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August 6, 2008

Joe Steranka

Brian Whitcomb


JULIUS MASON: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, I'm Julius Mason, the Senior Director of Communications and Media Relations for the PGA of America. Thank you for joining us today at our annual PGA of America State of the Association News Conference.
Before we begin, there are some people that I would like to introduce, beginning with, our PGA of America Vice President, Jim Remy; PGA of America Secretary, Alan Wronowski, also in the front row; and our Honorary President, Roger Warren, also in the front row.
Our national officers are here as well as several members of the PGA of America Board of Directors and Past Presidents. Would also like to recognize Michigan PGA Section President Dave Kendall, and Executive Director, Kevin Helm joining us. Chief Operating Officer of Oakland Hills Country Club, Rick Bayliss is here; and general chairman of the 90th PGA Championship, Mike Mihalich is here; and Steve Cook, the Grounds Manager and Head Superintendent at Oakland Hills.
We are also joined today by five recipients of the PGA of America Journalism Scholarship Program for 2008. From Florida A&M university, Kimberly Dantica; from Michigan State University, Joey Nowak; from Notre Dame University, Lindsey Hough; from San Jose State University Pari Marie McIntyre, and from Temple University, Carlene Majorino. Very good, thanks for being here.
Now ladies and gentlemen, it's my pleasure to introduce the PGA of America President, Mr. Brian Whitcomb.
BRIAN WHITCOMB: Thank you, Julius, and good morning to each and every one of you, and a heartfelt thank-you from the PGA of America for your interest in covering the 90th PGA Championship on one of the most storied venues that America has at Oakland Hills Country Club.
We are thrilled, certainly, to be here, and it's through your pens and your lenses that, of course, will capture the wonderful images that the PGA Championship is all about; and peripherally what you will do by doing that, of course, is to increase interest in this great game of golf, the greatest game there is, certainly in my opinion. And so from the PGA of America to all of you, thank you for your interest.
I thought I would start off with our assessment of what's going on in the PGA of America and the golf world, with our charitable side of things. It's a very wholesome place to start. The knowledge that through the game of golf in America, that over $3 billion worth of charity are derived, charitable contributions, are derived through the golf courses in America that are represented by PGA professionals.
So it's an honor that the game of golf is able to be here, and we'll speak later on about some of the activities that are absolutely relative to the PGA Championship that goes on this week regarding some opportunities there.
And of course, as I mentioned already, the Oakland Hills Country Club, an unbelievable venue that as you can see just by walking the grounds is in impeccable condition, and is set to challenge the greatest players in the world in a major championship, and we look forward to Sunday afternoon when the Wannamaker Trophy is hoisted by a new champion.
We also need to look back just for a moment and I think if we look back at the first head professional at Oakland Hills Country Club, Mr. Walter Hagen, and recognize what his contributions were to the game of golf, to the PGA of America, and certainly to the PGA Championship, that we are thrilled, once again, to be right here at Oakland Hills for sure.
Then we slip forward in time just a little bit, and last week, we revisited in Philadelphia at Llanerch Country Club, which hosted the 1958 championship which Dow Finsterwald prevailed and hoisted the trophy, which represented the first stroke-play championship that the PGA had embarked upon. So a special celebration as we mark the 50th year of Dow Finsterwald's win and the initiation of stroke play in the PGA Championship.
As you know, and you've heard us say it before, that the PGA Championship, of the four majors, certainly is the strongest and deepest field; where this year we have 93 of the world's top hundred players and we have 68 international players representing 20 countries. It's an exciting time, and it fits to the culture of the PGA Championship that since 1994, has boasted the very strongest field in major championship golf, and it fits right into our strategy of making sure that the world's Top-100 and the dominant players on the PGA TOUR are invited to this great championship. So we are proud of that.
We are also proud of the changes that have taken place here at the Oakland Hills Country Club. We certainly started off with a beautiful canvas created by Donald Ross, and years went by, Robert Trent Jones, Senior had his hand print in some of the changes here at the Oakland Hills Country Club, and then more recently, in 2006, Rees Jones came in and made some changes to the golf course; where overall, 15 holes, 15 holes have been lengthened, several fairways have been narrowed, and the pond at No. 7 for example has been enlarged and of course you've seen some bunker changes on a lot of the holes, not only out in the fairway, but on the green-side bunkers.
