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August 10, 2011
JOHNS CREEK, GEORGIA
JULIUS MASON: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I'm The PGA of America's Julius Mason and I would like to welcome you to the season's final major, Glory's Last Shot, The PGA Championship, as well as The PGA of America State of the Association news conference.
There are some people that I would like to recognize, as everybody is coming in and getting settled. First, from the Georgia PGA Section, Executive Director President Mike Paull is with us.
And from the Atlanta Athletic Club, PGA Director of Golf, Rick Anderson, right over here.
And to get to the news at hand, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome all the way from Hillendale Country Club in Phoenix, Maryland, the 37th President of The PGA of America, Mr. Allen Wronowski. Allen?
ALLEN WRONOWSKI: Thank you, Julius, and good morning, everyone. Thank you for being here. Can't tell you how excited we have all been all week, and I guess I've been excited for a little bit longer.
I got to come here in September and spend some time with our general chair, Tom Adderhold, and his executive committee, and I knew that this was going to be a very, very special event.
It's a special year for The PGA of America as we celebrate our 95th anniversary and counting down to our Centennial year in 2016. It's amazing the that the pillars that the Association was founded on right from 1916 still hold today; that the values of what we do, the teaching of the game, the promoting of the game, the playing the game are still so important to the 27,000 men and women professionals that I represent.
We have so many of our professionals of the 27,000 that go to work each and every day to promote the interests and the participation in the game of golf that we are all so passionate about. It's my privilege to be here and represent that group of individuals.
And the PGA Championship this week, it's Glory's Last Shot, the last opportunity for someone to etch their name in history. We have the strongest field in golf with 100 of the top 102 players in the world. We have 88 international players in our field representing 20 countries, more than any of the U.S. events this year.
And again, to remind you, this is the only major championship with an all-professional field, including our 20 club professionals who qualified through our Professional National Championship at Hershey Country Club at the end of June. And two of the noteworthies, David Hutsell, our champion, close personal interest; I've known David for 12 years and he works at a facility about half an hour away from me and one of the co-workers that he has is my stepson, Rob Chase. It was fun to watch David win, and I know what he has done to accomplish golf at that high of a level, and I know he's excited about being here this week.
We also have a local favorite with Craig Stevens from nearby Dallas, Georgia.
I'd like to thank again, I know that Mike Paull and what the Georgia Section has done is absolutely fantastic with over 800 in his fold of Georgia professionals. They have about a quarter of those people, and on Monday they did an outstanding job with over 30 people here in the community relations day that we had over at River Pines. That was a great day, and thank you to the Georgia Section.
Also a very special individual and one of our master professionals in The PGA of America, it takes quite a lot of commitment and dedication to achieve that status. I've gotten to know him through the Rules Committee of The PGA of America, Rick Anderson, the director of golf here, has done an outstanding job.
This is our third visit to the Atlanta Athletic Club. 1981, Larry Nelson and the famous 5-iron; and then in 2001, we certainly remember David Toms and that hole-in-one he made, and he showed that his vertical jump was about 60 inches and he went on his way to win. He's a great champion.
The golf course has had renovations done to it and some changes. Rees Jones did those. He used a lot of the new, advanced technology and a lot of the fabulous grasses that we have in this day and age. Changes that you'll really see are on holes 1, 4, 14 and 15 with the new tees. Some of the water features have been enlarged, including the extensions of the pond on holes No. 7, to the front left portion and to the green of No. 6.
The water comes in play now on hole No. 6.
The pond on No. 11 was expanded at the rear of the green which can affect any shot long or right.
The tees, collars, approaches and green surrounds are cut at fairway height, and fairways will feature a new grass, which everybody is excited about; it's kind of like setting the ball up on a range tee; the Diamond Zoysia is absolutely spectacular. Also the greens are redone with the new champion bermudagrass and it has been exciting from day one.
The players have absolutely raved about the golf course and the conditions. All the kudos in the world to their superintendent, Mr. Ken Mangum. He has done just an outstanding job.
