SA need more elite women's events - Little
After a career in professional golf spanning 30 years, Sally Little believes the key to growing the women's game in South Africa is to create more events.
"The reason we don't have enough up-and-coming stars is that we don't have enough competition at that very high level," Little said in Durban on Sunday.
The only South African woman to lift a Major title after winning the LPGA Championship in 1980 and the Canadian Women's Open in 1988, Little, 61, felt younger players needed more exposure at the highest level.
"They need valuable instruction and to seek out the best instructors in the country," she said.
"It should start as early as possible and the bar should be raised for them as teenagers."
She also believed the women's game needed female instructors, and with the hosting of the South African Women's Open in July, there was great potential for the future.
"A year ago women's professional golf was non-existent here and we hadn't had a South African Open in almost three years. We're now well on track because the Open held at Selbourne was to the tune of R8.5 million," Little said.
"The Ladies' European Tour (LET) has now co-sanctioned South Africa to come in and work together and grow the game, and I'm very pleased to hear the Sunshine Tour has given the WPGA, the women's professional side, their blessing."
Sponsorship would play a big role, according to Little, in creating awareness of the women's game.
"The WPGA now have a new board which consists of business people to drive the women's game at professional level, hopefully to a level where we will garner sponsorship," she said.
"We hope to get at least three to four events here a year."
The focus would be on ensuring two, decent prize purses and targeting the younger, up-and-coming stars from Europe and South Africa.
"The idea is to create an event where the sponsors put about R900 000 towards a two-day pro-am, to get them to understand the value for money and to see how well women can play golf.
"We also need to be able to target our up-and-coming amateurs to be involved in that. It's important to get competition, play alongside the pros and encourage them to focus on getting better."
When Little played professionally in the 1980s, she said all women's Majors were televised and she felt broadcasters needed to televise live events to generate public interest.
"Women's golf was a household brand starting in 1982 and the South African public needs to see how well women can play," Little said.
"People don't realise women play off the men's tees. We always did in professional golf. It's amazing how far these women hit the ball."
Little said the LET was in talks to secure a deal with broadcasters to show live women's golf in South Africa.
"My biggest frustration was that you never see the Women's US Open on TV. You might get a little bit here and there, but you never see it live.
"Now, through the partnership with the LET, they are supposedly signing a TV deal with Europe so there will be live feeds into SA going forward."
The South African Women's Open could be shown live as early as next year.
"It means we will be able to see at least 11 women's events around the world if this deals comes through."
Little started her own fund to help co-ordinate efforts in the women's game. The Sally Little Trust, started last month aimed to empower young women, through the game of golf, and also to educate them on breast cancer awareness.
"Parliament has just endorsed the programme going forward. What we're doing is seeking out women we can introduce to the game from a teaching perspective," she said.