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Strokeplay championships loses its shine

Lack of interest or lack of talent? Or a combination of both.Whatever the reason, the holiday weekend's Amateur Strokeplay Championships at Port Royal didn't make for a particularly intriguingtournament.Will Haddrell, Bermuda's non-playing captain at the upcoming Island Games, cantered to victory in a field of just 30 players.Ebonie Burgess was just as convincing in the women's field of half a dozen.While not wanting to take anything away from the newly-crowned champions, it has to be said they were never seriously challenged fromthe time the first ball was hit.Haddrell eased into a five-shot lead in the first round, his score of 75 being the only one under 80.Burgess went into the second round with just a two-stroke advantage, but when all was done and dusted, she walked into the clubhousewith a 22-shot lead.Haddrell crossed the line 26 strokes ahead of his nearest rivals.Both were — surely to the Bermuda Golf Association's dismay — one-horse races.That isn't a true reflection of the number of low handicappers on the Island. There are plenty — not that there are too many who couldequal Haddrell's final two rounds of one-under-par 70.But in previous years he would have been pushed much harder in a field perhaps double that which toured the Southampton course overfour days.Maybe that in itself was part of the reason why so few entered an event which started on Friday and finished on Monday, although 72holes is the norm for such championships.Bermuda's Amateur Match Play is spread over an entire week and earlier this year also suffered from a heavy dose of apathy.Here, and possibly the world over, golf might be the most popular of all individual recreational sports.Yet many of those weekend players have little interest in competitions. They get more enjoyment from the foursomes which invariablyresult in an exchange of cash at the 19th hole.In this day and age, few can sacrifice four successive days of work or family commitments.Last weekend also featured hours of TV coverage of the US Open. And TV ratings consistently show that the 'majors' attract far biggeraudiences than the run of the mill events.Bermuda also has a problem which may not be shared with too many other countries.For whatever reason, players turn professional when their scores rarely indicate they warrant such status.Club pros don't a have choice. Others do, but still join the Bermuda Professional Golfers Association (BPGA), play their tournaments,compete for prize money and, invariably, post scores that would have left them in the middle of the pack in last weekend's AmateurStrokeplay.The BGA can do little more than they are already doing to increase tournament participation.Entry fees could be lowered — some might say they are extortionate — but the fees are often dictated by the clubs and courses on which thetournaments are played.Whatever the case, the event which was once considered the highlight of the amateur calendar, no longer carries the prestige ofyesteryear.* * * *One senses that while the PGA of America are delighted that Justin Rose has played his way into the Grand Slam of Golf, they would havemuch preferred a Phil Mickelson, runner-up to the Englishman Rose at the US Open, or better still a Tiger Woods.In the past, both have declined invitations to play in October's $1.35 million event at Port Royal.Rose joins Masters winner Adam Scott of Australia in the end-of-season shoot-out along with next month's British Open winner and August's PGAChampion, providing all are injury-free and haven't committed to other global exhibitions.An American (ideally Tiger or Phil) plus a South African or a South American would make for a cosmopolitan field that would no doubt godown very well with the TNT network which broadcasts the event around the world.