And what the members here have done is something you normally don't see in an event. For the last five weeks, nobody has hit a shot off the grass. The fairways and roughs were protected. The members went out when they played with mats, and they didn't hit any shots off the turf. So you have some of the most beautiful fairways, other than a brand new growing golf course, that I've ever seen.
It was interesting enough that poor Rick, unfortunately, had a few phone calls that some people have some issues in the bunkers and they were trying to use the mats in the bunkers, as well, but he explained to them that they didn't need to be protected.
The new grasses are really important in this day and age in the fact that it reduces the need for mowing, and it significantly reduces the carbon footprint that's left. The greens, tees and fairway mowers are using a new hybrid technology which we are excited about, and I think we what we are excited, too, playing a championship in August, as we know, with the weather can be pretty doggone challenging and you are concerned about what you're going to leave behind after the championship is over.
What we are excited about is all of the folks that play here come Tuesday, come the week after, come the month after, we will have absolutely spectacular conditions because it just can't get hot enough, harsh enough, anything for these grasses, so we are excited about that.
Let me jump to one of our initiatives that began July 5 and ran through July 17 and is going to continue for a long time after, I promise, the Tee It Forward program. It was designed and thought of to help golfers have more fun and play a whole lot faster. It came out of discussions that we had had with Barney Adams, and about what are the length of our average players playing a golf course.
Certainly we have seen the lengthening and think of the lengthening about what they are playing at this level, but with the average person, are they really playing a yardage that's conducive for them to maximize that golf experience?
And when you really looked at the average man hitting the tee ball 225 yards and playing a 6,700-yard golf course, that was like the players in this championship going to a -- instead of a 7,400-yard golf course with their length and hitting it about 290, playing an 8,200-yard golf course, that wouldn't make a lot of sense.
You also had the players go out and hit shots with hybrids and 3-woods into greens, and that didn't seem to be a really enjoyable experience, even as good as they are. So the average person in the audience is trying to do that; that's not going to be a whole lot of fun for them.
We put the Tee It Forward program in at Hillendale. One of my members jumped in right after they tried it and said, "That's the first time I've shot anything in the 80s in about five years. And I was thinking about giving up the game, and that was fun."
And I can think of, at Hillendale where I work, when I first went there in 1979, we had three sets of tees and now we have seven, between some that we have added and some that we are using the course within a course and making a hybrid addition to them.
So it's had great success. Let me give you some numbers. The number of facilities that have officially registered and used it was just under 2,000. The average number of golfers at a facility using the guidelines was 123. We projected to do just shy of a quarter of a million golfers who tried the Tee It Forward Program. 86 percent of the facilities that used it are going to continue promoting the program through the rest of this year.
There was an online survey of some of the consumers that used Tee It Forward, and of over 2,000 responses, 70 percent of those people found the game to be more enjoyable.
This is the really good part, too, for a lot of us: Almost 50 percent of the respondents said that they played faster. Again I've heard a lot of people say, if you can cut 15, 20 minutes off a round of golf; in this day and age when we think about two of the key factors for making golf attractive, is fun and fast.
90 percent said we are going to do that again and a whole lot more, so that was extremely good. We did also have one bright spot that we had one of our participants actually make a hole-in-one on a green that they couldn't even have reached before, so that was really exciting.
Now let me turn pages to Patriot golf Day and the Folds of Honor Foundation; Barney is right there.
The Patriot Golf Day and the Folds of Honor Foundation, it's definitely been an extremely successful program. We are so proud of the efforts of Major Dan Rooney and The PGA of America members who have supported he and the cause. To date, there's been over $8.6 million that have been raised for this great cause. The total number of scholarships will exceed 2,400 in 2011 and all 50 states and 41 PGA sections have been awarded scholarships to members in those sections and the deserving candidates, as well as international.
I think Dan is with us, as well as Major Ed Pulido. Major Ed Pulido is the vice president of the Folds of Honor Foundation, and I was really happy to find out last month that I am going to have the honor and privilege of kicking off Patriot Golf Day and Patriot Weekend over Labor Day; that I will get to play with Major Dan Rooney and Major Ed Pulido and George W. Bush in Dallas (pausing). It scared me, too. It's awesome.
