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Berner's commentary an 'insult' to PGA of America

As a P.G.A. Member and a fellow golf writer it took great strength to finish reading Dave Berner's article dated March 10, 2004: "PGA of America faces scrutiny on growing the game." I believe in letting sleeping dogs lie, but in this case I will make an exception in defense of an organization of which I am proud to be a member.

I do believe that some of what Mr. Berner was trying to express is accurate. The P.G.A. of America does need to do a better job in growing the game at a grass roots level. For the past few years they have focused great attention and finances on that aspect, and in my opinion are starting to succeed. The problem with Mr. Berner's article is that it implies that we as professionals only participate in programs that are sanctioned by the P.G.A. of America.

Many professionals, including myself, offer programs to our local communities that help juniors and "hackers" enjoy the game of golf. Mr. Berner would have you believe that we are all elitists that only care about making money and have utter disregard for the general golfing public. That may have been the case in his experience, but in speaking for the thousands of professionals that work hard to promote golf, I believe he is referring to an extreme minority.

In Mr. Berner's reference to the difference between the P.G.A. of America and the P.G.A. Tour I can assure you that every golfer who has ever read an article of mine or has played at my facility is confident in the fact that I do not play on tour. The general public, who do not play golf, sometimes confuse the roles of a tour player and a club professional.

I can assure you Mr. Berner that most golfers do understand the concept of a P.G.A. Member club professional, and if they don't most professionals are more than happy to explain the difference.

The P.G.A. sections run many events for its members and most of the functions, including Pro-Am tournaments, are a great way to help promote relations within the sections. Granted our events do little to help "Mr. Hacker", but they do help us concentrate on playing the game, which are criteria for being a P.G.A. Professional. I guess if we cancelled all of the section events and started radio shows we be accused of being lousy golfers.

The ability to play the game is a direct reflection upon the credibility of our organization. Who wants to take a lesson from someone who can't play the game? Our section events help raise money for scholarship funds and countless organizations that need help. Trying to compare our events to growing the game is like comparing apples to oranges. We need credibility in order to grow the game of golf!

"Play Golf America" which is a program started by the P.G.A. of America is one of the so called "poorly marketed and promoted" incentives discussed by Mr. Berner. At last check Golf Digest is sent to more golfers in the mainstream than any other golf publication. Our program is offered in their May issue and every season thousands of golfers are introduced to the game of golf through the free lesson program.

If you have missed the promotion in your area, Mr. Berner, the article will be in the coming May issue. Or it could be possible that someone just doesn't want to give you a free lesson, it will definitely be harder for you now.

"Growing the game of golf" is a phrase used by many professionals in many different ways. The P.G.A. of America can only guide us to help the game at a grass roots level and offer assistance. It is the obligation of our profession to continue to help add as many new players to the game as possible. All good professionals understand that the future of our business is directly related to the masses and to juniors.

Many of us strive to do everything in our power to accomplish the goal of bringing the game of golf to our communities, not just the club at which we are employed. We accomplish this through thousands of individual programs, credibility in our sport, and the true love of the game of golf.

We all miss opportunities to help promote golf, but generalizing comments and attacks towards P.G.A. Members, sections, and the P.G.A. of America is just wrong. For every missed opportunity, there is a P.G.A. professional across the country introducing 10 children to the game of golf.

The association as a whole has many good qualities as well as bad, the bottom line is that we understand the problem and as individuals have chosen to act. It is articles like that written by Dave Berner that insult those of us who work so hard to promote a game that we love. I would also like to apologize for your apparent bad experiences with the P.G.A. and/or its members.

I can assure you that your generalizations based on some individual experiences are unfounded.

By Tim Garvin, P.G.A. Member
Head Golf Professional, South Fork Country Club
Amagansett, NY
Contributing golf writer, Southampton Press, Long Island Golfer Magazine

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