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News from the NWGMA

Minutes from NWGMA meeting of 2/16/2019 at Seattle Golf Show

Minutes from NWGMA meeting of 2/16/2019 at Seattle Golf Show

The newsy annual opening meeting was attended by about 20 people in an upstairs meeting room at the Century Link Field Events Center. Members enjoyed free admission to the golf show thanks to Varsity Communications, which produces the show.

Association News

The Pacific Northwest Golf Association has agreed to provide non-financial support to the NWGMA. PNGA executive director Troy Andrew said his organization “will help behind the scenes” and that “details haven’t been worked out.”

The PNGA helped the NWGMA in a similar capacity 20 years ago after it was co-founded by Jeff Shelley and Bob Spiwak in 1995. PNGA assistance in publishing and distributing a monthly enewsletter is one example of how it is likely to help.

Shelley said, “We need to refresh the organization.” Membership has dropped and a big reason is that the number of golf journalists has declined.

President Bob Sherwin said vice-president Jim Street has resigned. Secretary Alfi Lau has been out of touch with fellow officers. Anyone interested in being an officer is asked to contact Sherwin or Shelley.

Legends Tour - Jan Stephenson

In what marked one of the biggest celebrity appearances in the history of the NWGMA, soon-to-be World Golf Hall of Fame member Jan Stephenson spoke at the meeting.

The big news, as announced by Sue Fracker of the Legends Tour staff, was that the Suquamish Clearwater Legends Cup presented by The Boeing Co. at White Horse Golf Club is being switched this year to a Friday-Saturday (June 7-8) event instead of a weekend event.

This will enable those participants who either need or want to attend the World Golf HOF gala induction dinner on Sunday, June 9, to make the event at Pebble Beach.

Fracker said the tournament at White Horse, outside Kingston, will have a field of 36 (up from 30) this year and that the purse has been boosted from $175,000 to $200,000.

Stephenson, whose career includes victories in three majors, has 41 worldwide triumphs, including the 1987 Safeco Classic at Meridian Valley Country Club outside Kent. Stephenson charmed attendees and called the HOF induction “a cherry” atop her career.

Talking about the state of golf, she said, “Golf has become a power sport. You used to say drive for show and putt for dough. That’s not true anymore. You want to hit it as far as you can no matter what. It doesn’t matter if it’s crooked or not. You’ve just got to hit it a long ways.”

She said old rivalries such as between her and Pat Bradley mellow on the Legends Tour. “It’s a lot different,” she said.

Premier Golf Update

Associate NWGMA member Bill Schickler, CEO and founder of Premier Golf Centers, said his company has formed a “working relationship” with OB Sports. Ryan Whitney, senior vice-president of operations for OB Sports, simultaneously will hold the same title with Premier.

OB Sports operates more than 50 courses in the western U.S., including two in Washington –Mill Creek Country Club and Gamble Sands in Okanogan County. Premier Golf operates 11 Seattle-area courses, including all three Seattle 18-hole municipal courses and Interbay Golf Center.

Schickler said holders of the Premier Golf card will be offered incentives to play OB Sports’ courses in such states as Oregon, Arizona and California. OB Sports cardholders will get incentives to escape desert heat in the summer and play Premier courses on visits to Seattle.

Schickler also said Toptracer technology, which tracks drives like on TV telecasts and provides gaming and virtual golf opportunities as well, is being introduced at Interbay and Jefferson Park. Golfers will have the option to pay an extra fee to use it. Schickler said information from balls struck while Toptracer technology is being used can be downloaded to a phone.

He said the novelty of Toptracer attracts new golfers and also boosts food and beverage sales because small groups make going to the range and using Toptracer a social outing. He said Premier hopes to add Toptracer technology at Bellevue Golf Course and Jackson Park. He said some physical improvements will be required at those facilities before the technology can be added.

Schickler said Premier is implementing “dynamic pricing” on greens fees. Under dynamic pricing – similar to airlines and hotels – costs for tee times will vary according to demand. Under this system, golfers with time flexibility who are more interested in price will be able to select tee times with lower prices while golfers more interested in convenience will pay more for premium tee times such as 8 o’clock Saturday morning. Schickler called it “truly a win-win” for golfers.

Schickler noted Premier’s courses had a good – in some cases record – year for revenue in 2018 and noted that an important factor was a year of excellent golf weather.

British Columbia Golf News

Kris Jonasson, CEO of the British Columbia Golf and longtime NWGMA associate member, said a participation study showed gains of about 50 percent in First Nations (Native Americans is the term we use south of the border) golfers. Jonasson is at the forefront of making golf more diverse as he is a member of the diversity task force for We Are Golf, an international coalition of golf’s leading organizations.

Jonasson noted that Royal Colwood Golf Club on Vancouver Island will host the Astor Cup tournament for women in the final week of August. Teams from South Africa, Great Britain-Ireland, New Zealand, Australia and Canada will participate. The tournament was first played in 1959.

Starting in March, British Columbia Golf will have seven women and five men on its board.

New Name for Women's Organization

Associate NWGMA member Cheri Brennan explained how the Executive Women’s Golf Association changed its name to the LPGA Amateur Golf Association last year. The organization, which seeks to provide a welcoming golf community for all women, is now aligned with the LPGA and LPGA Foundation.

Brennan said the LPGA Amateur Golf Association will be operating locally at nine courses this upcoming golf season. She noted a special membership offer is in effect until March 1. An information session will be held March 6 from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Total Wine store near Interbay at 1550 W Armory Way.

Other News

Five inductions into regional golf halls of fame will occur April 26 at Inglewood Golf Club in Kenmore.

Dan Hill, now the general manager at Broadmoor Golf Club, and Pat Fitzsimons, winner of eight Northwest pro “majors,” will be inducted into the Pacific Northwest Section PGA Hall of Fame.

Entering the Pacific Northwest Golf Association Hall of Fame will be: Bill Sander, winner of the 1976 U.S. Amateur and a 15-year tour professional; Rick Fehr, two-time winner on the PGA Tour; Kathy Mant, a Eugene native who won a national collegiate title at Arizona State, played on the LPGA Tour and is currently the winningest coach in the history of Georgia State women’s golf program.

By the way, 2019 is the 100th anniversary of Inglewood Golf Club.

Sylvies Valley Ranch

Randall Fitz, the director of golf at the new, award-winning resort in Eastern Oregon between Bend and Boise, gave members an update on the facility perhaps best known for its use of goats for caddies.

The reversible Hankins Course and Craddock Course (one is in use on odd-numbered days, the other even days) were designed by Dan Hixson, who also did Wine Valley outside Walla Walla. The facility also has the 7-hole McVeigh’s Gauntlet with a par-2 “bonus hole” and the family-friendly 9-hole Chief Egan Course, which is 875 yards.

The 140,000-acre property includes a working ranch and has 4,500 cattle and 3,000 goats. In addition to golf, guests can use three shooting ranges (on the pistol range you can fire an original Colt .45), go fly-fishing, horseback riding or take carriage rides. The resort also offers activities in the winter such as ice fishing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Minutes submitted by Craig Smith, NWGMA Secretary Emeritus