home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


August 13, 2003

Jim Awtrey

M.G. Orender


JULIUS MASON: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the PGA State of the Association news conference where we have an opportunity to share some news about our association with you. Sharing that information with you is the PGA of America President, Mr. M.G. Orender, and the CEO of the PGA of America, Mr. Jim Awtrey.

Before we begin, I'd like to introduce a few special guests joining us today: From Kiawah Island, South Carolina, PGA of America Vice President Roger Warren. From Lost Tracks Golf Club in Bend, Oregon, Brian Whitcomb; and from Huntingdon Valley Country Club in Pennsylvania, PGA Honorary President Jack Connelly right next to him.

We are also lucky enough to have some of our board members and past presidents joining, our national officers with us in attendance, and with that said I'd like to go ahead and turn it over right now to Mr. M.G. Orender.

M.G. ORENDER: Thank you, Julius, and welcome to the Championship. It's going to be a memorable week. This is our association's most notable annual event.

The mission of the PGA of America since 1916 is unchanged the primary reason that the PGA of America was formed was for growth of the game. For more than 86 years, the PGA of America has distinguished itself as leaders in growing the game, teaching the game and promoting the game of golf. We have 28,000 men and women, apprentices and members in our association.

One of the ways that we accomplish the growth of the game is by using the financial resources that we have to support the growth of the game.

We started in 2001, we began a $2 million grant program, which I am proud to say as our last wave of grants that we gave out an additional $500,000. We have given out $2.3 million, which is a total of 66 grants through the cycle, so we have exceeded that goal by $300,000.

In addition to that, we have partnered with Jack Nicklaus and began a partnership in 2001 to create a $2 million endowment to provide teaching grants to certified First Tee chapters that had a PGA member on staff or part of the board to provide instruction to the public.

In total, we have given out 108,000 to 28 chapters nationwide and overall the PGA of America First Tee grants of more than $1 million, which brings our total support to the First Tee to over $5 million over the last five years.

Right here at Oak Hill, the PGA Foundation is conducting a PGA Community Relations Program. Starting in 2000, the PGA of America began doing a community outreach program just so that we could leave something in the community where we've held a major championship. This year, the program brings together 51 non-profit organizations in the western New York area. We give them tickets that they can use for juniors, access to hospitality, so that they can entertain and thank their supporters as a way to continue to grow the support base in western New York.

This past Monday, as part of that Community Relations Program, the Western New York PGA section hosted a junior clinic. Myself and the other officers had the pleasure to go by at different times of the day and attend. Over 200 children were touched. We had over 40 PGA professionals in attendance who gave up their time to go out and promote the game.

We are thrilled to be here in western New York and feel it's important to embrace all of the communities. As golf's largest organization with more than 28,000 men and women, the PGA of America is in a very unique position to lead the growth of the game. The interest in the game has risen thanks to great young players like Tiger Woods, Annika's wonderful performance this year at Colonial, and of course our own Suzy Whaley.

We have had an opportunity to witness the growth and interest in the game and the PGA continues to lead the efforts to turn that into participation. The PGA of America is very much a part of Golf 20/20, and we have partnered with the National Golf Course Owners Association to create a program called Link Up 2 Golf. This program is being administered and run underneath our marketing umbrella called Play Golf America, which we have a Web site called PlayGolfAmerica.com. It is designed to grow the game, to take people who are infrequent players, to give them an opportunity for a series of lessons and playing opportunities or to reach out to people who are now interested in playing the game and would like that opportunity to begin the game in a very fun, friendly, non-threatening environment and we are expanding that program across the country.

In addition to that, we formed the President's Council this spring, and I'm proud to say that between Link Up 2 Golf and the President's Council, we have had over 1,200 members, PGA members, respond in our first few months of this operation, and I think that we'll see some very good progress towards growth and participation in this country in rounds of golf.

