Golf: Closed shop throws open its doors

The first public golf show is on at the NEC. Andy Farrell paid it a visit
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The Independent Online
Tony Blair is not the first to achieve a landslide victory of late. Tiger Woods had a handy majority at the US Masters in a breathtaking performance which brought new converts to the game. Now, like Blair, golf has to hang on to them.

An attempt was made with the Professional Golfers' Association's National Golf Week last month and now in Hall No 1 of Birmingham's NEC, golf has been making an exhibition of itself. The Golf Show, sponsored by KPMG, runs throughout the Bank Holiday weekend and for the first time brings punters into direct contact with the golf industry.

The PGA say they gave 12,000 lessons to new golfers during the Golf Week, with two-thirds signing up for further instruction. Over four days, the Golf Show hopes to have 30,000 visitors, with 20 per cent new to the game. It is the brainchild of Simon Kimble of Consumer Exhibitions, whose previous credits include the Good Food Show, Tomorrow's World Live and London Fashion Week.

"This is by far the biggest thing we have attempted," Kimble, who has no previous golfing background, said. "I wanted to take golf out of its usual environment. The game has this image of members' clubs with "private" signs at the gate. The aim was to make it as interactive as possible."

So there is the chance to use a driving range, a putting green, a chipping area as well as test the manufacturers' equipment in their own nets. In addition, Kimble has attracted leading players and celebrities. Colin Montgomerie, Europe's No 1, will be on show and taking questions today, with Ryder Cup captain Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer here on Monday. Paul Gascoigne and Chris Evans head the celebrity list for Sunday. Yesterday afternoon, Kimble was still tracking down Nick Faldo, who is in the country.

In a corner of the hall, the 17th green from the Old Course at St Andrews, including the Road Hole bunker (although not quite as deep as the original) has been constructed by the Peter Alliss Design company. Bernard Gallacher, Europe's winning captain at Oak Hill in 1995, was one of the first to be put through his paces and managed to highlight one of the many contradictions that make golf baffling to the beginner.

"Remember, you are not trying to hit the ball, but the sand behind it," Gallacher said of playing bunker shots. How to play from a buried lie became a requirement when the compere stood on his ball. "Put the ball back in your stance, clubface closed, hands forward." Gallacher, clearly practising hard for the Seniors' tour, put it to two inches.

Next up was Ray Clemence, although he was not allowed into the sand without a comment on England's performance on Wednesday. "There has been a bit of criticism, but you can never please the English press, can you?" said Glenn Hoddle's assistant. Clemence left his first attempt in the Road Hole bunker. Next time he escaped, the ball making contact with painted backdrop, somewhere around the roof of Rusacks Hotel.

Clemence, who recalled Bill Shankly banning his team from playing a round of golf 48 hours before a match, also did his bit in the Celebrity Forum. At a pro-am in Brussels last year, he caught his drive on the heel of the club and hit a woman 10 yards away on the shoulder.

"I have never moved so fast in my life, but fortunately she was fine. The next day, instead of the big build-up as former England goalkeeper and the rest, the announcer just said: `Here's the madman'. The organisers hid behind the advertising boards. Talk about being nervous."

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