Growing the game of golf in Macedonia

Macedonia is not one of golf’s most powerful nations but that might well change if Laze “Les” Perchevski and a hard-working group of local volunteers succeed in their aim.

Recently, Perchevski, and his fellow volunteers, Kosta Jovanovski, Ilce Ositic, Vlade Sotirovski and Nikolce Popovski, staged a golf clinic attended by about 40 youngsters at the rudimentary Pelister Golf Club, near Bitola, and in the not too distant future they hope to run similar clinics in the capital city of Skopje and elsewhere around this small Balkan country situated just to the north of Greece.

It would be no exaggeration to describe Perchevski as the driving force behind the development of golf in Macedonia, a country he left as a teenager, first for Australia and then the United States, where he became a successful businessman and a golfer proficient enough to harbour hopes of joining the European Senior Tour.

It was in the States a few years ago, that Perchevski met the Macedonian Ambassador who persuaded him it would be a good idea to return to his native country and to use his knowledge to set up the country’s first golf facility.

“It all started thanks to that chance meeting with the Ambassador,” confirmed the larger-than-life Perchevski. “Shortly afterwards, I made my first trip back to Macedonia and now spend most of the summer months in the country helping to develop the game.

“It hasn’t been easy but we’re definitely getting there,” he added. “The Macedonian Golf Federation was founded in 2011. We still don’t have an 18-hole golf course but interest is growing around the Bitola area and I’m also working hard with another enthusiast, Milco Popov, to open a driving range in Skopje.”

When Perchevski first started to travel to Macedonia his goal was to attract golfers of all ages but he has since realised that youngsters tend to be much more receptive to the game than their parents.

“The problem is that most adult Macedonians know nothing at all about golf and those who have heard of it tend to believe that it’s a rich man’s game and so don’t want to get involved.

“We do have a handful of adult players – many of whom have learned the game abroad – but we’ve found it much easier to attract kids so we go into the schools and invite them to come to Pelister.

“Kosta Jovanovski deserves a lot of credit for the hard work he is doing,” he added. “He’s the President at Pelister but arguably his most important role is to collect the kids from their homes and drive them to the course.

“We all do what we have to do to help the game to develop.”

It requires both time and money to grow golf in any country and Perchevski is the first to admit that all the hard work he and his colleagues are doing would come to nothing without the support of The R&A via its wide-ranging Working for Golf programme which utilises profits made from The Open Championship to benefit the game around the world.

“None of what we have done would have been possible without the support of The R&A,” said Perchevski. “This is just humble Macedonia but with the help of The R&A we’re making progress.

“There were kids of all ages at the recent clinic at Pelister. The youngest was a four year-old called Marija Nikolovski who loves the game and whose enthusiasm we hope will persuade more kids of her age to come to the club.

“We already have a handful of players playing in national events in Bulgaria and other countries and hope their numbers will grow. We would love to produce a world class Macedonian player but that may take a bit more time,” he added.

As it happens, Macedonia’s new crop of young players already have an impressive role model in the shape of teenager, Peter Stojanovski, who last year won the Emirates Amateur Open in Dubai and then scored a 71 in the first round as Macedonia made its debut in the World Amateur Team Championship in Turkey.

“It was good to see Macedonia playing in the Eisenhower Trophy for the first time and great to see the lengths to which Les and the others are going to in order to develop golf in their country,” said Duncan Weir, Executive Director- Working for Golf. “They have shown great enthusiasm and hopefully they will continue to encourage more and more Macedonians to take up the game.”    

Macedonia takes part in the Balkan Challenge Trophy, an annual international men’s amateur team event for countries in the region. The R&A supports the trophy, which has so far visited Bulgaria and Slovenia, through participation subsidies.