We are also proud to continue to support the Executive Women's Golf Association. We provide them grants for development of their local chapters, the Executive Women's Golf Association now totals over 17,000 members that are not only avid golfers and customers on their own, but they positively influence corporate golf spending decisions, which again should help the golf industry that the PGA is so proud to represent.

The Grant Program began in 2001 with the EWGA and they now have over 20 new chapters and 1,000 new members just this year, and we hope to continue to assist them in adding ten more chapters.

PGA professionals have been challenged to implement innovative programs to grow participation while retaining and restoring customers and maximizing revenues. It is no secret that though the interest in the game is up, the participation has slowed lightly over the last couple seasons, and the PGA will take their position as the leaders in growing participation in the game.

For the sixth consecutive year, the PGA and Golf Digest have partnered in a growing called Play Golf America, which is our free lesson campaign in the month of May. This year we were joined by our partners at the Golf Channel and Nike, who joined our team to help promote the growth of the game and participation. We are thrilled to announce that we had a record 4,428 PGA members who gave freely of their time and gave over 80,000 free lessons to people during the month of May. These are just a few examples of ways that PGA members continue to give back.

Speaking of giving back, I would just like to reinvite you to the program tonight honoring Vince Gill as our Distinguished Service Award recipient. The Distinguished Service Award is given to an individual that through golf gives back not only to his community, but to the game of golf, and Vince certainly is a great example of that. He is only the second entertainer to receive that award; the first being Bob Hope who passed away this year. We would remind you tonight at 7:00 at the Eastman Kodak Theatre downtown you are more than we welcome to attend.

On a journalistic note, I am sure you have noticed that the PGA Magazine this month is celebrating 1,000 consecutive months of publication. The collectors issue you received with your media registration guide includes a reprinted 36-page premiere, first edition of the PGA Magazine which was initiated in May of 1920. So I hope that as you flip through the current magazine and look at the 1920 edition, that you think fondly of the PGA and the PGA members who are out there working hard to grow the game.

Thank you very much. (Applause).

JULIUS MASON: Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Jim Awtrey.

JIM AWTREY: Thank you, Julius, and good morning, everyone.

I want to talk about the golf course. It's a great opportunity to come back to Oak Hill. We have a wonderful relationship that goes back to the 1980 PGA Championship won by Jack Nicklaus and I think you'll recall, Jack was 5-under par; no one else was under par.

And the '95 Ryder Cup Matches which the USA almost won. When you look at that relationship, one of the great old courses, Donald Ross, certainly it is a unique opportunity to look at the modern-day player and the equipment, what it has done in all our minds and see how that applies to one of the great, old, traditional courses.

Obviously, it is a tight, tough golf course with a lot of rough, small greens, undulating and then obviously they will be fast. When you look at these old courses, certainly it's not without making some adjustments, and this year, we have added length to eight of the holes. Obviously, to try to keep the same shot value, and where the players are hitting a 7-iron 180 yards, 185 in some cases, that changes holes dramatically.

So you add that length, and we like to have the course fast, you would like to have the fairways firm, and it seems like that's been the most difficult thing to do over the last few years. In fact, I can't remember the last tournament we had that didn't rain, and I'm not sure the last major where it didn't rain.

But certainly, the golf course is the caliber of a golf course with the changes designed to test the best players in the world, to get all of the clubs in their bag into play and combine short, as well as long holes, so that you test every level of a player.

When you are looking at the Championship, we know that it's a strong field. We've talked about that every year. This year we have 96 of the Top-100 players in the world. When you look at the all-time strength of field based on rankings, you've seen five PGA Championships at the top of that list.

This year we have 27 players with a combined 50 major championships that are playing in the field and we have 60 international players representing 19 countries. When you look at the 60 international players, you reflect on the strategic direction the PGA chose a few years ago when we were looking at the quality and strength of the field, recognizing that the game of golf was changing and that it was really an international sport.

So taking advantage of that growth of golf all around the world and the country's commitment to that, we increased the invitation list to try to get more international players.