And while we are on the military thing, let me remind you something about this championship; that anybody that's active or retired military will get to come in for free, no charge. (Applause.) Thank you.
Community Relations Program, all of our championships, we try not to just come in and run a tournament. It's a lot more than that. And it's coming in and making a footprint in the community, leaving something behind as we go. We had a great day Monday with our outreach in the youth clinic for the sports youth clinic with over 30 PGA members, and there was over 300 people in attendance for that.
But for the week we are looking at supporting 35 local charities. An estimated $300 million will go to over 225 Georgia charities in the last ten years between the 2001 and 2011 championship.
Junior golf. A lot of you know that I have been passionate and a lot of my love has been about kids and growing the game of golf and what juniors mean to us. This summer we conducted The Ryder Cup Junior Golf Academy. It was an idea that came out of one of our dinners with the past captains of The Ryder Cup four years ago. It's one of those programs that you think is a good idea when you first talk about it, and then when you actually implement it, you find out it's a great idea.
There are two other programs. We had one in June and one in July. I attended the debut program in June. It was just phenomenal watching the kids with their eyes. We were at our home site, PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, and we did wood fitting, iron fitting, putter fitting, we had course management classes. We had a sports psychologist in there. We had David Donatucci, our fitness guru, working with our fitness and nutrition aspect. One of the kids came up to me after the second day and said: This is like the Disney World of golf; this is unbelievable; anything you could want or imagine was here.
And there was a special treat; we had one of our past captains, Lanny Wadkins, and a surprise visit by team member who Dustin Johnson came in. If you had seen the kids watch those two, it was absolutely one of the finest experiences I've ever had. Unfortunately I had to be away for the second one, but our Honorary President, Jim Remy, was there and said it was every bit as good as that or better. We had our past captains with Dow Finsterwald and Billy Casper and Hal Sutton come in.
And again, the kids just had a phenomenal experience. I had so many e-mail messages from them; it was very, very good. It was a way to teach the kids in a way about what The Ryder Cup is about and a lot about the different forms of play between stroke play and match play.
For those of you that don't know and haven't seen it yet, the PGA, USGA, African American Pioneers Exhibit at CNN Center has been opened. It's a new alliance between our association and the USGA, and it's intended to preserve and further the history of African American golf in the country.
It's very exciting. It's awesome. I'm going to get to go over there I think Thursday. It chronicles the accomplishments of African-Americans both nationally with John Chippen, Bill Powell and Joe Louis; and in the -- Metro Atlanta -- community of Jeff Dunovant and William Lewis. It's at the CNN Atrium Center and it's open to the public; it's open through August 31 and free to the public.
Tonight, I know that we are excited to go to our DSA Award presentation, and it is Larry Nelson. Again, just one of the finest gentlemen. That's one of the deals that you get to do as president is to make those phone calls to tell somebody, and Larry's reaction was just absolutely amazing. He's just a fine gentleman and he's going to be a great representative of the award.
As you know, he's an Atlanta area native and grew up in Acworth and lives in Marietta currently. He is a World Golf Hall of Fame Member. He was the 1987 and 1981 Champion; and again, in '81 he won here at Atlanta Athletic Club, and in '87 he won at PGA National. He was the 1983 U.S. Open Champion at Oakmont, and he is completing and playing this week in the 2011 PGA Championship and just a fine, outstanding person.
Again, we'll be at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center tonight, and our entertainment will be one of our other past Distinguished Service Award award winners, Mr. Vince Gill. So I know we're looking forward to a fantastic evening.
So with that, let me turn it over to our Chief Executive officer and honorary member, Joe Steranka.
JOE STERANKA: Welcome, everyone. This championship is one of the few times during the year along with our PGA Merchandise Show we get a chance to brief you on the state of the golf industry, and we just need to look backwards at what's happened already this week in the global financial markets to realize they are uncertain times.
