Many individuals play the game of golf as a means of relaxation (Newsham, 2006). However, with time the large amounts of prize money in tournaments began to capture the attention of players (Hayman, Borkoles, Taylor, Hemmings, & Polman, 2014; Roos & Surujlal, 2014). Players entered tournaments, and soon realised they need to be competent and that this can only be achieved through professional coaching (Farrally et al., 2003; Roos & Surujlal, 2014). As a result, great demands has been placed on coaches and managers to develop quality players (Cushion, Armour, & Jones, 2003; Roos & Surujlal, 2014). According to Hayman et al. (2014), research has not indicated a sufficient pathway for junior golf players to reach professional level and be successful. It is therefore critical to explore all facets influential in the success of professional golf players.
Despite the limited research on developmental pathways in golf, substantial research has examined developmental paths in elite sportsman (Hayman et al., 2014). The development of proficiency in sport is influenced by various environmental factors such as parental support and coach behaviours. This forms a crucial social network, and when the correct social networks are present, young sports people are more likely to achieve success and progress to elite sport level (Branton, 2013; Côté, 1999; Csikszentmihalyi, Rathunde, & Whalen, 1997; Jowett & Timson-Katchis, 2005). Since the transition from junior to senior level within sport has shown to be a crucial step, where many athletes fail, it is important to gain more knowledge about the process and the correct method to approach this (Hayman et al., 2014; Jorlén, 2008). Assisting junior golf players in this endeavour has evolved from technical coaching to a full-time career management profession. This study aimed to develop a framework for the effective transition of junior golf players to professional level, therefore assisting future junior golf players to achieve success in professional golf.
The main objective of this study was to explore the perceptions of former or current Sunshine Tour players, Professional Golfers’ Association of South Africa (PGA of SA) members, PGA of SA teaching professionals and/or golf administrators. This enabled the researcher to identify the most important psychosocial and environmental factors that can contribute to the effective transition from junior to professional level. The sample size consisted of 17 participants that took part in this research study. Specifically, perceptions on the correct transition strategies for junior golf players to achieve success at a professional level. This study attempted to understand these perceptions from the participants lived experiences which is a vital aspect for researchers working from the structure of a socio-constructionism system (Walters, 2009). By means of the available theoretical models and the empirical data obtained from the interviews, a comprehensive transition framework for junior golfers in the South African context was developed.
The findings suggested that players are required to have mental attributes in order for them to be successful. Adding to the mental aspect of the player development is the social support structure. Participants indicated that individuals in this environment might influence players in a negative manner, and as a result add unnecessary pressure on them. Financial obligations place a lot of strain on a player’s mental state which demand that players employ certain skills to overcome a barrier such as this. This study indicated that in order for players to gain sponsorships and solve the financial implications involved, a personal brand needs to be developed by players. Coaches need to be aware of the influential role they play in this process and are required to constantly act as a mentor to a player. Furthermore, players need to participate in as many other sporting codes as possible at a young age. This study concluded that late specialisation is the correct method of development. Individuals pursuing to become a professional golfer need to be aware of the lonely lifestyle of professional golfers and the commitment that needs to be made. Players need to be willing to set aside a social life and be totally committed to the process of becoming better.
These themes can guide programmes to help junior golf players achieve greater success in the transition towards professionalism. A better understanding about this endeavour could increase the chances of even more South African junior golf players to reach professional level.