Obviously, you are well aware that recently in Santa Ana Pueblo in New Mexico we had our Club Professional Championship and 25 of our club professionals qualified for this event. We run that tournament as close to the major as we can. In all regards, it's televised, the golf courses are set up difficult, and these players play very well.

Obviously, it's a struggle when you're playing against the top 96 players in the world, but I take a great deal of pride in remembering that this game was all club professionals at one time. The players couldn't even earn enough money to live on the Tour. Talk to Byron Nelson. He'll tell you about the time he was an assistant golf professional and two years later he's playing on the Ryder Cup. It was not uncommon for professionals playing the Tour, winning tournaments and being club professionals back in those days. We look at this as part of the rich tradition and game of golf, as well as the PGA.

It is an all-professional field and we are often asked, "What's the unique characteristic of this event?" If you are looking at 60 international players, much more than any other event. And you're looking at an all-professional field; I believe it is the professional championship for golf around the world. That's the way we approach it. That's the way we try to invite the players and we manage the championship accordingly.

Obviously, the business side, you've got 27 hours of coverage on CBS and TNT for the week providing live coverage to 380 million people around the world, and that's in 186 countries. So obviously when we talk internationally, you talk about 60 players internationally, you have a broadcast that reaches out to that international audience.

This year we are pleased with a new agreement exclusive for radio with Westwood 1, which will be doing exclusive on-course radio broadcast and we'll have those rights through 2006. It adds ten hours of live coverage and a 30-minute late-night highlight program as part of that radio broadcast.

Friday represents the final day for the chance to register for the Ryder Cup drawing for tickets for the 35th Ryder Cup next year at Oakland Hills Country Club. People began registering three months ago on May 27 and there will be a random drawing held on September 30. They will announce on October 15. So certainly, in this environment, we feel good about golf.

This week, I can't say enough about Oak Hill Country Club. The volunteers, over 4,000. A commitment from this community when a championship comes to town, it is happening and it is a major event to them, and they combine all of their sports into golf for one week.

We are proud to be back here again. We think it's a wonderful golf course, and we look forward to a championship with these great players on one of the great old courses.

JULIUS MASON: Thanks, Jim.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you do have any questions, M.G. and Jim would be happy to entertain them.

Q. This is probably for Jim. As wonderful a history that Oak Hill has, Tom Watson was just at the podium and expressed concern that there is a distinct fear that with the technological advances in golf that have happened over the last couple of years, that courses such as Oak Hill, there's a fear that courses like this could become obsolete. Can you respond to that?

JIM AWTREY: Sure. I'd be happy to. I think we have to look at what we determine as obsolescence. First of all is obsolescence going from this course being resistant to par to players winning at 7- or 8-under par? If that's obsolescence, and the caliber of the play of today's player and the level of competition is greater, I'm not sure that in my mind is obsolescence.

Now, if you take a golf course and every hole out there becomes more than an 8-iron to a wedge, that's obsolescence. One thing I do think that we have almost made obsolete are par 5s. So the modern day architects builds a par-5 with a very high risk reward and tries to put a penalty into it, the old traditional golf courses didn't do that. We all know, there probably is a hole that they can't reach as a par 5 in two, but it's certainly got to be well over 600 yards.

So I share the concern, but we have always said in the PGA that we will set up a golf course as tough as we can. Meaning, driving accuracy, putting and hitting the ball to the right location on the green. But we've also said that we wouldn't go out of our way to protect par and cross the line of being unfair. So if we err, we are going to err on the side of the player and that will from time to time produce a little lower score, which you write about and say, is that a major if they are shooting 8-under, 10-under par; or, is that a TOUR event.

I think you have to look the at the best players, look at the overall number much players playing well, and recognize if you have 96 of the best 100 players in the world, there's going to be ten of those players on Sunday afternoon that are playing very well; and more than likely a couple of those players will play extraordinarily well.

It's a long answer, but I have a passion about that one.