So I think the golf course is certainly set and conditioned to challenge the players, and it's a professional field, the only all-professional field that major golf presents, and so we are excited about that. And at the same time we are equally excited about the fact that 20 club professionals from around the country that qualified a couple months ago in June at the Reynolds Plantation in Georgia will be representing the PGA of America, as well as their host clubs, as well as themselves in this 90th PGA Championship, it's a source of pride for us with the PGA of America. It does two things; it illustrates the skill sets that the PGA professionals still have, and it melds back in time to a time when the club professional was that touring professional.
So certainly as the President of PGA of America and, I hope for all of you, you know that there's some wonderful human interest stories that comprise the 20 club professionals you watch. As you watch the leaderboard this week, as all of you will be, I hope you'll also take a look and see where all of the club professionals fit. And of special interest in the State of Michigan is our 2008 National Champion, Scott Hebert.
So Scott, congratulations for the championship that you won at Reynolds Plantation, and we certainly look forward to your performance here at Oakland Hills in your home state of Michigan for you. So, Scott, congratulations.
I want to talk about a wonderful program here in the greater Detroit area, which of course is the Midnight Golf Program. It's a program that has been born and has a way of using the game of golf to better the lives of people that otherwise might never have been able to play this great game of golf and to enrich their lives. And it subscribes to children and young adults, ages 17 to 22. They have created $18 million of scholarships and financial aid for children to attend 64 colleges and universities within the United States. And it's a special program that hits close to my heart and I hope yours, too, that the game of golf can bring that opportunity for young men and women to improve their lives and I'm proud of our game that it does that.
And I want to recognize a PGA professional who has just done a wonderful job with the program, Terri Anthony Ryan. Terri, a PGA professional, our hat is off to the work that you do, and as well as the founder of Midnight golf, Renee Fluker, who has done a wonderful job with the program.
We have put together two public service announcements, one of which has to do with the Midnight Golf. And one of which has to do with the next item that I would like to visit about. So if you would roll those, please, for the audience.
(PSA played.)
BRIAN WHITCOMB: You'll be seeing a lot of these Public Service Announcements as time goes by, but it gives me a chance to boast about PGA professionals and how they are so passionate about using this great game of golf to enhance the lives of others.
And as you watch this 90th PGA Championship, yeah, you'll be reporting about birdies and pars and the great achievements of the world's best players, I hope you'll save a little bit of ink in those pens to write something about what the grass roots PGA professionals do. So I certainly tip my hat not only to Terri, but also to this gentlemen I will introduce in a moment, which has to do with our Patriot Golf Day.
I think all of you know we introduced last year on September 1 and it was born by a fantastic gentleman who happens to be a PGA professional who, through a set of circumstances in his walk of life, determined a course of action that the game of golf and PGA professionals and our Association could enhance the lives of the sons and daughters of our soldiers who have either paid the ultimate price of service or are severely wounded.
Last year we were able to have 3,400 golf courses take part in Patriot Golf Day on September 1 and raised $1.1 million and we were able to use those funds in our Folds of Honor Foundation to give out over 180 scholarships to date. We are very, very proud.
I just cannot think of a better set of circumstances to where this foundation and this effort was born than the person who did it, and I'd like to at this time certainly introduce to all of you, most of you probably know him, but he's got a new title, it's Major Dan Rooney. Dan? (Applause).
He represents the very best of us. He is an active pilot in the Oklahoma Air National Guard, and will be serving his third term of duty shortly overseas, and certainly we wish you safe travels for what you have done.
In the audience this morning we are so pleased and blessed to have three families who are among the first recipients of the scholarship through the Patriot Golf Day and I would like to welcome Ginger Ravella, and her two sons, Boston, and Greyson; welcome. Duane and Dawn Bucklin; it's my honor. And we have the Executive Director of the Folds of Honor Foundation, Major Ed Pulido.
