The cover of the first New Zealand Golf (Inc) annual report says much about the way the game is run in this country. In a year when New Zealand produced a major championship winner for the first time in 42 years and when the national women's team beat Australia for the first time in a decade, the picture on the front cover is of... an administrator!

OK, so Tom Gault is not your average committee chairman. But even the modest Right Honorable Justice Gault, now installed as the Honorary Captain of the R&A at St Andrews, might just be a little embarrassed to be on the annual report's cover ahead of Michael Campbell and his US Open trophy at Pinehurst.

Could you imagine a picture of Jock Hobbs as president of the IRB on the cover of the NZRU's annual report instead of the All Blacks with a World Cup or Tri Nations trophy?

Michael Campbell is still the flag bearer for the game in this country. His achievement in winning the US Open deserves more than just a paragraph in the chief executive's report on page seven.

That passing mention says golf's challenge is to capitalise on the increased profile Michael has given the sport in New Zealand. The front cover of the annual report would have been a good start.

The Campbell issue aside, the report does not make for particularly good reading on two fronts - finance and membership.

Overall, club membership has dropped nearly two per cent. The country's 385 golf clubs had 127,557 members as at December 31 last year. Twelve months earlier, the figure was 129,902. The big drop has been in women players, down nearly nine per cent in a year.

The financial statements again emphasise the importance of the New Zealand Open to the health of the national body. The net result for the year is a loss of $342,919. The reserves have been raided and accumulated funds are down from more than $3 million to $2,663,186.

But the operating surplus for the year was $116,000. The New Zealand Open lost $459,100, dragging the entire bottom line result.

It shows once again how urgent it is to get a sponsor for this year's New Zealand Open. If one can't be found, there is only one option - the event will have to be cancelled because the accumulated reserves cannot stand another plunder like last year's.

While sponsorship did bring in $1.1 million at Gulf Harbour last year, the greatest contribution came from the Australasian and European Tours with $1.4 million.

But the killer on the expenditure side, as always, was the cost of television production.

That was a massive $617,881, far more than the overall loss suffered by the tournament.

In a utopian world, golf wouldn't pay to have its event covered but, unless it does, the networks won't be there and neither will the sponsors.