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More whistles, more bells

Alliance aims to maximize golf’s power

Mention golf today and the first thought that comes to most people is Tiger Woods, the player.  But Woods is more than just a player.  He is big business, having almost reached the $1 billion mark in revenue during his relatively short time on the golfing scene. 

The same goes for golf, the industry.  Most people think of courses, equipment, players, or their club pros.  Seldom do they think of all these aspects combined.  As a result, golf’s far-reaching economic impact often is overlooked, particularly by legislators and other decisionmakers. 

That may soon change, however, in Oregon and southwestern Washington where formation of the Golf Alliance of Oregon is moving out of the idea stage and to reality. 

Bringing together the Oregon Golf Association (OGA) and the Oregon chapters* of course owners, superintendents, club managers, and the PGA came about after Barb Trammell, OGA CEO, attended the International Association of Golf Administrators conference two years ago.

“There was a breakout session about the power in combining all groups related to golf in order to have significant impact on issues that affect all of us,” she says.  “The concept already was working in Massachusetts and California, and I was motivated to at least begin discussing the idea here in Oregon.  When I approached the various chapters, there was unanimous recognition of the need for such an Alliance, which was very exciting and promising.”

About a year ago, informal meetings were then held to explore the vision and mission of such an organization.  This June, according to Trammell, the loosely federated group hopes to elect officers in anticipation of filing the necessary papers with the state to formally establish the Alliance in the near future. 

“We’re talking about a regionalized, scaled down version of what’s happening more and more on the national level among golf-related groups,” says Ralph Stading, owner of Lewis River Golf Course in Woodland, Wash., a National Golf Course Owners Association board member, and a driving force behind the Alliance.  “It’s about having a unified voice on local issues.  An Alliance would be recognition among the organizations involved that we share a common future for golf.  That we need to work together to keep the game viable.  The end result will be that course owners and players will benefit, and the overall game will grow.  There’s something for everyone in the cooperative effort.”

Years ago, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Tip O’Neill coined the phrase, “All politics is local,” referring to a politician’s success being directly tied to an ability to understand and influence constituent issues.

Trammell says such understanding will come from having “one voice speaking for all of golf” on issues like labor law, property taxes, water usage, land use, and publicly subsidized competition. “We’re looking to enhance fairness and competitiveness for and within the golf industry,” she says. 

Proposed legislation recently called for golf course renovations to provide accessibility to handicapped golfers.  “Because of the topography in this area some courses can’t do this without spending considerable amounts of money that, in some cases, might threaten their viability,” Trammell says.  “To be heard and to have a meaningful affect on issues like this, we need to come together.”

Stading says the Alliance will allow the various golf-related organizations to share the costs of promoting the sport and advocating on its behalf. 

“Golf as a sport provides considerable resources to the community,” he says.  “Golf courses alone donate space for high school golf teams and they generate millions of dollars for charities because of all the fundraising events that are held at clubs.  Numbers and studies to quantify such things and to challenge assertions and legislation don’t come inexpensively.  For instance, it will be easier to help fund an economic impact study which can subsequently be updated on a regular basis.”

Adds Trammell: “With a cooperative effort like an Alliance, the World Golf Foundation will be more likely to co-fund an economic impact study for the region.”  

“We want to help grow this game,” she says.  “The more bells we can ring, the more whistles we can blow, the more we will be listened to.  The Golf Alliance of Oregon is an effort to take full advantage of the economic and political power of the region’s golf industry.” 

*The Oregon chapters of these organizations also cover southwestern Washington


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