So on August 29 through September 1, clubs throughout America will be engaging in Patriot Golf Weekend and we would certainly ask that with the efforts and the clout that all of you have that you would help promote that idea of raising funds for the most worthy of causes, and having golf courses sign up and participants who just play the game simply add a little bit to their greens fees or some other way of contributing to an opportunity to enrich the lives of these wonderful children, that so greatly deserve it.
So I appreciate all of that, and all of the guests that are here through the Folds of Honor and through the Patriot Golf effort, I just wish all the best.
And another very, very good story of course is every year at the PGA Championship, we honor an outstanding individual who has contributed significantly to the game of golf, and I think you know some of the recipients, anywhere from Mr. Hope to Arnold Palmer to Jack Nicklaus to wonderful people like that, and tomorrow night is no different, and we have got this wonderful gentleman, he's an honorary member of the PGA of America whose dream of playing the PGA TOUR was interrupted several decades ago, and yet picked himself up and determined another dream, has implemented those dreams and has given thousands of clinics and trick shots and messaging to community groups and most of which inner city groups; ladies and gentlemen, I just take one moment to introduce tonight's Distinguished Service Award winner, Mr. Dennis Walters. Dennis?
And I'll tell you on the very light side, if you haven't seen his show, it's unbelievable. I tell you, these TOUR players, wish they could package about 20 balls at 200 yards the way you can. I tell you, it's amazing your ability to hit a golf ball. It's very heartwarming and you have seeded dreams for thousands of children; you have a lot to be proud of.
At the same time, at the PGA of America, when we come to our championships or to any endeavor in different communities, we try to leave something behind and we also bring a community outreach program with us.
And this week was no different. Certainly at the Oakland University Country Club, I certainly thank PGA professional Bill Rogers for being such a marvelous host, and we had about 150 kids come out and take part in a clinic and an exhibition by Dennis Walters. And we had 40 professionals from the Michigan Section give lessons and we had a Play Golf America Day later on that afternoon which really stimulated a lot of activities.
In 2004 when the PGA last visited Oakland Hills for The Ryder Cup, we had 92 charities that we were able to participate in and now I believe we are up to 120 charities here in the greater metropolitan area where we have been able to introduce $275,000 worth of grants and programs, and so it is a special time for all of us and it's a time where the leave-behind by us visiting a community through our championships is very, very worthwhile and we are grateful for that.
This year we even had our 2007 PGA Teacher of the Year, Jim Hardy with us, and it was an excellent opportunity for people to get involved with this great game.
Lastly I wanted to speak about our scholarship program we have with the golf writers, and it's been a lot of fun for the PGA of America to take part in this and I wanted to introduce and thank the Golf Writers Chairman, Marino Parascenzo, thank you for the work that you do. (Applause).
We could not be any more thrilled to take part in that and to watch these great future writers take part in what we are doing.
Lastly, we have got another very exciting announcement to make, and we are here with some representation, which I will introduce in just a moment. The PGA of America is so proud to announce -- well, it's a returning partner, but a partner in an endeavor in 2016, and that's the golf club there at Baltusrol, and we are so proud to announce that the 2016 PGA Championship, the 98th edition, will be played at the Baltusrol Golf Club. So it's a great opportunity.
And with us today we have Mr. Rich Secrist, the President of Baltusrol, we are grateful for his presence. We have PGA professional Doug Steffen in the audience; Doug, wish you well and thank you for what you've done in the past, and it's going to be an exciting time.
And there's a gentleman I need to introduce, he's the Vice President of the Golf Course Superintendents Association, as well as the Head Superintendent at Baltusrol, Mr. Mark Kuhns, and Mark is an unbelievably skilled superintendent. In fact, if he's not in this room, it's because he's out there helping with the preparations at Oakland Hills, which talks about the fraternal aspect of our industry.
So with that, it's a great announcement and we look forward to it. I think most of you know that the PGA of America was born right there in New York right there in 1916. So for us to be able to host our Centennial Championship there at Baltusrol is a wonderful opportunity for us and we are honored to say that our friends at Baltusrol will have us as their partner in 2016.
Julius, really, that's what I have, and I look forward to hearing from our Chief Executive Officer. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.
JULIUS MASON: Brian Whitcomb, ladies and gentlemen. (Applause).
