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PGA of America faces scrutiny on growing the game

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As a writer and a P.G.A. Professional I would never be so ignorant to presume that all sections and golf professionals fall under Mr. Berner's opinion. I sincerely hope that this is a way to attract readers to your site. Obviously your writing skills have not prevaled in the past so why not do something drastic - good work. Next time try asking a wider variety of professionals what they are doing for the game of golf and how they are helping attract players, who, in case you possibly have overlooked, could be supporting your web site. If you feel that way about the P.G.A. of America and the lack of growth of the game in Illinois, try doing something about it instead of attempting to be a writer. Your article does nothing but discredit many P.G.A. members that work everyday in their own communities for the good of the game. You should be ashamed and so should the editors of these sites.

Tim Garvin, Southampton New York

Mr. Berner's comments on the PGA are unfortunately correct. However it is not entirely the blame of the association but on the individual golf professionals who manage the courses. The PGA is doing something about this now with a new certification program that will challenge every member to regain certification annually and if they fail they will lose their certification. The next most important step will be for the Golf Course Owners Association to step up and insist that their golf course operators are PGA members and that they are current on their certification. (In addition, they need to insure their golf course superintendents are GCSAA members as well!) It is unfortunate that this is where the problem lies because a golf course owner doesn't have to hire a certified professional, (or superintendent) they can just hire shop help and drive the bottom line. Increased revenues and increased profits are the montra not grow the game. That is why we see so many price driven golf ads. Like you reported, there are good golf professionals and they run well respected and profitable operations and do promote the game. We need to see continued growth and cooperation between the PGA, the Golf Course Owners Association and the GCSAA so the game can grow in more ways than just profits. Long term financial well being should be the goal not short term profits at the expense of tomorrow.

Chuck Eade, Belleair, Florida

As a PGA member I am not offended by Mr. Berner's comments toward the PGA and growing the game because some of it is right on target. Golf was never intended to be a business but unfortunately it has become one, a big one. Due to this, the game, and the enjoyment from it has almost disappeared. The golf professional can no longer grow the game as was intended many years ago due to the "bottom line" mentality that is placed upon him. This is through no fault of his own individually, however as an organization there is some fault there. I would be happy to hear from Mr. Berner if he is interested.

Charlie Krenkel, Cullman, Ala.

While I don't have much to say about the PGA of America that hasn't already been said, a big problem of why the game isn't growing and too many people throw the clubs in the attic is right there linked in that very article. The link to the Glen Club shows that it costs a MINIMUM of $110 to play there, ONCE! Golf is way too expensive for most folks to play on a regular basis. The local munis are crowded to the brim. The technology race with ever-increasing length has made golf courses too long and thus too expensive to play, because more land is needed to build these monster courses. Either that, or the old courses feel they have to lengthen themselves or remodel, which drives the greens fees up further. Even with the new technologies, handicaps haven't gone down any. Maintenance costs are way too high, because each course feels the need to have Augusta-like conditioning.

Scott Burroughs, Wake Forest, N.C.

The numerous tournaments that we supposedly hold for our own good are to give the PGA members a "break" from the David Berners of our profession, the whiners and moaners who profess to know so much about something which they have no clue. Consider the alternative Mr. Berner, you still stuck in that "head down,poor postured, reverse pivoting god awful excuse for a golf swing" you probably started with. For all of our faults, the golf world is much further along thanks to the PGA of America than in spite of it.......bring your radio show to the Philadelphia section, I'd love to pitch it to the members.

Fred Robinson, PGA Teaching Professional The Golf Zone, Horsham, Pa..

As a PGA Golf Professional I can assure you that the majority of my job is to help grow the game of golf from golfers of all abilities. If I were to concentrate on only good golfers or golfers who played the most rounds that would not be very smart on my part. My goal is to introduce new people to the game and turn those weekend warriors into golfers who play more frequently. I think that you would find that PGA Professionals have many programs in place to help the weekend golfers and encourage them to play more golf. The more rounds of golf played is more money in our pockets. Give us some credit.

Tim Firestone, Blackthorn Golf Club

I don't think you have a clue as to what we do to promote the game, and the sacrifices we make in working every weekend and holiday to provide services to our patrons (and sometimes extremely rude and thankless members). Golf unfortunately is not an inexpensive sport, and requires a substantial time commitment from those involved. Most of us do all we can to assist parents in making lessons and equipment affordable for kids and beginners.

For your editorials weekend warriors in question, most have ill fitting or inappropriate equipment that must be changed to progress to the next level. They often feel we're trying to sell them stuff just to make a buck, and that is simply not the case. Their commitment to practice and taking lessons is generally poor. The most stretching these people do to warm up is when they bend over to tie their shoes. Most have egregious swing faults that require the swing to be rebuilt, and they don't want to hear it, or don't like the feel of a proper grip after being wrong for so long. We love nothing better than to shave a few strokes off the typical hackers score. If I can get one someone to clear the water off the tee - on say the second hole - that alone may set the tone for the rest of his or her day.

As far as growing the game, I do feel the PGA is too focused on juniors, and finally focusing on women, and new golfers we can get from persons having suffered injuries, joint replacements, or those who may no longer be able to play tennis as well as they used to, do to age, or bio mechanical or medical difficulties. You must remember, the most important aspect of golf is the social environment and companionship, or competition shared on the course. Most of us would rather play with a nice person who's a lousy golfer (with good etiquette) than an ill-tempered, unsocial scratch player. Many of us work 70 hours a week to make the same money some of our students make in a day. Our section Tournament purses are generally crap, and we are constantly losing benefits from the USGA and the PGA for courtesies as simple or basic as attending professional tournaments. I can't even bring my dad, spouse or son to the Masters or the US Open - I get one ticket. We're losing qualifying spots each year for "open PGA tournaments", as well as the PGA championship, and as more and more corporations take over the shop, we are losing what was a key source of income for us, and a prime motivator to keep interested or pro active in our patrons or members equipment and over all well being.

The economy dictates a lot... The major equipment manufactures screw us by selling to mass merchants for less money. Kids now are rushed from soccer to little league, to swimming to karate, and the time necessary to become competent enough to enjoy golf and make it a priority is not understood by the parents, and often by the club membership who sometimes severely limit kid's access to the course in many cases.

A lot of things could be better. I like to offer good quality custom made sets of all sizes, (first in half sets) for juniors that can be traded in as the kids grow, and add the odd clubs to the set as they progress. This would give proper fitting clubs, recycled and cleaned with new grips all the time for my juniors, for a modest upgrade fee. Too many places still use cut down old clubs or even old blades with lousy grips for the kids groups that are ill fitting, and not easy to use. In this, many pros could do better.

However, most all of us are always there for you. We do not get support at our shops from our members who search the web for ridiculous prices....(often unavailable anyway).. and then expect us to beat them. The women are notorious for not supporting the shop, and then complain we don't have a large enough selection for them, but when we bring in four lines of clothing, they don't buy until the stuff is marked down - They'll actually even say "this is nice...when's it going on sale". I doubt very much they do that at Lord & Taylor.

I know that I and most all my peers truly love making the golf experience great for every patron or member. I personally give a free 1 hour lesson for every set of irons bought from my club, and actually adjust the irons to every individual. I'm never too busy to watch one more swing, and despite this commitment so many of us make, we do not have a group health plan, and most positions do not even offer benefits.

What I would like the PGA to do is establish a FIRST CLASS medical plan for all members. They CAN afford it. We also need to be supported by our membership and be treated as professionals worthy of decent compensation to make up for the sacrifices we make all season long. I don't think the author has a clue what the average pay is, and what 90+ % of us do during the course of our daily duties for the love of the game, or for the enjoyment of our patrons. Growth of the game, or having weekend warriors commit to improvement is not entirely on our shoulders. We are always available. All anyone has to do is ask for help, and not a single Pro I know wouldn't go give a free ten minute tune up to anyone who nicely asked us to just give them a quick look.

There will always be a few frustrated tour wanna-bes amongst our ranks, but they don't stay. The rest of us are here because we love the game, and like people. You can't be a good PGA professional, and not like to deal with people.

The success of the game and it's future is in good hands. As in any profession, there are dinosaurs, but they all die out. Trust us, work with us, support us, stop trying to nickle and dime us, and you will see how much we are willing to give of ourselves. Tiger supports the first tee, and shows up ever now and then for a photo op, but we are ones who donate our time, and collect equipment for the kids every summer. I am proud to be a PGA member. My father gave me the gift of golf, and it's something I will always cherish. Our time together on the course is something I would never trade. More parents need to sign up for lessons, and bring their kids along...the pro will gladly give the kids some of the lesson time, and I promise you, it's something they can do together for the rest of their lives.

Yes, the PGA is slow to change, and some obstinance is still in the mix, However our President, MG Orender is one of the most progressive and caring persons ever to reach such a position of importance, and I trust him as "keeper of the flame" and an individual who is accessible by all. Your writer should speak to this man, and he truly will see our great game is indeed in good hands.

James G Awad, PGA, Westport, Ct.

Not only are you off the mark, you are blind to what happens in the grass roots of the golf industry. Not only is the PGA by far the leaders in growing and sustaining the game, they are the only professional organization that makes it a priority to grow the game and to make golf a better game. It's no mistake that PGA Professionals are leading most of the clubs and courses in the nation. In my lifetime as PGA member I have given more free lessons than paid. I would venture to say the same of my fellow PGA Professionals.

I am promoting the game in the grocery store, restaurants and hospitals as well as my own club. The number of times that I have gone to speak about the game and the rules to civic organizations, women's groups, and golf clubs is staggering. Name another group that has come close to the dedication to the game that is shown by the PGA Professional every day! My list of game growing initiatives alone is enough to make an impact on my little corner of the world. There are about 28,000 of us out there doing the same thing.

Mike Healy, Head PGA Professional, Country Club of Maryland

Many of your comments on the PGA are probably due to them not wanting to do business with you, self serving at best. While publicly the PGA has to put on a game face, privately at the grass roots level, its PGA members are sustaining the game thru golf instruction and daily interaction with golfers. The economics of the game are what is hurting it and the fact that today's new golfers have been convinced by manufacturers and the media that they can buy a golf club and get a game. It has never worked! Scores are higher, golfer behavior is the worst in history, note a new rule about disqualification from an etiquette infraction!

Golf clubs across the world need to be more concerned with teaching the respect for the game and the golf course. This is being preached daily by PGA members, and yes does it need to be a more national effort, of course, but by all of the major golf organizations in the country/world. And especially on the tour, let them throw fans out for bad behavior, let them disqualify golfers for bad behavior, they are afraid because of economics.Its the good behavior traditions (sportsmanship) of the game that are being lost. Everyone has to contribute to bring that back, even you!

Rich Iwaszko, Golf Pro-Motons of Cape Cod

 
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