PGA Members’ International Conference bounces back with a buzz at Laguna Phuket

PGA Members’ International Conference bounces back  with a buzz at Laguna Phuket


After a three-year hiatus caused by the pandemic, the PGA Members’ International Conference returned to an in-person event last month, with Members from all corners of the globe gathering at the world-renowned Laguna Phuket in Thailand.

Delegates listened to an impressive cast list of speakers, networked with other Members and invited guests at a variety of social events, and enjoyed the five-star facilities on offer at the world-class venue.

A total of 44 delegates attended the four-day event – which was held from March 20-23 – including 36 PGA Members and, for the first time, several golf industry professionals, including those representing the club management sector and turfgrass companies. They include Andy Brown, Senior Sales Manager for Global Business Development at Toro UK, who delivered the opening presentation on behalf of the conference’s Presenting Partner.

The conference element saw guest speakers from all sections of the golf industry offer valuable insights into their work and current trends in their sectors, including DJ Flanders, Senior Vice President of Troon International; Chris Gray, Head of Agronomy and Sustainability for the R&A in Asia and PGA Master Manager Simon Wordsworth founder of 59 club.

Sustainability was one of the key focuses of the conference, with many speakers touching on ways in which the golf industry can not only reduce its impact on the environment, but also have a positive influence on the quality of local ecosystems.

Insight on the latest market research on golf participation was provided by Eric Lynge, Director of Sporting Insights Asia. Mark Siegel, CEO of Golf Asian, one of the region’s largest golf tour operators, reported on the growth of golf tourism in Asia and revealed how the golf travel industry has been able to bounce back strongly following the pandemic.

Delegates also got the chance to experience the resort’s PGA Academy and tour-level practice facilities when DP World Tour and Asian Tour short game specialist coach and PGA Member Matthew Tipper staged two outdoor clinics. Tipper demonstrated the coaching techniques that have led him to become one of the most sort-after short game coaches in the world.

There was also an opportunity for conference goers to check out the latest product launches from ball-tracking technology companies Trackman and Foresight Sports.

PGA Executive Directors Tristan Crew and Richard Barker were also in attendance to provide International Members with an update on the Association’s activities in 2022, which included the launch of PGA Play and PGA Excel.

In addition to the education element and the chance to learn from golf industry experts, the conference afforded delegates superb networking opportunities, with an informal BBQ and a slightly more formal gala dinner providing a chance for old friends to catch up and new acquaintances to be made.

To wrap up a memorable few days, Peter Downie, General Manager at Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club in Hong Kong, was honoured with the PGA International Manager of the Year Award in recognition of his impressive achievements. Commenting on the award, Peter said: "To say I’m in shock to receive this award is something of an understatement! Forty years as a PGA Professional and I still can’t wait to get to the office in the morning."

Commenting on the event, PGA Chief Executive Robert Maxfield, who gave the opening conference address, said: “We were delighted to be able to return with the PGA Members’ International Conference to the stunning Laguna Phuket in Thailand. Once again, the conference is a great way to meet fellow Members, share ideas and learn from some of the most respected figures in the golf industry.

“We’ve already received lots of incredible feedback from Members and delegates who attended the conference, and our thanks go to our esteemed panel of speakers, our presenting partners Toro, and everyone who made the effort to attend. Our gratitude also goes to Paul Wilson, Deputy Managing Director Laguna Phuket, and all of his team and everyone at the resort for making us feel so welcome and for providing such excellent hospitality throughout our stay.”

The delegates who attended were also full of praise for the conference. Phil Helsby, managing director at The Dutch in The Netherlands, who flew over 5,000 miles to take part, said: “The International Conference is a great initiative from The PGA. Having the opportunity to meet and network with PGA Members based in other countries, together with speakers covering a wide range of current and very relevant topics, made it a very worthwhile couple of days.

“Also meeting face-to-face with PGA staff and hearing first-hand the future plans for the PGA was extremely interesting. Since returning to my club, I have had further contact with a number of people I met through the conference and have no doubt that this will lead to a number of really interesting projects for our staff and reciprocal agreements with staff at other leading clubs.”

PGA Member Dean Nelson, who joined St Andrews Bay Development as Chief Owners Representative last year after serving as Director of Golf at Hong Kong Golf Club for 12 years, said: “After Covid had postponed the conference for the previous few years, I was keen to return to Phuket and get together with my regional colleagues.

“Learning from industry leaders and experts provided invaluable information and insights into best practices currently being used throughout the region. It was a thoroughly enjoyable conference and a great way to stay up to speed with the PGA and the latest developments in our association. The networking opportunity with our industry peers allows the reconnection that has been missed over the past few years.”

Brad Burgess, Managing Director at Sports Turf Solutions, one of the guest speakers at the conference, said: “It was an honour to be speak about turfgrasses at the PGA International Meeting. It’s a great concept to combine people from all sectors of the industry with PGA Professionals over several days. I made a lot of new friends, while at the same time teaching each other delegates about the challenges that face our industry and what’s coming in the future. I hope I can take part in the next conference.”

Photo caption 1 - PGA Chief Executive Robert Maxfield delivers the opening address at the 2023 PGA Members' International Conference.

Photo caption 2 - PGA Professional Matthew Tipper delivers his 'your short game solutions' masterclass.

Photo caption 3 - PGA Professional Nick Redfern delivering the Foresight Sports Launch Monitor presentation at the PGA Laguna Academy.

Photo caption 4 - Peter Downie, General Manager at Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club in Hong Kong, pictured with his PGA International Manager of the Year Award.

Photo caption 5 - Laguna Golf Club, Phuket.

Photo caption 6 - Sundowners on Laguna Beach.

Photo caption 7 - More short game solutions with Matthew Tipper.


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