And from Palm Beach Gardens, ladies and gentlemen, the CEO of the PGA of America, Mr. Joe Steranka.
JOE STERANKA: Thank you, Julius, as Brian laid out, when you talk about $3.5 billion of charitable money being raised every year on the nation's golf courses. Sometimes that number is so large, it's hard to describe what it means. And so you saw some real-life people here in the audience that personify what golf does, and how it makes a difference in the lives of people.
In my role, I have been leading, with the help of the officers, an outreach of the PGA of America to help guide the economic, human, and environmental impact of our game. Earlier this week we had a government relations breakfast with Congressman Knollenberg from this area to talk about the stability and the resilience of the golf industry in some fairly challenging economic times.
Not just in this country or in the state, but certainly in the Detroit Metro Region, and the good news is that the $2 billion a year of the $76 billion that takes place here in the State of Michigan is pretty stable year over year. The 56,000 jobs out of the two million jobs nationwide in the golf industry that are made possible here in the State of Michigan are fairly stable, and it speaks, in these challenging economic times, just how important not only the game is, but as Brian often talks about, but what a terrific business it is, as well.
We also look at the -- in addition to the human and the economic impact, what our role is in the environment. And Brian mentioned Mark Kuhns, the Vice President of the Golf Course Superintendents Association. I'll be leaving this press conference to go join the meeting for the Environmental Institute for Golf which is a group of allied leaders led by the Golf Course Superintendents Association that are focused on golf's role in the sustainability of this country.
And we are very proud and confident that golf can be a best practice industry; not just best practice among sports, but really when you look at golf as bigger than the motion picture industry, bigger than the newspaper publishing industry in this country, it gives you some idea of the importance that golf should have as a leader in business, as well.
That leadership of the PGA of America in helping address the environment and economic and human impact of our game also extends beyond our borders. We are proud that we have been more aggressive than any other event in the United States, in inviting more international players; Brian mentioned 20 different countries being represented. So in this week of the lead-up to the Olympic Games, we are proud to have that type of international representation.
And the PGA of America is part of the World Golf Foundation. We are an active partner in lobbying the IOC to bring golf formally into the Olympic Games that would begin in 2016. Brian and I are actually going to Beijing in a few weeks as guests of NBC for the conclusion of the games, and hope to renew some conversations we've had with the China Golf Association which is taking the lead in helping golf grow in China.
You know, that focus on global leadership we think is important. We're blessed to have the largest golf economy in the world. We have more PGA professionals than any other country or any other territory, more golf courses, and a bigger part of the global economic market for golf. So we have been working with our allies, the PGA of Great Britain and Ireland, the PGA of Australia the PGA of Canada in a G-9 format. We had a global meeting in Australia this year.
You'll see, if you have a chance to look at the world feed at all and go down to the television compound or talk to folks who are viewing the PGA Championship worldwide, you'll see a global brand television commercial we have done with the other PGAs of the world, because those three initials, the PGA brand are three of the most recognizable initials in all of sports and in all of business.
One of the ways that we think we can showcase golf's positive impact in growing the game globally also is through exporting things such as our PGA Village. Many of you have been down to the PGA Village in Port St. Lucie-Florida, we have a Pete Dye and Tom Fazio golf course and a 35-acre learning center down there. Well, that footprint of golf and learning, you know how central to the identity of the PGA of America that teaching the game is to the millions of people who play the game, helping people hit better shots. You'll see that in more PGA Villages.
So in addition to the announcement about Baltusrol hosting the Championship and the centennial of the PGA, I am pleased to announce that we have agreed with Southworth Development to do the first International PGA Village, and it will be the PGA Village of the Bahamas. And it will be on one of the islands, called Cat Island, and coincidentally, the golf courses will be designed by a fellow named Rees Jones, who is pretty busy this week, as well.
But we are excited, and I met with the Prime Minister of the Bahamas; the Learning Center there at the PGA Village of the Bahamas will become a national academy for Bahamian youth to learn how to play the game, and we see golf becoming a big part of the Bahamas economy and it's that role that we believe the PGAs of the world and led by the PGA of America can have in having a positive impact economically and from a human standpoint and certainly from an environmental standpoint around the world.
