Caretakers of Golf (1 Of 8 In A Series) – The MGA

By Mark Shesky

During 2011, Tee Times Press ran a series of articles entitled “Survival of the Fittest” which outlined the health of the golf industry and additionally addressed the evolving issues facing golfers in Minnesota. Highlighted in the series were “Public”, “Private” and “Resort” courses along with debates over the concern that the golf industry is overgrown and issues regarding discounting tactics. For 2012, Tee Times Press will run a series of articles focusing on the many organizations, both public and private, that support the growth of golf in Minnesota. The organizations that will be profiled in 2012 include the Minnesota Golf Association, Minnesota Tourism, Minnesota Woman’s Golf Association, The 1st Tee, Fairway Foundation and others.

There is a small band of golf aficionados that are dedicated to promoting and preserving amateur golf in the state of Minnesota. This small band operates in conjunction with their above allied partners in supporting the organized functions of golf leading to the growth of the game as a sport along with some very positive economic impact for the State of Minnesota. This lead organization, a non-profit corporation, is the Minnesota Golf Association, commonly referred to as the “MGA”.

Golf – Not Just A Game, A Benefit To The State’s Economy
With over 10,000 lakes and almost 500 golf courses, tourism and recreation thrive in Minnesota. Golf is a key driver of Minnesota’s tourism and recreation industries. The breadth of economic activity generated by the game of golf makes it a critical industry sector in its own right. Golf brings visitors to the state, drives new construction and residential development, generates retail sales, along with creating demand for a myriad of goods and services. The size of the direct golf impact on Minnesota’s economy was calculated in a recent study by SRI International (a nonprofit research and consulting firm) at approximately $1.2 billion per year. While the study points out how broadly golf impacts Minnesota’s economy, it also highlights the importance that every golf course plays in local communities and that golf is a major part of the tourism equation. Such statistics validate the importance of keeping the game flourishing. This is where the MGA and its allied associations come in.

History reveals that in 1901 seven local golf clubs sought a body to run an inter-club tournament and thus the Minnesota Golf Association was founded. This created an organization designed to uphold and promote the game of golf and its values for all golfers in Minnesota. Since its inception, the MGA has produced a long list of services oriented toward the golfer, the golf course and the game itself.

Tom Ryan is the Executive Director of the MGA, an organization of thousands of individual members (approximately 80,000) and almost 500 golf courses. The MGA, among a myriad of functions, conducts tournaments, administers USGA Handicap System, publishes a bimonthly magazine and is tasked with identifying and cultivating programs and projects that influence the growth of the game of golf. Ryan leads the MGA staff in serving the association’s golf clubs and golfing members, and 18 allied golf industry associations and golf related organizations.

The day-to-day operations and activities of the Association and member benefit relationships through a vast array of functions:
• GHIN Handicap Services
• Preparation and management of Association golf competition including 17 Major Events for Men, Woman, Juniors and Seniors
• Advocacy and liaison for golf in Minnesota at the State Capitol and through eighteen Allied Associations
• Communications – Minnesota Golfer Magazine, a popular website; eNewsletter; multiple Social Media applications; Media Guide and extensive collateral materials, etc.
• Media Relations
• Course Rating System
• Conduct of Rules of Golf workshops and Regional Roundtable education
• USGA course rating and measuring services – roughly 100 per year
• Support of Turf Grass Research at the University of Minnesota
• Charitable support for additional “good-for-the-game” initiatives.
• Oversee internships and scholarships
• Guest Speaker Bureau
• Even Hole-in-One Certificates
• And much more!!

How Does The MGA Attempt To Grow The Game Of Golf?
In actual fact, the MGA is likely the primary influence on how Minnesota retains leadership as the state with the most number of golfers per capita in the country. As a volunteer organization, the MGA does not have the manpower to completely embrace the massive responsibility of “growing the game” by itself. However, the MGA, through its resources, which are primarily derived from revenues from handicap fees, works to support their many allied partners in those partner’s golf related missions of expanding golf participation. These organizations include: Minnesota Minority Junior Golf Association; Minnesota Public Golf Association; Minnesota Women’s Golf Association; Physically Limited Golfers Association; The 1st Tee; The Fairway Foundation and others. The MGA, through Tom Ryan’s leadership, supports each of these organizations individually and collectively but never to the detriment of any of the others. The MGA represents all of golf not just specific genders or public or private courses.

How Is The Challenge Progressing?
When we analyze the popularity of golf in Minnesota, as the industry navigates through the hazards of the economy over the last decade, it is apparent that the efforts of the MGA, through their own programs and support of projects of their allied partners, has mitigated potential major downturns and sustained momentum – “better days are upon us” according to Tom Ryan.

A new initiative, being embraced by the MGA, has recently been introduced nationally – “GOLF 2.0”. The Golf 2.0 initiative will be golf’s new strategic plan to grow participation in the game. The goals of Golf 2.0 are to increase participation in the United States from 27.1 million golfers generating $33 billion in annual consumer revenues today to 32 million golfers and $35 billion in consumer revenues by 2016. By 2020, the goal is to have 40 million golfers generating $40 billion in annual revenues. We’ll hear much more on 2.0 as the season goes by.

Regardless of the golfer’s interest in public or private clubs there has never been a better time for golfers to return to the game, increase rounds played or introduce new players to the game. It is easily concluded that the MGA, with their man-of-golf, Tom Ryan, at the helm has risen to the challenge of ensuring that golf flourishes in the State of Minnesota!

Celebration of Amateur golf in Chaska-Photo Courtesy of MGA

Photo Courtesy MGA (c) 2006

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