News.Az interviews Anar Mammadov, President of the Azerbaijani Golf Federation.
The year of 2012 has been very successful for the Azerbaijani golf. In fact, this year can be considered as a year of Azerbaijani golf established as a new type of sport. This is because the formation of the Azerbaijani Golf Federation, initiated construction of the biggest golf stadium of the region in Guba and launching a large-scale campaign for promotion of golf coincides with this year.
Mr. Mammadov, what is the purpose of establishing the Golf Federation?
The AGF has been set up at the beginning of this year and its mission is to develop golf as a type of Azerbaijani sport, increase its popularity and make the masses love it. During a short period of activity, we carried out certain serious work. Within close cooperation with the Youth and Sports Ministry and National Olympic Committee, we are preparing a development strategy of the Azerbaijani golf. New golf stadiums are already being established in our country. İ have personally attended an opening of an indoor golf stadium in Baku recently. A very big golf stadium is being constructed in Guba at the moment. As you know, huge development is observed in all sports in Azerbaijan. This sphere is under the direct attention of Mr. President and interest in sports is increasing seriously among people. We want the same tendency in golf, too.
Gold is rather viewed as an elite sport in the world. Do you somehow plan to raise the popularity of this sport among masses?
Despite gaining popularity in the whole world as a noble sport with the centuries-old history and becoming an Olympic sport in early century, our society is ‘careful’ about this sport. The stereotype of golf’s being popular only among the elite is not relevant to countries of America, Europe, Australia and Eastern Asia. Millions of people play golf in these countries.
But one of the biggest peculiarities of golf is that ethics and culture is an integral part of this sport. When it comes to golf, using gross words, quarreling or showing emotions like in other sports is inadmissible. On the contrary, everyone tries to support each other during the game. It has some type of elements relieving from psychological pressure.
Besides being a type of sport, golf is also a platform of communication.
Depending on the mood, everyone chooses what he wants from golf. You can play golf with people that are pleasant to you. It’s no secret that golf is considered to be one of the main channels to form new communications and gain business opportunities in the world. It is said in America that 90% of all big agreements are reached in the golf field. Naturally, it happens not during rounds but at the end. One of the reasons is that during the rounds, you can imagine the psychological and business picture of the one you are playing with and can decide whether to cooperate with him or not. This is much more difficult to do in the office milieu.
During golf, you can figure out whether a person is purposeful, concentrated and how much energy he spends to reach the aim. Self-confidence is very important in this game. The same is observed in business, too.
If that is the case, then golf can be considered as a very useful type of sport for formation of young generation.
Exactly! Therefore, as the Azerbaijani Golf Federation, one of our first projects is SNAG, which means Start New At Golf, a project of presenting golf in an entertaining and educating form within a short period to people in maximum number. SNAG is the only program that enables people of different ages and social category to test themselves in golf.
In the first stage, we started to carry out this project at schools of Baku. This project includes both entertaining and educating elements and it is thus possible to increase the interest of children in golf. To this end, we have developed a special equipment and material, and are already applying this program at several schools of the capital. The reaction of children has encouraged us to continue this project and involve even more schools. We intend to accelerate this project in connection with a new school year and present golf to more people in the city and regions.
As golf is a new type of sport for our country, its teaching is also necessary.
Currently one of the biggest projects we are working on is establishment of the Baku Golf Academy. Works in this sphere are nearing completion and I think that we will hold the opening of the academy in the near future. The academy will have a mini golf club and here everyone will be able to learn and play golf.
The academy will have the latest equipment and PGA (Professional Golf Association) specialized instructor. Besides, the area of the academy will have a golf simulator equipped with a library of the world golf fields and GPS system, and here those willing will get opportunity to play golf in over 130 golf fields. Everybody can become a member of the Golf Academy. Most interestingly, the minimal age to play golf is 4 and maximal age is not specified. Of course, we are not talking about professional golf games. Here the age restriction ranges from 16 to 50. A player above 50 goes to a level of older persons. Even persons with disabilities can play golf and special tournaments are held for them. In many cases, golf plays a role of physical, moral and emotional stimulus.
You are trying to present and generate love to golf among the masses. But after that, there should be fields to play it. In this sense, what is the situation in Azerbaijan?
You are quite right. As in every field game, a proper field is one of the main conditions to play golf, or in general, to make it possible. Currently we as federation are working in this direction. I think that the golf field should not be confined with Baku. On the contrary, it should be opened in regions, as well. Currently, the biggest golf field in the region is being constructed in Guba. This is an 18-hole pitch meeting all international standards and being able to host international tournaments. This golf club will be under management of famous US company Troon Golf. There are over 200 golf clubs of 26 countries under the management of this company and of them, 37 are among 100 best clubs of the world.
You noted a while ago that golf was an Olympic game in the early century. What international golf tournaments are being held at present?
Golf tournaments were held only at the 1900 and 1904 Summer Olympics and then were suspended. A poll was carried to hold golf competitions within the ongoing London Olympics, but then this proposal was not accepted. Then it was nominated for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games and was accepted at the poll held in 2009 at the International Olympic Committee. As a federation, one of our goals is to bring up golf players that would represent Azerbaijan at the 2016 Olympic Games. As the country's president, Mr. Aliyev said: "Olympic Games is not just a sport competition but is also a big policy and a very big social event on a global scale." And on my part I do hope that among sportsmen who raise the flag of our country in the highest places as a result of the care and attention of the president will also be the grown-up players of the Golf Federation, and the time will come when we will bring the Olympic gold medal in golf to our country. Making use of the opportunity, I would like to wish luck to our sportsmen representing Azerbaijan at the London Summer Olympics.
Where else is golf popular?
The US is leading the list in the number of golfers. There are almost 100 million golfers in the world, of which 26 million are in the US. The list goes on with the United Kingdom, Japan, Spain, Germany and other countries. An increasing interest in golf is observed recently in our neighbor countries- Turkey and Russia. I think that in the future, golf will be one of the massive sports.