A lot of how we tell the story, I mention about the television commercials, promoting the global PGA is through our television partners, and that starts through CBS and Turner Broadcasting which puts out 28 hours of High Definition coverage on CBS and TNT. But they also are the core of the world feed that then takes the PGA Championship to more than 550 million households. So to think that we are going to more than half a billion households around the world and showcasing this golf course and Bloomfield Township and the State of Michigan is pretty extraordinary.
For those of you who know the PGA, you know we do long-term partnerships and we have a couple of them that on the international front I'd like to recognize. Last year we announced that we extended our agreement with SKY Television in the U.K. for ten years, and this year, we are announcing that we have extended with TSN in Canada to broadcast the PGA Championship, The Ryder Cup, and the Senior PGA and the Grand Slam through the year 2020. We think that TSN is one of those premiere sports networks on the cable side in Canada, and is going to showcase all of the PGA events in a very first-class manner as they have.
So it gives you some sense that as much work as we do domestically to grow the game and manage the game and do great deeds, we do think that golf as an industry will be a global leader as well.
With that, I'll turn it back to Julius Mason and we can answer any of your questions.
JULIUS MASON: Joe Steranka, thank you very much and ladies and gentlemen, we'll take your questions.

Q. Joe or Brian, could you elaborate a little bit more about the selection of Baltusrol to hold the Centennial PGA Championship; was there any significance about Baltusrol and the great success in 2005 there that went into that decision making?
JOE STERANKA: It's one of the classic clubs in this country, and if you walk up on a point on the Upper Course, you can see the Manhattan skyline. So being in the New York metropolitan area for us was important, to be able to be near the birthplace. I know we'll have a lot of activities in the year leading up to that centennial championship.
But you're right, that championship on the Lower Course brought a whole group of people into the field and was one of the most dramatic moments. We'll try to finish it on Sunday this year, though.

Q. Just wondering if you can give us a little scouting report on Valhalla for The Ryder Cup, and how are things shaping up there? And also, how does the PGA use the PGA Championship and The Ryder Cup to increase exposure for the PGA of America as an association?
JOE STERANKA: Brian and I had a chance, boy, I guess it was early last year, to go in with Jack Nicklaus and take a look at updating a number of the green complexes to bring Valhalla up to stand the test, not just this year with the Ryder Cup, but for future events as well, and take a number of steps to make it perhaps the most spectator-friendly championship venue that there is.
We are blessed with some natural topography there, and by a tree-clearing program and some additional construction that we could warrant doing, you know, we get goosebumps thinking about what that back nine is going to feel like during The Ryder Cup Matches.
Brian, you were involved in walking around with Jack a little bit and looking at some of the viewing areas; do you want to share some comments?
BRIAN WHITCOMB: Strategically, Mr. Nicklaus and the PGA of America as well as Valhalla worked on ways to maximize the opportunity for the patrons when they are there to witness the most preeminent event in golf, The Ryder Cup, and we are excited about that.
I tell you, when you're there and you see that tree-clearing program or from behind the 11th green, you're looking down not only at the activities on 10 green and 11 green, but turn around and you are looking down to the 14th green and 15th, 16th fairway or from the 16th side of things where you have this broad expanse of opportunities to view golf.
It's just very, very exciting and closely aligns itself to what we are trying to present to the world with The Ryder Cup with regards to opportunities for people when they are there viewing this great event that they are able to see these great players challenging not only the golf course but one another.
I can also tell you that we talked about Mark Kuhns a few minutes ago and his great skills at Baltusrol. We have a gentleman on the turfgrass side, Mark Wilson, who has done an unbelievable job at Valhalla, changed those greens complexes in short order and has got the golf course in great condition. He has worked with Paul Azinger about what he would like to see turf conditions to be, as our captain leading up to that event, and has been a very important partner, if you will, in the preparation of Valhalla Golf Club to host The Ryder Cup.
So it's an exciting time and it is a very -- there's a lot of strategy involved in development of the preparation side of Valhalla to host its Ryder Cup. We are all very aware that the 1996 PGA Championship was hosted there, the PGA Championship was hosted at Valhalla, the 2004 Senior PGA Championship being hosted there at Valhalla.
