How the NWGMA Began
The Northwest Golf Media Association was founded in August 1995 by Jeff Shelley and Bob Spiwak. The idea for the group came as these two chatted around a campfire after a summer tournament at Spiwak’s Whispering Rattlesnakes Golf & Flubbers Club in Mazama, Wash. As long-time golf writers from the Northwest, they were lamenting that the Golf Writers Association of America didn’t pay much attention to their region and decided to do something about it.
At the time, Shelley and Spiwak were members of the GWAA but, primarily due to transportation costs, rarely traveled to the association’s annual shindig, held on the East Coast just prior to the Masters. They chose to do what any renegade Northwesterner would do: Form a regioinal media association that properly reflected an apppreciation for the beautiful golf being played on their home turf.
With Spiwak living in a remote part of north-central Washington, Shelley – a Seattleite – took the reins of promoting the new organization to his contacts in the golf media, while Spiwak did the same as best he could on the east of the Cascades. It didn’t hurt that at this time Shelley was the Media Director for the Fred Couples Invitational, a two-day event hosted by the Emerald City golf legend and which drew many PGA Tour stars as well as a lot of North American media. Jeff, his wife Anni and daughter Erica handed out “application forms” to media attending these tournaments. Many of these folks are founding members of the NWGMA.
It wasn’t a cake walk, however, as we cajoled and twisted arms to draw support from media folks from Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. With his volunteer time running short, Shelley went to the PNGA and requested assistance. Executive director John Bodenhamer, who later moved on to the USGA, kindly stepped in and helped, recognizing that the NWGMA served an important purpose in regional golf. For a few years, the PNGA handled the day-to-day operations, with its communications director, Angie Wean, installed as the NWGMA’s initial Managing Director.
Moving forward: In 1999, Bylaws were created for the NWGMA. Soon after, the NWGMA became a 501(c)7 nonprofit corporation. These steps led to an organizational structure with a Board of Directors consisting of a member-elected President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer and Managing Director. Membership categories – Regular (working golf media) and Associate (individuals from the Northwest golf industry) – were also established.
Shelley was the original president. He was followed in succession – and for various-length terms – by Paul Ramsdell, Guy Generaux, Tom Cade, John Tipping and Bob Sherwin. Wean was succeeded in the Managing Director position by Lisa Murray-Speltz and Anni Shelley.
To honor notable contributors from the media to Northwest golf, the Distinguished Service Award was created in 2000. Voted on by Regular members, Doug McArthur was its first recipient. Subsequent honorees include media members from throughout the Northwest. In 2010, the Local Legends Award was originated. Spiwak was its first recipient.
The Northwest Golf Media Association will celebrate its 25th Anniversary in the year 2020. Its co-founders and all its original members thank those who’ve helped the organization get this far.