TONY Collier is helping shape the future of golf.
With Ballarat as his home base, Collier is one of four Golf Victoria development officers working with youngsters across the state.
He has been in the role for four years and covers a large part of western and central Victoria, reaching out as far as Portland, Hamilton, Warrnambool, Apollo Bay, Geelong, Romsey and Sunbury and other centres on the western fringe of Melbourne and Bendigo.
His primary focus is on grade 5 and 6 pupils, and he is encouraged by the increasing interest in the sport at this level.
“It’s starting to pick up.
“I’m doing 550 school clinics a year ... as many as five a day.”
Collier said more clubs and professionals were running junior programs.
He says Ballarat is the leader in the state.
Collier said more than 400 youngsters had been involved in programs at Mt Xavier (two), Midlands and Buninyong this year.
With his development commitments full-on, Collier has rarely engaged in tournament play in the past five years owing to time restraints.
In days when he did the now 42-year-old, who grew up playing with Ballarat Golf Club, he put together 16 wins.
Collier will make a rare pro-am appearance at Mt Xavier on Sunday.
He is not holding any high hopes for himself though, admitting he does not get the time to practice – although he did manage a practice round on the course yesterday.
Collier said having a pro-am in Ballarat was important for the profile of golf in the region.
“The more exposure it gets the better,” he said.
Toby Wilcox, who won the inaugural Mt Xavier pro-am last year, is among 30-plus professionals already entered.
The field also features Ballarat’s Peter Nolan, Michael Curtain, Brad Lamb and Chris Gaunt, who are teeing off in the Australian Masters at Huntingdale tomorrow and will only get to Mt Xavier if they miss the cut.
Pro-am co-ordinator Ben Roberts is hoping the Telstra Business Plus IT-Telstra Shop Mt Xavier Pro-Am will attract late entries from players who miss the cut at the Masters on Friday.
There are still vacancies in the morning draw for amateurs, with entries being taken at Golf City on 5334 2346. Tee-off times are from 7.30am and 12.30pm.