So the golf course has been ready to stand the test of these great players, but we have done a lot to really enhance the spectator opportunities, as well as the overall turf conditions and some improvements to the golf course.
JOE STERANKA: And I think in a positive fashion, it is going to bring more of the crowd into the Ryder Cup. Left of 17, 6,000, 7,000 people can watch that hill and see four or five holes of the back nine from that one view area. And when you own the facility, you are able to do a few more things, but it's part of our commitment to give us the maximum home-field advantage and yet be a very gracious host when Europe comes over.

Q. I'm just wondering if you can talk about the meeting that you had with Hunter Mahan regarding the comments he made about The Ryder Cup.
JOE STERANKA: Hunter called my office last week and left a message and asked to meet with us this week, and personally apologize. He started out by saying, hey, I made a mistake. I said some things that were wrong and I've learned from my mistake, and I apologize.
It gave Brian and I a chance to educate a young man who has great golf talent and will contend in a lot of PGA Championships and hopefully make a few Ryder Cup teams and be a part of a very positive Ryder Cup experience. So we expressed our disappointment, I can tell you that, and, I don't know, Brian, do you want to add to that?
BRIAN WHITCOMB: Well, just that I certainly admire Hunter's willingness to acknowledge that maybe he said some things that he wish he could have said differently; that he reached out not only to our chief executive officer but to me as the president and also to our captain to express his dismay at a couple things he might have said differently. And it gave us an arena to, just as Joe said, quite frankly voice a couple of feelings that we might have had towards those comments.
And the whole idea of this, it was to put this behind us. Hunter Mahan is a wonderful talent, just unbelievable talent. He will, God willing, play in several Ryder Cups in the future; maybe next month. And we wish Hunter all the best. I think all of us can look within ourselves and recall times that we said things differently than we wish we would have said them, and in the end, let's put it behind us.
In the end, I said, let's wait until you play in a Ryder Cup and I'll let you form your own perspective from that, and let's immediate at the 50-yard line and see if you have a different perspective.
We respect the skills and the class and that Hunter came to us with apologies. We had a great talk and put it behind us and look forward to him playing this week as well as in future Ryder Cups.

Q. You talked about Paul and his involvement in the course setup. How important for both of you, Paul has talked about maybe captains in the past he has talked to didn't have as much involvement in that. How important is that for the PGA to have more involvement in the setup of things?
BRIAN WHITCOMB: Well, my involvement with Ryder Cup Captains spans, of course, Hal and Tom Lehman, and they had their own wonderful ways about them to try to do exactly what they thought was the best way to prepare their teams to be successful. We all sat there with great anticipation awaiting the outcome of The Ryder Cup, which, as you know, has not been favorable for the American side for a period of time.
Paul has got his way of going about it and in this case he chooses to take an active role on the course setup and he's got a great ally with Mark Wilson, the superintendent. And it goes a little to what Joe said; the PGA of America has an equity position and owns the Valhalla Golf Club, and it gives us a better opportunity to embrace those ideas that Paul has.
It's just a different captain's way of going about what he believes is the best way to position our team towards a positive outcome, and I've got to be honest with you, I'm excited about Paul Azinger, and I believe, like I did in 2004 and 2006, I had a good feeling then.
But I tell you, I'm excited about Paul and his strategy of what he's doing, not only with the picks, but the positioning of the players and the positioning of the players relative to the captain and the course conditions --
JOE STERANKA: Brian, don't tell him too much. We have Richard Hills from the European Ryder Cup out there. (Laughing).
BRIAN WHITCOMB: Well, it builds up to a wonderful event like it is, and I tell you, I tip my hat to the European Team who played so well for so long. But in the end regardless of where that Cup resides, regardless of what side of the Atlantic that Cup resides, the game of golf wins and the dignity that The European Team has carried the banner is heartwarming and we look forward to the time when the momentum changes to the American side and we hope it's in Valhalla a month from now.
JULIUS MASON: Questions? Questions twice? Thanks very much for joining us, ladies and gentlemen.

End of FastScripts

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