Aussie help for Fijian golf
Coaches from Down Under hope to provide boost for game in Vijay's homeland
A boom was predicted.
But it has been near-bust.
After Vijay Singh blazed the trail for Fijian golf with his No. 1 ranking in 2004, there were high expectations that the game in the Pacific paradise island would see an upward trend.
Predictions were made that golf could become the No. 2 sport in the country, after their traditional game of rugby, which is religion in Fiji.
But no, apart from an initial boon, golf in Fiji remains what it used to be, with only the amateur scene lively with the overflowing presence of rich businessmen and elite playing their social rounds and inter-province and inter-club matches.
Vijay is Fiji's most revered sportsman, having won three Majors.
He is still renowned for his work ethic that sees him spend hours on the driving range while also hitting over a thousand balls in practice.
Vijay, 53, who was back home for the Fiji International last month, acknowledges that the growth of golf in Fiji has not been as expected since he burst onto the world scene, but he believes that things could change.
He is especially grateful to the Professional Golf Association of Australia, who are making sincere efforts to raise the profile of the game in Fiji.
Brian Thorburn, CEO of the Australian body, has taken upon himself to promote to the growth of the game in Fiji.
Over the last five years, almost 3,000 Fijian children, aged between six and 12, have been introduced to the sport through regular clinics by Australian coaches.
And during the annual Fiji International, which offers a purse of A$1.5 million ($1.6m) - which was won this year by American Ryder Cup star Brandt Snedeker - the clinics have been oversubscribed and promotional efforts were enhanced with some kids being involved in small roles.
Recently, TaylorMade Golf pledged to give golf clubs to local qualifiers for next year's Fiji International.
The PGA of Fiji is also working together with the PGA Tour Australia to forge a pathway for the local players who want to become professionals
PGA of Fiji president David Roche said his association would also be sending a coach to Australia to get accredited.
"There are some exciting things coming up as TaylorMade Golf have pledged that the four local qualifiers for the Fiji International next year would each be given a TaylorMade driver," Roche said.
"If they use it in the Fiji International, TaylorMade will give some other golf clubs as well. It is all good stuff for us moving forward."
Roche, who said that professional golf in the country would be stepped up a level, will also send a Fijian coach to Australia for training so that he will be better equipped to look after the junior programme.
He added: "Also, we are trying to get a modified apprenticeship system going for Fijian golfers who want to become professionals through the help of PGA Tour Australia."
No doubt, Vijay will be used as a role model and ambassador for these programmes.
The "Big Fijian", as he is popular known, was world No. 1 for 32 weeks between 2004 and 2005.
And included in the sermons to aspiring golfers is the story of how the Indo-Fijian, who was born in Lautoka and spent his growing years in Nadi, has, like most Fijian kids, had a humble and difficult start.
Now a resident of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, Vijay's recollections of his tough growing up years are a mantra to the youngsters.
He once said: "When we were kids, we couldn't afford golf balls so we had to make do with coconuts.
"My father used to say: 'Little Vijay, golf balls don't fall off trees, you know.' So I found some that did!".
During his teenage years, Vijay played snooker, cricket, football and rugby. But it was obvious that he had the talent for golf as his father Mohan Singh, an airplane technician, also taught golf.
His success has been an inspiration to many Fijian golfers, namely Dinesh Chand, his brothers Mukesh and Salesh, Vijay's younger brother Krishna, Sam Lee, Bill Suguturaga, Vikrant Chandra and Waisake Vati.
But they remain a world apart from Vijay, who has career earnings of almost US$75 million since he turned professional in 1982.
Hopefully, some progress will be made with Australian patronage.