Total Commitment for Swiss PGA Members

At the beginning of December, the Swiss PGA proudly announced the name of its next General Secretary: Richard Heath. Heath lives in Epalinges near Lausanne and will take over the operational management of the Swiss PGA from Irene Oberländer on 1 January 2021. After 15 years with the European Golf Association (EGA), six as Championship Manager and nine as General Secretary, Richard Heath, 49, joins the Swiss PGA.

Keith Marriott, President of the Swiss PGA, is delighted with this outcome: "Richard Heath is an excellent connoisseur of golf. I have admired what he has done with the EGA for a long time. His integrity, his extensive network and his deep understanding of golf and golfers make him highly regarded throughout Europe".

Keith Marriott hopes that after a coronavirus year in 2020, the Swiss PGA can once again focus on a long-term strategy. "After its 75th anniversary, the Swiss PGA has decided to change direction and to continue its development, particularly in the ever-changing world of golf, but also in the world of professional sport in general. Welcoming Richard Heath on board is part of this new strategy and I am sure he will make a strong contribution to this success".

The new General Secretary of the Swiss PGA reveals his vision in the following interview.

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Richard, congratulations on your new job. You worked for EGA for 15 years, why are you facing a new challenge?

Thank you very much. I feel that I am at that period of my life where some new plans need to be laid for the future. This opportunity fell in accord with what my partner, Barbara, and I have been considering for the next term.

What excites you about the work of the Swiss PGA General Secretary?

This is my chance to give something back to Swiss golf. I arrived in Switzerland in 2004 and immediately found a warm welcome in the golf scene and made many friends.

It has been a wonderful experience working for the EGA, but it has involved a lot of travel.

I am looking forward to focusing my efforts now more on the home front and integrating my best efforts to contributing what I can in my new capacity to assist the Swiss PGA members and the golfers gain as much satisfaction as possible from their relative pursuits here in Switzerland.

What are the biggest challenges for the Swiss PGA in 2021?

There is naturally a wish to incentivise external support for the Swiss PGA’s activities, especially following an exceptionally difficult year with the pandemic, but which may not make finding partners any easier. However, golf participation numbers have been strong in 2020 and we need to carry this momentum forward into a positive future for our sport.

What are the biggest and most important challenges for the Swiss PGA in the medium and long term?

Despite its strong traditional values, golf evolves like all things. PGAs are primarily about education and providing enjoyment, inspiration and aspiration to the golfing population. We must keep on top of trends to decide upon, and help to provide, what is best for the local industry to encourage young people to participate, retain the interest of the players, and to create prosperity for the clubs.

Where do you see the Swiss PGA in five years?

I would like that each golfer, regardless of their level of play, will be able to look towards the Swiss PGA logo and feel that it is there to assist them in their goals to derive whatever they are aiming for in the sport. I like the recognisable image of the Swiss ski schools, but golf, today, is perhaps less synonymous than skiing with Swiss life. The Swiss PGA, with its industry partners, must play a leading role in providing more people with the opportunity to play and encourage them to see what the sport has to offer in terms of health, physical activity, social interaction and, if they so wish, competition.

The media release says that you want to play an active role in the development of the Swiss golf market. What does this role look like?

For the Swiss PGA to best assist the clubs serve their members, Swiss PGA members must remain an integral part of the golf clubs and become even more involved in club activities. It is a two-way street of education and contribution from both sides that will ultimately ensure that the service to the club members will always deliver on or above expectations.

How will teaching and playing be weighted within the Swiss PGA in the future? (Will Teaching play a stronger role? How should the cooperation with Swiss Golf look like with regard to mentoring the playing pros?)

Mentoring the full-time Swiss playing professionals is a specialised role and the Swiss PGA will aim to continue to cooperate with Swiss Golf where possible to develop the available knowledge base available for identifying and motivating Switzerland’s next generation, inspiring the best elite amateur players, helping with the amateur-professional transition process, and assisting the most accomplished professional players maintain and improve their level.

Education will always be a primary function of the Swiss PGA, but many of the Swiss PGA teaching members also enjoy an active playing life and this should only be encouraged as it provides inspiration to other golfers and to those thinking to take-up the sport. They must have the opportunity to compete regularly to help maintain their own motivation for the game and, therefore, providing a calendar of elite events with Swiss Golf is essential to the sport’s wellbeing in Switzerland. I think it would also be welcome for the context to be provided for club members to enjoy a round of golf with their club professionals more often.

A personal question: You are Australian, why did you decide 15 years ago to come to Europe and work for the EGA?

In 2004, I sought for myself the best Sports Management Master’s degree available and chose the International Academy of Sport Science and Technology (AISTS) in Lausanne. I believe my choice was the right one as the AISTS degree has, since 2015, been ranked by Eduniversal as the number one program for Sports Management worldwide. When I was accepted for the course, this was my primary reason for coming to Switzerland. My selection for the EGA immediately followed my completion of the course, but I have continued to lecture to the course on the topic of golf’s global governance. I hope to continue to do so, but I plan to add more focus on the role played by the PGAs, using the Swiss PGA as an example.

15 years with EGA in Epalinges: What do you like best in Switzerland and especially about the Swiss?

I do like cheese…(laughs) and I do not think I need tell anyone how spectacular the landscape is, but I do like the sense of national pride in Switzerland and the identity that the Swiss like to convey: jovial, yet very organised and committed to the way of life they have developed for themselves.

I am privileged that I have had the chance to meet and socialise with Alt Bundesrat, Adolf Ogi, during the occasions of his Stiftung Freude Herrscht ( golf days and meet some other well-known Swiss personalities. This has been an enriching experience with caring people who, despite everything they have achieved personally, are all very down-to-earth and I think this is a valid reflection of the Swiss people.