What's really behind the Australian phenomenon is the accessibility of the country's 1,700 courses (including even Royal Melbourne, one of the world's finest), a climate that allows for year-round play, a sports-loving culture, government-funded junior programs and quality instruction. And unlike many places in the U.S., money is not an issue. Lonard remembers paying $20 Australian as a kid to play all summer at a private club in Sydney.
The most important piece of the puzzle is the opportunity players have to develop at the sport institutes that are scattered throughout the country. Every Australian state has one, and successful golfers such as Appleby, Norman, Graham March and Jack Newton have privately funded ones as well. The state institutes offer athletes instruction, a place to train and competition in many sports besides golf.
"The VIS [Victorian Institute of Sport, in Melbourne] stands out," says Steve Bann, Appleby's coach. "There's no set recipe for our program. We adjust the swing to the player's needs and body type."
Unlike the college system in America, sports and academics are kept separate, and the competition is not so cutthroat. "In our program, coaches share information," Bann says. "We ask ourselves every day, 'What's best for the athlete?' In America the college system is 'Catch and kill your own.' All coaches care about is how the players are going to play for two or three years' time, so they take shortcuts. That's good for us because if they trained 'em the way we train 'em, it would be a lot tougher for our guys."
The system works. "I fear the Australians," says Tom Patri, a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher who has worked with several touring pros. "All of the young golfers I've seen from there are talented. I wouldn't label any of them a miss. Someone over there is doing a hell of a job developing golfers."
The men from the Land Down Under, if they keep up this plunder, may one day end up on top.
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