Keeping Golf Flourishing In Minnesota-Tom Ryan’s Personal Challenge!

By Steve Dowling

Tom Ryan is the Executive Director of the Minnesota Golf Association (MGA), an organization of thousands of individual members and more than 440 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. Tom Ryan is a man-of-golf! Enthusiastically, he accepts the challenge of managing, coordinating and ensuring that the magnificent game of golf continues to flourish in Minnesota.
History reveals that in 1901 seven golf clubs formed a body to identify the best amateur golfer in Minnesota and thus the Minnesota Golf Association was founded, creating 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, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Minnesota Golf Association, joined the MGA in August 2002 following a career in the legal publishing business with West Publishing Co., now Thomson Reuters. His career at West spanned more than two decades with executive experience in business development, marketing, and customer service.

Ryan leads the MGA staff in serving the association’s 440 member golf clubs, 80,000 golfing members, and 18 allied golf industry associations and golf related organizations. He learned to play golf as a caddie at the Town & Country Club in St. Paul, and went on to the University of Minnesota on an Evans Scholarship. Tom plays golf regularly and carries a low single digit handicap.

The expansiveness of Tom Ryan’s challenge makes him responsible for managing 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 hugely popular website with powerful search engine (; eNewsletter; multiple Social Media applications; Media Guide and extensive collateral materials, etc.
• Media Relations
• Course Rating System
• Conducts 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!!

Is Golf Just A Game, Or Is Tom Ryan’s Challenge 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, but 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, and creates demand for a myriad of goods and services. The size of Minnesota’s direct golf impact on the 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 investments of Tom Ryan’s golf marketing endeavors to keep the game flourishing.

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 individual golfer membership dues, works to support their many Allied partners in those partner’s golf related missions of expanding golf participation. These organizations include: MN Section PGA, MN Minority Junior Golf Association; MN Public Golf Association; MN Women’s Golf Association; MN Women’s Public Golf Association, Physically Limited Golfers Association; The First 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?

As 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, have mitigated potential major downturns and sustained momentum – “better days are upon us” according to Tom Ryan. 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!

Tom Ryan, Courtesy of the MGA

Tom Ryan, MGA Executive Director, follows play during the second round of the 107th MGA Amateur Championship at Dacotah Ridge Golf Club, Morton, Minn. Photo by Mark Brettingen, Courtesy of the MGA 2010

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