Warren Gray - Hands across the Tasman Sea

Warren Gray is the supremo at Canberra International Pitch and Putt course in Australia's Capital Territory. Constantly on the promotion trail, Warren has been talking a New Zealand club about Pitch and Putt matters. An opportunity was presented to Warren to instigate a "virtual" tournament between the Kiwis and the Aussies at junior level. Below, he tells us some more about this exciting initiative. (Q). Tell us about the 'Virtual' Junior Challenge between Canberra International and Hanmer Pitch and Putt in New Zealand?

Warren Gray (A). After researching Pitch and Putt courses in Australia, I decided to see what courses there were in New Zealand. I found a few and contacted Hanmer Springs course and chatted to them about all things Pitch and Putt. Just before Christmas, an opportunity arose to have a "virtual" challenge game between the two countries. The organisor of the Canberra based junior girls was all for this to happen and, the NZ team jumped at it with both hands. To say the least, both sets of juniors we excited about the prospect of playing this game for their respective countries. It was based around the kids having fun and honing their Pitch and Putt skills without too much pressure being placed upon them.

Q. How successful has the initiative been to date?

A. I believe it was a very successful attempt to promote Pitch and Putt in the Australasia region. Both teams had a great day from all reports and, the event even got some coverage in an Australian national golfing magazine. NZ were so excited about this coverage they shared it among their kids and had some excited youngsters apparently. I also let the Canberra kids know and, they too, were very proud to read about themselves and also see a couple of photos from the day.

Q. We gather you plan to repeat the exercise regularly?

A. Whilst we have only played the initial event, it is hoped we can have this tournament once a school term. If the proposal gets off the ground, that means the kids will play for bragging rights four times a year.

Q. What is your perception of the strength of Pitch and Putt in New Zealand?

A. Through my research, I can only find a handful of Pitch and Putt clubs in NZ but it is hoped that this "virtual Challenge" concept will add some weight to promoting the game there and, here in Australia. Another idea I have is to have a "touring party" of Pitch and Putt golfers from Canberra to visit Hanmer Springs sometime this year and play an "International Friendly" as a way of promoting the game. Pitch and Putt does not get the recognition it deserves here in Australia and, I am trying to raise the profile of this great game any way I can.

Q. Pitch and Putt appears to be booming in Canberra. To what do you attribute that?

A. I wouldn't actually say it is booming in Canberra. A while ago we had three courses in the area and we are now down to one. While we have a dedicated core membership of players, we too are struggling and we need to raise the profile and awareness of Pitch and Putt, if we wish to stay in existence into the future. How we do that is through initiatives like the virtual challenge, getting some air time on radio, TV and other media promotions (see promotional video here). I have also started a facebook page for our club and this is slowly starting to reap some rewards. However, some support from the main players in the golfing community here in Australia would be welcome and I am, again, working on this. Perhaps a visit from some of the European players would also help? Come down under and help us grow the game.

Q. Tom Rickit is a superb Pitch and Putt player but he also seems to be performing first-class work on the administration element?

A. I agree, Tom is a great Pitch and Putt  player and this is demonstrated by him being a four-time (I think) winner of the Australian Open. He too is working hard behind the scenes to try and raise the profile of Pitch and Putt  not only in Canberra but, also in Australia. Unfortunately, Australia is such a big place, the tyranny of travel hinders playing against what might be some very good Pitch and Putt players in other states.

Q. Do you play Pitch and Putt yourself?

A. Yes I do and I have done so for about 25 years. I first started playing by taking my daughter out to the course on a Saturday morning to give mum a sleep in. I used to push her around the course in a stroller and then she picked up a plastic golf club and had a hit. This then lead her to getting a bit bigger and stronger and she too ended up playing the game for many years. One of my proudest moments was when she won the ladies monthly medal and I won the men's medal on the same day. It is a great way to spend some quality time out in the fresh air with your kids and for them to learn the basics of the game.