Q. Could you address this, Tiger said yesterday that he felt the identity of this tournament was the field, and you outlined some of the efforts you made to make it as strong as it is. Are you happy with that, being the identity of this tournament compared to what characterizes the other majors?

M.G. ORENDER: Yeah, we are very satisfied with that. Jim and our senior staff set out with that about ten years ago to do two things. One is to build the strongest field of the majors; and No. 2, to go to the best venues, and Oak Hill obviously is a great example of that.

I think that, along with the way that we conduct the event and set up the golf course, if you ask the players in the field, I heard Hal in an interview earlier this week talk about what Kerry Haigh did last year on Saturday on the 16th hole where 40-mile-an-hour winds came up and he moved the tees forward.

So I think it's a combination of the strength of the field, the great venues. And as Jim mentioned earlier, we are not afraid of the players, if they can get it under par, that's fine. We are not afraid to set the golf course up tough, but fair, and let the best players in the world go out and play great golf.

JIM AWTREY: Well, I totally agree with everything that M.G. said there.

I would say that if the best player in the world says that the PGA Championship's distinguishing feature is the best field in the world, that's a pretty strong recommendation.

I think we all have to remember that when we are running a major championship, we are trying to test the best players by, in our case, and very similar, to the USGA, in the regard that you have rough. We may not always narrow down the fairways as much as they do, but we have rough and we have speed of greens and we try where we can to put the length in the course to get the shot value.

I think the difference comes down to how far you will go to get that score. I think that golf, no matter how we talk about the best players, testing and hard, it still is theater at the end. I think you can look back at the Championship the last few years and you've watched the finishes. I mean, if they are making a birdie coming down to the finish, and you had the exciting ones like we've had the last few years and they are the best players in the world or the best player in the world is being tested, I think that is a tribute and that is what the PGA is all about.

Q. The other side of the identity of this tournament is the presence of club pros in the field. There's been some discussion this week among some club pros I've talked to about a fear that there might be a further reduction of their number in the field in this tournament in the future. Could you address that?

JIM AWTREY: Well, go back to the objective. Get the best players in the world here, and repeatedly we have had 96, 98, I think as high as 99 out of the Top-100 players in the world. You go off the Tour list or a point world and you have the best players on the Tour. Someone is left out. If you ever get to the point where you can't have the best players in the field, then you have an issue for the club professionals.

But if we repeatedly come in here in the Top 5 events of all-time, and every year we are either the strongest field in golf or because somebody drops out, you are second, I'm not sure that we have a club professional problem at all. In fact, I think the club professionals add something. And everybody back home, I can assure you, they are watching them to see how they are playing.

What's playing well? A club professional makes the cut and beats half the field that didn't; that's pretty good.

Q. I asked you this question two years ago and I would like to ask you again. I've had the opportunity to go to the PGA Learning Center. It's an incredible experience, very rewarding and great for the game. Is there any chance that this might be brought to other areas in the country where the facility might be available other than just in Florida?

JIM AWTREY: We are looking at the opportunities to do a Learning Center. Certainly if we do another golf course project, we'd like to do one in conjunction with the golf course.

We are going to look at that and set some modeling, but you have to understand that this concept that we are doing, is not a business that returns off the investment in the ground. As I've said many times, you have to be willing to write off your cost of the land and your development of the Learning Center and then set your objectives to cover your operating costs and provide a service that grows the game.

We would like to do that and we will explore it. So I would not say that we are never going to do one, because I believe we will, but it's not something that's on the front burner right now, unless we do a golf course in conjunction with it.

Q. On the rough, several of the players have talked about how high the rough is. Is that a result of the rainy weather in the East or is it planned to be higher than perhaps usual or thicker than usual?

JIM AWTREY: I think you are at one of the primary areas in the country to grow rough. The rough was mowed last Friday and Saturday. When you get rain like this, we generally set that at four inches, give or take. You are trying to get the grass to stand up straight so the ball goes right to the bottom. Perfect world, the grass would stand up straight, every ball goes to the bottom so that it is consistent.

