Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

TOUR NOTEBOOK; as Economy Recovers, Golf Continues to Grow

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

TOUR NOTEBOOK; as Economy Recovers, Golf Continues to Grow

Article excerpt

Byline: Garry Smits, The Times-Union

Golf 20/20 released its annual report Wednesday, which cautiously predicted an increase in interest and participation in golf that will go hand-in-hand with an improving economy.

According to its research, the decline in rounds played from 2002 to 2003 was 1.5 percent, half the decrease in rounds from 2001 to 2002. "[That indicates] as the economy rebounds, rounds played can be expected to rebound also," the report said.

Golf 20/20 is an industry alliance formed by the World Golf Foundation four years ago to seek ways to grow interest and participation in golf.

The report also stated that there were 37.9 million participants in golf at the end of 2003, and 27.4 golfers, both all-time highs. Participant is defined by 20/20 as junior golfers between the ages of 5-17 and people who use either executive or par-3 courses, or practice ranges.

Three segments of golfer participation, occasional (one-to-seven rounds per year), core (eight-to-24) and avid (25 or more rounds) all experienced growth in 2003. However, the core and avid levels remained short of all-time highs.

Golf 20/20 executive director Ruffin Beckwith said first-quarter reports of rounds increasing in many parts of the country are encouraging signs.

"In 2003 we began to see positive signs that have continued with the first quarter of 2004," he said. "So we are optimistic that golf is trending in the right direction."

IT'S GETTING PERSONAL

Those who suggest Tiger Woods should get back with former coach Butch Harmon shouldn't hold their breath. Not after Harmon not only told a golf publication that a reunion was unlikely, but that he didn't necessarily enjoy coaching Woods.

"I have no desire to go back to the same situation where I spend all my time at tournaments with Tiger Woods," Harmon told Golfweek. …

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