I'm pleased to say that golf is one of the stable industries despite all of this, and since the start of the recession here in the United States, our customer visits that we measure by rounds played are down just 6.3 percent.
July marked the second consecutive month of rounds played being up year over year. Here in our host State of Georgia, rounds played are up nine percent this year, one of 20 states here in America that have had the year-over-year increases along with 27 states that participation has been down.
But if you look back from 2010 to 2011, a lot has changed. So to say that our overall participation rate, rounds played, are down two percent, which again speaks to a stable industry. More importantly, you can't take rounds to your banker for financing, so we look at total golf revenues that are about flat year over year.
So, very pleased, again, with the message that we are able to share and put the spotlight on the economy of golf, because hey, let's face it, we are all invested in here. There's a reason your media outlets allow you to come and cover this championship is because of the entertainment part of the industry.
We had Governor Nathan Deal for Georgia come here yesterday and do a government relations luncheon, and to think that governors continue to have time; there's a lot going on in their world, he's CEO of an $18-billion-a-year budget here in the State of Georgia.
But his point was, in part to celebrate Georgia Golf Day, but for the 57,000 residents of the State of Georgia who have about $1.5 billion in wages, every day is Georgia Golf Day.
Golf is big business for the state. It's a total economy of about $5 billion; one in $5 comes from golf tourism and it's events such as the PGA Championship that will spike an economic impact of some $50 million here for the local community that contribute to that.
Another thing that we are proud of is the ability, because of the stability of golf, that we are maintaining our influence, not just in this state, but in communities around the nation in providing jobs. The golf course industry is driven very much on the backs of small businesses. 90 percent of America's 16,000 facilities are individually owned and operated and employ an average of some 40 people that are able to put food on the table for their families.
There's a reason that we go to Washington, D.C. and meet with members of Congress. We had the staff of Georgia members of Congress and Senators here today; the reason I went and met with our U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Gary Locke, who is going on to be our Ambassador to China, to explain the economic impact and to attempt to level the playing field somewhat when it comes to certain legislation.
Disaster relief legislation, which those of you who cover industry know, is one of the things that we have asked for help in Washington, D.C. Golf was excluded from tax relief legislation in the aftermath of the Katrina disaster and other natural disasters.
So we are pleased with the work that Senator John Kerry in the Senate and Ron Kind, our Congressman in the House, have done to put forward disaster relief legislation that cleans up that exemption. And the golf caucus that's headed by Congressman Baca from California on the democratic side and Andrew Crenshaw from Jacksonville on the republican side, so it's a great bipartisan group. They enjoy golf, but they also realize that golf is good for their communities and it deserves that same support that other industries enjoy.
A big part of any industry that is focused on discretionary time and money; the tourism part of our industry and the time that people spend with friends and family is corporate support, because not only is it something folks can enjoy individually, but they can bring their corporate guests out to play golf. They can bring them to the PGA Championship.
So this year, we are up around 113 different companies have invested some level of support in this PGA Championship in terms of corporate hospitality, new executive suites that you see at 14, overlooking 14, 15 and 16; traditional chalets, corporate tables. It says that companies are coming back and spending money on sporting events, and it's the highest number of companies we have had investing in the PGA Championship since 2008. We think that's a good sign for golf and a good sign at the value that sports provides.
We are also pleased that in the last year, we renewed our agreement with American Express, so you'll see great interactive displays from American Express, from Mercedes-Benz USA, from the Royal Bank of Canada that combine good, old-fashioned golf instruction, led by PGA professionals; but by technology that brings younger people in, more families in to their exhibits and very much aligns with the PGA of America's focus on developing the next generation of golfers.
This week also marks the debut of a great new partner for The PGA of America, and you see it in the red OMEGA clocks that are on the course. And I had the great pleasure of meeting Stephen Urquhart at The Open Championship at Sandwich, and celebrating an agreement that began in July that traced its origins back to a conversation that I had with Greg Norman at the start of this year. But OMEGA is well known for timekeeping at some of the most important sporting events in the entire world, namely, the Olympic Games.
