we're kind of still laughing our heads about how we're playing and things, mainly because I've let the team down all day (laughter).
To touch on some of the other things that were said, you know, golf is inclusive. There's no other game like it. I can't go and have a kick with Messi playing his best football or stand over the net with Roger Federer and have a competitive game, where I can play against a 95-year-old man with a handicap and I can play against a 50-year old woman and I can play against a disabled person; because of the handicap system, the way it works, you can have a game with whoever plays the game, and I think that's the point that's missed so often. It's so important to what we actually do.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Caroline, Paul mentioned the weather, we don't dwell on that, but give us your thoughts.
CAROLINE MOHR: It's how do we handle life, too, and what do we influence. I thought, as well, that means cold and my hands are freezing, like white. But I thought, no, no, I'm here, I get to be here. I get to play golf in the company of Vaughn and Brendan and Paul, and we just had like the most amazing time, so we were laughing and having fun.
So that's really what I focus on, what you can influence. I really want to say something about that golf is really for everybody. The first tournament I played after what happened to me and becoming one leg, I played with a man who had one leg and three fingers. He had these three fingers, and he told me, "You know, what I think I've got too many moving parts." (Laughter) he just easily scored like 75, and I was like, wow, it's really about the attitude.
That's what I'm so proud and thankful to be part of this and helping golf in this development. That's great. Thank you.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Brendan, coming from Donegal, I'm sure this weather is not a stranger to you but give us a thoughts on today and the announcement moving toward.
BRENDAN LAWLOR: Yeah, the weather wasn't fantastic today but something I'm used to coming from Ireland just across the seas. Yeah, the inclusivity is fantastic. Golf, we really enjoy it. Playing with Juan, my first time playing with Caroline, it's always an enjoyable day.
The announcement coming forward, it's just fantastic for the game. As Paul was saying, inclusivity is the way forward and we all love being part of something that's so huge. I'm honored to be invited to these sort of things. Thank you.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Finally, Juan, you've played around the world obviously, as well, but this will continue to give golfers with disability a global platform, won't it.
JUAN POSTIGO ARCE: Yeah, I've been a couple years playing around the world, different events, disabled events, non-disabled events, but what we are doing here will take us really far and make people change their mind a little bit.
I think we three guys are seeing all of this from our TVs at home and now we are going to be part of this. So it's like a real dream come true.
So there's not much more to say, just thanks, Tony, and hope we did the job they expect us to do. Thank you very much.
SCOTT CROCKETT: I'm now going to open the floor to questions. Ask any of the top table anything you want to.
Q. Can I just ask each of the golfers, what's your golfing handicaps? What's the standard?
CAROLINE MOHR: I play off 1.4.
BRENDAN LAWLOR: About 0.7. (Laughter).
JUAN POSTIGO ARCE: 1.4.
Q. And playing off the same tees as you will in these tournaments, what would you expect to shoot around there?
JUAN POSTIGO ARCE: We had this similar experience in Australia a couple months ago during the Australian Open, the Amateur open and the World Cup of Golf, and I can tell you that we can be around 70s perfectly and we play good golf.
BRENDAN LAWLOR: As Juan said, we don't expect to shoot the same scores as the pros but we are capable of being a lot of tour pros out there if we have a good day, in the 70s or if we go in the high 60s.
Q. You touched briefly on Paralympics. The profile for this presumably is going to help get the sport into sphere; is that correct?
KEITH PELLEY: There's a lot of complexities in the Paralympics in terms of the categories. However, we believe that collectively as governing bodies and as administrators that are working on the game, that we need to actually first, before we can get to that step, show not only a significant commitment but a significant plan. And there was no doubt that amateur golf ranking sanctioned by the R&A coming in was a major step. This is another one.
We believe with Anthony Scanlon, who is our chair and president of the IGF, that we will get there, and this will be another way of actually showing the IPC that we are ready and getting prepared for.
But there is no question, there are a lot of complexities about the different categories.
TONY BENNETT: When we first started to take this trajectory, which was about five years ago, there, thereabouts, 5 1/2, we figured that we needed to get some kind of gravitational pull that brought everybody together because at that stage, everybody was apart.
There was people doing all kind of things, different countries and the different systems and it was kind of complex and it was kind of the wild west and people could do whatever they wanted. We felt as though if we could kind a gravitational pull to get everybody together, get everybody's heads pointed in the right direction, it would make a big difference. We embarked on the World Rankings -- we didn't call it the World Rankings to start off with. We called it the Ranking for Golfers With Disability, so R4GD for short and we started that process and as we got more and more federations involved, because we are now 28 federations around the world, including Australia, New Zealand, India, Costa Rica, Argentina, South Africa and so on, and so what we felt as though is that by going down that route, everybody would be doing the same thing, everybody playing in the same format, so that was a real win for us.
The R&A and the USGA together run the World Amateur golf rankings and so they saw what we were doing and we've been working with them now with Jeff, who is the chairman of that board, and he figure that had we should do this now as a World Ranking. So effectively it was, it was unofficial, and now it's official, and that's been a big game changer.
KEITH PELLEY: And Jeff Holzschuh is the Chairman of securities at Morgan Stanley, who is a great proponent and supporter of our game in every different way and he certainly is a key catalyst in making the rankings and expediting them for January.
Q. You mentioned the possibility of a world tour. How many years do you think it might take for that to be established?
KEITH PELLEY: Well, we've talked about it, Tony and I, for some time now and we've talked about it with the other administrative bodies. This is a first step but depending upon, again, how large we wanted to launch that -- but you know, we've talked about 2021 and 2022 as sometime that we could make that feasible.
Q. Sounds a bit silly, and I don't mean it to, but you mentioned diversity and inclusivity. When you go out and sell sponsors, obviously it's a buzz word now, diversity. Does it help to sell events with such a great cause?
KEITH PELLEY: Obviously we have gotten involved in this because we think it is -- it was buoyed in the market and at the same time we got involved because we believe there's an actual wonderful growth opportunity for golfers with a disability that we can showcase them that have not happened and at the same time, larger engagement with people with a disability can end up playing our game.
From a commercial perspective, again, you know, if we are not in this from a profitable perspective, RSM has come in and funded this particular year, but inclusivity when I talk more about ladies and women's golf, it is something that certainly comes up in every type of commercial meeting we have, what is our women's and what is our ladies strategy. We are developing that and we even talked about it last night with the Tournament Committee, so there will be more to come with that in the coming months.
But this, yes, people definitely want to be involved in something like golfers with a disability. CSR is really important for all companies now. But the way we look at it is, this is just terrific for the game of golf, and again, you know, you hear the stories, and I think you were surprised with the handicaps. I remember when we talked about it, and we started looking, the first video I saw was Juan and I went, he's a 1-handicap. I said, my goodness, it's incredibly, incredibly impressive, and it tells you -- it tells you how much we can grow our game and how wonderful our game is, and it's just -- you know, this just feels right.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports