Having Their Backs

CGA appreciative of support from USGA, which has launched $5M relief fund for its Allied Golf Associations; PGA, other industry organizations also announce major relief effort

By Gary Baines – 4/13/2020

If you say the acronym USGA to the average golfer, there’s a good chance one of the first things that might come to mind regarding the organization is the championships it conducts — most notably the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open and the U.S. senior opens, along with a host of national and international amateur tournaments.

From Colorado-based events alone, the list of USGA champions reads like a who’s who of golf: Jack Nicklaus (1959 U.S. Amateur at The Broadmoor and 1993 U.S. Senior Open at Cherry Hills), Arnold Palmer (1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills), Annika Sorenstam (1995 U.S. Women’s Open at The Broadmoor), Phil Mickelson (1990 U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills), Juli Inkster (1982 U.S. Women’s Amateur at The Broadmoor) and Ralph Guldahl (1938 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills).

Memorable championships, indeed.

But so many things the USGA does fly under the radar. And that includes things that are done with considerable help from its 59 Allied Golf Associations, including the CGA in Colorado.

Which brings us to the USGA’s announcement on Friday that it has created an emergency relief fund for its Allied Golf Associations with an investment of up to $5 million, due to the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Ed Mate, executive director and CEO of the CGA, learned about the plan on a Thursday conference call.

“It’s a great show of support and the CGA will evaluate as situations move forward,” Mate said on Friday. “But it’s really great to know that we have the support of the USGA, and they recognize the value of their partners. I think that’s important.”

The relief funding will take the form of grants “to help ensure business continuity and staffing levels during this time of hardship,” the USGA said in a release. Individual Allied Golf Associations can apply for up to $100,000 in relief, with applications being accepted starting Monday (April 13) and through the summer as necessary.

The USGA said it’s “committed to providing additional funding should the business disruption be prolonged.”

“These golf associations are the backbone of the recreational and competitive golf communities at the local, state and regional level,” USGA CEO Mike Davis said in the statement. “They play a vital role not only in delivering the USGA’s core services, but also in engaging millions of golfers across the country at the local level. This support will help enable the game to make a strong return once it’s safe to do so.”

(Updated April 14) In a complementary move, on Monday afternoon the PGA of America announced it is pledging $5 million to a Golf Emergency Relief Fund that will provide “short-term financial assistance to workers in the golf industry” facing significant monetary hardship due to the effects of the coronavirus. In addition, the PGA will match gifts of up to $2.5 million made by third parties.

The effort is being supported in various ways by numerous golf organizations, including the PGA Tour, LPGA, USGA, Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, the National Golf Club Owners Association, and the Association of Golf Merchandisers.

The Golf Emergency Relief Fund will provide grants to certain industry workers, including PGA of America and LPGA members, employees of the USGA’s Allied Golf Associations, caddies and certain professionals playing on developmental tours to help offset coronavirus-related financial hardships, such as living and medical expenses, the PGA said in a release.

Applications for relief through the GERF will be accepted starting Thursday afternoon (April 16) at CLICK HERE.

“The golf industry is in an unprecedented crisis, and our friends, colleagues and their families need our help right away,” PGA president Suzy Whaley said in the release. “People throughout golf are driven by a strong desire to help others every day. We have to ensure that the heart and soul of our game — our people — are able to get back on their feet and continue to serve others down the road. Eventually, golf will return, but we first need to reach out and help people in our industry during this national emergency.”

The first phase of the GERF’s relief will feature distribution of grants of $500 for basic needs and up to $1,500 for critical needs. A second phase will distribute funds of up to $3,500.

For the PGA of America’s complete release and to see those eligible to apply for relief, CLICK HERE.

As for the USGA’s emergency relief fund, it’s uncertain whether the CGA will apply for that relief money as it will become more clear over time the toll the pandemic takes on the association.

Mate calls the Allied Golf Associations the USGA’s “most important allies, (ones) who are the delivery mechanism for everything they do — championships, course rating, handicapping. You know, everything we are, we’re the unofficial franchises of the USGA. So it’s certainly putting their money where their mouth is to say, you know, we want to support you. We have the good fortune of having a healthy balance sheet, and what’s the point of having a healthy balance sheet if you don’t use it in times of need? And if this isn’t a time of need, what is, right?

“It’s certainly nice to know that if needed, there might be some opportunity there” for relief.

Besides what Mate mentioned above, some of the ways the USGA impacts the game at many different levels include: developing, supporting and maintaining pathways to golf (through programs like Drive Chip & Putt, The First Tee and LPGA*USGA Girls Golf; helping with sustainability of golf courses through research; celebrating history and excellence in the game (including through the USGA Golf Museum and USGA awards); playing a foundational role in establishing and maintaining the Rules of Golf and related education; fostering careers in golf through paid Boatwright Internships and otherwise; helping establish and maintain equipment standards, etc.

Meanwhile, the USGA’s Allied Golf Associations serve as mission-drive non-profit organizations. The USGA noted that they serve to “welcome and connect juniors, women and players of all ages, backgrounds and abilities; educate countless golf professionals, officials and players; advocate for golf courses; and provide affordable opportunities to play.”

Among many other things, the AGAs help the USGA deliver golf resources and programming at a state and regional level. That includes providing Rules education, conducting qualifying tournaments for USGA championships, offering USGA Handicap Indexes to members, supporting USGA initiatives that help the game grow, and effectively informing golfers on a local and regional level.

As far as the novel coronavirus pandemic goes, the CGA, like just about every organization, has felt a considerable effect. But it will take some time to see how large that effect is. The financial markets being down considerably certainly takes a toll. Beyond that, CGA membership numbers — renewals and newcomers — will take shape by late spring, along with the fees they bring in. The CGA has had to cancel some events — U.S. Open, U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Senior Women’s Open qualifiers; at least one CGA Women’s Clinic; some April and May Junior Golf Alliance tournaments, etc. And, of course, the CGA owns a public golf course, CommonGround in Aurora, and a general economic downturn could have a significant effect on the bottom line of such a business.

All of which are reasons the CGA has already applied for relief through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, which provides forgivable loans for small businesses who keep their workers on the payroll and meet other criteria.

“It’s too early to know” the full effect of the pandemic on the CGA, Mate said. “I think it’s safe to say it will have an impact. It already has because we’ve had to cancel some events that would have generated revenue. But I guess in the longer term, my view of it is that anything that’s done outdoors (like golf) is going to” fare better in the wake of the pandemic than anything that requires people to be in close proximity.