And so to bring your resources of your company and your support in promoting our championship, not just in America, but around the globe means a great deal to us, so thank you, Stephen. (Applause).
And one of the ways that we have seen to maintain golf participation is reminding people, not just as Barney Adams does with Tee It Forward how much fun the game is if you're playing from the proper set of tees, but how many other things that you can cross off on that personal to-do list.
Let's face it: Golf is an antidote for very busy people's lifestyles, so we all want to spend more times with our friends and our family, and we are supposed to exercise and get some me time and reduce stress.
So we have been very much supportive of industry initiatives that promote the health and wellness benefits of golf. It is the reason that we have met with the White House and adopted the Let's Move campaign within all of the junior golf programming, our section programming.
But we were looking for a third-party endorsement of getting an expert in the health community, and found with the Hospital for Special Surgery, HSS, a great partner. And their CEO, Lou Shapiro, is here with us this morning. We have got these pedometers, and I did 1,904 the first day and 2,800 the second day and up to 3,181 today. So you can calculate, as I think those of you in the media are getting, how many miles and calories burned that relates to.
But again, it's one of those reminders that whether it's nine holes of golf, three holes of golf, 18 holes of golf, it's time well spent and a great return on the investment of time. And in today's busy world, I think that's what is resonating as much as anything.
So, again, thank you for your support of this championship. It is one of those times, every so often, four times a year where the whole world stops and the dateline is Johns Creek, and they look at what's going on in the world of sport and specifically our world of golf. When you have the greatest players playing a course set up by Kerry Haigh, who is really one of the best, and we know we are going to have another dramatic conclusion to major championship golf this year.
Thank you, and I'll turn it back to it Julius and open it to questions.
JULIUS MASON: Joe Steranka, Allen Wronowski, thank you very much.
Q. I had a question for you. This morning, Rory McIlroy was asked about the Olympics, is he going to participate, and one of the reporters mentioned that all of the golf major championships that year might just move up a bit to accommodate the Olympics being held at the same date normally of the PGA Championship. How is that going to work? Who is going to take charge of talking to everybody to do that?
JOE STERANKA: We have the International Golf Federation, which has an Olympic Committee and I sit on that board along with the leadership of the PGA TOUR, the LPGA, the USGA. So that has been part of the discussion since the formative stages of submitting our proposal to the IOC.
So we have a tentative plan, and the PGA Tour is working toward that and their new television discussions with the networks and how they are going to schedule golf through 2016.
Q. This is the first major championship that's allowing fans to bring in smartphones during competition time. I know there's quite a bit of chatter in the social media outlets. What was the rationale behind that decision, and what is the PGA hoping to create throughout the tournament with the fans out there with their phones?
ALLEN WRONOWSKI: It had already been proven and tested. We did it at our Senior PGA Championship at Valhalla. The instances were so minimal you can't even think about it. The PGA Tour tried it as a pilot program last year and that's when they implemented it for all of their events this year.
So we did not even hesitate. We knew it was right to do for this championship, because it enhances the experience. It allows you to you download the application for the championship at PGA.COM -- did I say PGA.COM? (Chuckling) Okay.
Also, it let's you stay in contact with the world, and in this day and age with the way business is and the way our lives are, it's hard to be out of touch for eight or ten hours. That allows you the opportunity to stay in contact with the world and you can take a break every two hours. And we know people already respectful and only use the phones in the proper areas for the mobile devices for making phone calls. We know that everybody will be more than polite and respect the players and not take pictures, and it allows you, also, to kind of showcase where you are with the social media. I've had a good friend of mine through PGA.COM help me get on ÃƒÅ“ber Social and Facebook and Twitter, and it's amazing how it helps generate that interest and excitement.
I have a few of my members coming back this year who are ecstatic because of trying to connect with one another on a pretty big piece of property can be a challenge. So if one of them gets lost from one another, it's a lot more expeditious to find each other. So, we are excited.
JULIUS MASON: Questions? Questions twice?
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for joining us.
Thank you very much for joining us.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports