Resolution Declares April 16 As National Golf Day


April 16, 2008

By David Shefter, USGA

Golf is bigger than the motion-picture and video industry, bigger than newspaper publishing and exceeds revenues from professional and semi-professional spectator sports combined.

Fay

Such were the staggering numbers released Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., when April 16 was declared National Golf Day by a bipartisan Congressional resolution sponsored by U.S. Representatives John Mica (R-Florida) and Ron Klein (D-Florida).

National Golf Day was supported by all the chief leaders of golf organizations in this country, including USGA Executive Director David Fay; PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem; PGA of America Chief Executive Officer Joe Steranka; CEO of the World Golf Foundation Steve Mona; CEO of The First Tee Joe Louis Barrow Jr.; and Deputy Commissioner of the LPGA Tour Libba Galloway. It was also supported by the representatives from the National Golf Course Owners Association; Club Managers Association of America; National Golf Course Owners Association; Society of Golf Course Architects; and Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.

According to a comprehensive study, the 2005 Golf Economy Report, commissioned by the World Golf Foundation's GOLF 20/20 and recently completed by SRI International, the U.S. golf industry generated $76 billion in direct economic impact, up significantly from the $62 billion from 2000. The five-year growth of approximately $14 billion represents an annual growth of 4.1 percent, which is well ahead of the annual inflation rate of 2.5 percent from 2000-2005.

"We all know that golf is a great game," said Fay, who also is the Chairman of the World Golf Foundation. "It's a great game to play, [and] it's a great game to watch. But one of the messages that we have come to Washington to deliver is not only is it a great game, but it is a meaningful industry, it's a meaningful business. And you can feel that in terms of the economic impact, you can feel it in terms of the environmental impact and lastly you can feel it in terms of the human impact."

Initiatives such as Play Golf America, which is supported by all the major golf organizations including the USGA, have played a role in introducing game to more people, and more important, keep them in a sport they can enjoy for the rest of their lives.

Last year, PGA of America member Dan Rooney created Patriot Golf Day to help raise money for families who lost a loved one during the recent military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Through the support of the USGA and PGA of America, Rooney's project took place at some 3,000 golf facilities, raising $1.1 million to help pay for college for the sons, daughters and spouses of these fallen soldiers.

Joe Estes, another PGA professional, has led the Wounded Warriors program that helps injured soldiers, many of whom are amputees, enjoy the game of golf despite their disability. Steranka described one amputee having the ability to drive a golf ball 260 yards.

On the environmental side, the golf industry has taken a leadership role as a sound steward to ensure less water and pesticides are used to irrigate courses. Mona, who was the CEO of the Golf Course Superintendents Association for 14 years, pointed out that only 0.5 percent of the 408 billion gallons of water consumed each day actually is used on golf courses. In fact, more than 12 percent of all courses use recycled water and less than 15 percent of courses use municipal water.

"A lot of people perceive that golf is new to this 'green' movement," said Mona. "But the fact is that golf has been involved in what we term the 'green' movement for 2½ decades."

And on the human side, golf generated $3.5 billion in 2005 for charitable organizations. The USGA alone has given more than $59 million since announcing its For the Good of the Game Grants Initiative in 1997 and is the largest single contributor to The First Tee.  Golf's professional tours contribute $130 million annually to charities such as St. Jude's Hospital and Homes for Dysfunctional Families, which receive monies from the PGA Tour's Stanford St. Jude Championship in Memphis, Tenn., and the EDS Byron Nelson Championship in Irving, Texas, respectively.

"Golf is truly the unique platform for charitable giving and it has done so over the years," said Finchem. "The values that golf represents that we teach to our kids through the game, create this feeling of giving back. And secondly, golf in and of itself lends itself to giving and charitable activities.

"But the monies generated don't really tell the story of what the dollars do to impact people."

Broadening the game to juniors, women and minorities have long been key targets for these organizations. Throughout the month of June, golf courses around the country will offer women free golf lessons and golf-related networking and social activities through the LPGA's Women's Golf Month initiative.

In terms of making the game more affordable, Steranka pointed out that a family four can still enjoy a round of golf for less money than attending a professional sporting event.

"The average price of a nine-hole round of golf is $12," said Steranka. "I know there are places in Florida where I live that offer free golf to juniors during the off-season (summer months)."

Globally, the USGA and PGA Tour are working hard in an attempt to get golf back on the Olympic program for 2016, a place it hasn't been since the 1904 Games in St. Louis. The International Olympic Committee will discuss adding or deleting any new sports in the fall of 2009. The feeling is if golf does back into the Games, it could go a long way in developing the game in many countries where the sport still is in its infancy stage.

Certain logistics, of course, would need to be worked out, especially in terms of possible scheduling conflicts with major championships and other big tournaments. But Finchem believes these obstacles can be overcome.

"The decision will be made next year and the IOC has indicated several time that they are very interested," said Finchem, who blogged this week on pgatour.com about his strong feelings for adding golf to the Olympics. "But the IOC has their own bureaucracy and their own process to work through. They have a constitution that says if you are going to accept a new sport, you have to drop a sport. But I think we are prepared to work together in interfacing with the IOC to deal with our issues and give it our best chance."

The International Golf Federation, which conducts the biennial World Amateur Team Championships, has been pushing to have golf back in the Games, and with the professional tours offering support, that process can move forward.

"The good news is that each of those seven cities [bidding for the 2016 Games] could handle golf," said Fay, a joint secretary for the IGF along with the Royal and Ancient's Peter Dawson. "The good news is that golf would not require the building of a new stadium. The good news is that golf is a sport that lends itself to Paralympics competition."

A study conducted by the USGA and R&A of its IGF member countries came back overwhelmingly in support of having golf in the Olympics.

"If golf does become an Olympic sport," said Fay, "that would be the greatest act in terms of jump-starting the growth of the sport in our countries, in terms of possible revenue it could get from the IOC, in terms of possible revenue it could get from its national Olympic bodies and even in some cases, the government themselves. There's a lot of work to be done, but I think we are all eager to put our shoulder to the stone."

DavidShefteris a USGA staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at dshefter@usga.org.

  





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