But when you have rain like this and you have those goals set, and the nights are cool like they are here, that produces growth, you are going to get longer grass. It was that way in 1980 because of rain and unfortunately we are at that point now.

Given the amount of rain and then the difficulty of starting to mow that at that four-inch height, it's going to be longer. I know a player was talking about, well, I saw you blow-drying it and combing it up. Well, we were trying just to dry it.

It's not a design here to be stronger than every year. We try to have good, strong rough every year. This one, this site grows really good rough, and every tournament they have had, the rough has been tall. I don't know that we'll get it mowed any lower than it is right now, and it's going to be very tough and you need to drive it very straight. And in the end, that is a major championship. But it was not by design to do more here than we ever did.

Q. How high is it?

JIM AWTREY: Well, the last time we mowed it, it was a little over four inches.

JULIUS MASON: Are you going to mow it again?

JIM AWTREY: I don't know I don't know whether we will mow it again. I don't know if you can mow it again. If your height has grown and it's six inches, you can't be mowing it back to four inches, not at tournament time, particularly when it's wet. You are going to get it inconsistent; you're going to lay it down, crack it down and if you do get a clean cut, you would have to bail it. I would plan on it not being mowed, and if you see the mowers going out, you know it really dried up and Kerry was able to do it.

Q. Earlier this year, some of the players on the European Tour were tested for drugs in France, and going forward in 2004, the PGA TOUR is going to have testing equipment at events. You have the PGA Championship and you have the Ryder Cup. How will you deal with both of those issues at those events going forward?

JIM AWTREY: Well, we will be observing, obviously, what happens. The Tour will determine whether they test equipment every week. They are talking like they will.

We will anticipate that regulation in every tournament golf, every week there's a tournament being held and that's being done, then we will take what they are providing us. We right now are not planning on or anticipating doing any separate testing. Still believe very strongly in the integrity of the players and the integrity of the game.

I think the question is: The equipment coming out, is it being tested properly; are there any clubs that are right on the line. And I think that's what we are going to find out if the Tour goes through with testing every week. Clubs are put in the hands of the players. They are not coming out, they are supposed to be conforming. We'll see immediately whether there's anything so close as to call into question the USGA's standards and require that we go back to the manufacturers with a stronger initial testing.

Q. Is that true for the Ryder Cup, as well?

JIM AWTREY: Yes, it will be the same thing with the Ryder Cup.

Q. You're going from an old Donald Ross this year to a six-year-old Pete Dye course next year. Can you talk about the decision to bring the PGA to Whistling Straits and what pushed that venue to the top of the list?

JIM AWTREY: That's a great question and I'm glad you asked it.

We said our strategy a few years ago was to play great, traditional golf courses and then periodically bring new golf courses into that mix. So we said you would probably see in a five-year span, you would see a new golf course introduced. We introduced Valhalla and we introduced Valhalla before we purchased the golf course. So that was not a contingency there.

Whistling Straits is unique. Golf courses start with a unique feature in a modern day golf tournament. People with money hire the best architect and say, I want a major championship, but it has to be a unique feature to those to fit, for us to insert one. Whistling Straits, while many people say was contrived, it was built on Lake Michigan, it was designed to look like Ireland. And I've said many times for a small kid from Oklahoma, that looks like an ocean. And it is designed to play as a links course, and even to the extent that fescue grass is used, because fescue can be created with a firmness to play the ball on the ground to offset the wind and some of the shots so that a player can bounce it in. That's not normal in the United States.

So that had a unique feature to it. And that uniqueness, with the modern-day player and the fact that it was not a development, had plenty of room, plenty of tees were built, so you had the flexibility of addressing the modern-day player was the reason we chose it.

Again, we had set that as an objective. And that golf course, I think, goes up to about 7,600 yards, which will be an interesting discussion between now and Thursday morning next year, or Wednesday, how long will it play.

JULIUS MASON: Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts....

About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297