USGA's First Ever Member Education Series Viewed A Success

 

By John Companiotte

Village of Pinehurst, N.C. – Bright sunshine and brilliant fall foliage added vivid color to the festivities at the inaugural USGA Member Education Series at the Pinehurst Resort Nov. 6-8.

 

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 More than 100 participants took advantage of this special opportunity to learn about the USGA’s core functions through a series of special programs that provided “insider” access to how staff members and volunteers execute vital Association duties.

Attendees also took pleasure in of one of golf’s premier destinations and championship venues by playing one round each on Pinehurst’s legendary No. 2 and No. 4 courses. The former layout has hosted two U.S. Opens and will be the host venue for a historic U.S. Open/U.S. Women’s Open double in 2014.

It was the program’s diversity that drew USGA Members to Pinehurst. Andy Moore of Shorter, Ala., reserved his spot immediately after receiving an e-mail from the USGA announcing the event.

"It was a good value for a great golf destination, with the added appeal of enhancing my appreciation of what the USGA does for golf," said Moore. "I called my regular golf partner and told him we were doing this. Hosting a U.S. Open identifies a course as among the best, so this was an irresistible opportunity."

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In a clinic on Pinehurst No. 2's 18th hole, Morgan Pressel displays a variety of
shots out of a greenside bunker. (Chris Record/USGA)
 

Added Kris Kristensen of Woodland, Calif., part of a foursome of friends who had never played golf in the Southeast: "The invitation from the USGA Members program was very welcome," said Kristensen. "Having seen on television the recent U.S. Opens played at Pinehurst, we knew about the quality of Pinehurst No. 2.”

The presentations began Friday night with Dick Rugge, the USGA’s senior technical director, sharing his thoughts on some of the more intriguing technological issues in golf equipment.
He explained the policies and role of the USGA and R&A with regard to regulating equipment. Rugge also extolled the importance of preserving the elements of skill that define the game.

Rugge demonstrated, for example, the evolution of drivers, comparing a 150 cc driver made around 1988 with one of today's titanium 460 cc driver heads. As he held up the smaller club, Rugge said, "This is not a 3-wood, although next to the larger club it doesn't look like a driver."

He described how today’s larger clubfaces allow golfers to generate greater swing speeds because the concern about a mishit is not as significant as with drivers from 20 years ago.

A panel discussion on Saturday morning featured Rugge; North Carolina resident Jim Hyler, who has been nominated to become the USGA’s next president in February; USGA Chief Business Officer Pete Bevacqua and current LPGA Tour player Morgan Pressel, the 2005 U.S. Women's Amateur champion. Members submitted topical questions that the three took turns answering. One of them had Pressel reminiscing about her victory in the 2004 North and South Women’s Amateur at age 16 that was held on Pinehurst No. 2.

At her morning short-game clinic, Pressel interacted with a group that had assembled around No. 2’s 18th green, demonstrating and explaining the best ways to play a variety of shots. The affable Pressel provided a lesson in bunker play, drawing on experience and humor, that captivated the lookers-on. Later that afternoon, she visited with every foursome at some point during their round on Pinehurst No. 4, a Tom Fazio design that was used as the second stroke-play qualifying course at the 2008 U.S. Amateur.

During Saturday night's dinner, Hyler elaborated about changes implemented to the USGA's championship-course preparation policy over the past several years. He led a discussion called “How To Challenge The World’s Best Players,” in which he described the process of setting up a golf course for a national championship.

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USGA Vice President Jim Hyler, who gave a talk about championship setup
philosophy, takes in Morgan Pressel's clinic. (Chris Record/USGA)
 

"We want to have a fair but stern test for golfers," said Hyler. "We are committed to responding to course conditions as they evolve during a championship week. That may include moving a teeing ground, reacting to moisture on the course, or wind and how it dries out the greens."

Participants spanning from all over the country left Pinehurst not only with fond memories but also with a better appreciation for the USGA.

New Jersey residents David and Fern Epstein shared how every family vacation included golf while raising their children. "Golf is a great family activity," said David. "My wife and I are active in working at tournaments, so we are aware of how the USGA supports the game. And playing at Pinehurst is definitely one of those experiences that you make sure you do at least once."

John Silverberg of Phoenix added: "I've been to Scotland and other good golf destinations, but this is one trip I did not want to miss. I thought that because it was a USGA Members program [event] that I would meet other people not just with a similar interest in playing golf, but an appreciation of how golf is a good influence. The whole weekend has been informative and fun.”

John Companiotte is an author and a member of the USGA Communications Committee.

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