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Recent data from the National Golf Foundation shows that while many Americans are trying golf, not that many are sticking with it. As part of Here & Now's View From The Top conversation series, Jeremy Hobson speaks with PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua on how it is trying to grow – and diversify – the sport.
On the current state of golf
“It’s interesting. We know we have our challenges. We feel that right now there is a great energy in this sport. We have grow-the-game initiatives that are working, we have more children in the game. A great fact is that since 2010 we have roughly 500,000 more kids in the game. We’re trying to get more women into the game, we’re trying to bring more diversity into the game.”
On the perception of golf as an expensive sport
“There really is a misunderstanding about the expense of the game. Now, golf equipment can be expensive if you’re going out and buying the very best equipment. And green fees at some of the premier golf courses around this country can be north of $100. But there are endless opportunities in golf to play for green fees significantly lower than that. The vast majority of the golf played in this country is played in public golf courses.”
On the importance of appealing to minorities
“Part of the fundamental tenet of our strategic plan is we understand that we need more diversity in this game. We need more diversity in terms of who our PGA of America professionals are, what our staff is like at the PGA of America headquarters. The face of the game needs to change to reflect the face of American society. And if we don’t, golf will become less relevant over the course of the next 50 or 100 years. I think in the past, perhaps golf has been a little guilty of a ‘they’ll-come-to-us’ mentality. We have to go out and be more aggressive and more progressive in our approach of bringing the game to others and we do that by bringing it in to different communities, bringing it in to schools, and making sure that we can rely on the wonderful golf events that people watch to get the message out to more and more people.”
Whether Tiger Woods’ decline is cause of concern
“I think one of the questions that everyone asks themselves is ‘What will the golf landscape look in a post Tiger world?’ I’m one of the first people to say that I hope and truly believe we have not heard the end of Tiger Woods. The golf industry needs Tiger Woods. Tiger is a transcendent athlete. When you look back over the course of the last 100 years and you think about those athletes who have really transcended, maybe it’s a Babe Ruth, a Muhammad Ali, a Michael Jordan. In golf we had Arnold Palmer, we had Jack Nicklaus. Tiger was that type of person that comes along every few generations and just really rewrites the record book. But the great news is, now we have people like Jason Day, and Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth on the men’s side and Lydia Ko and Michelle Wie and these people have kind of taken the torch from Tiger, and they’re bringing that forward. But Tiger is still very much around and I certainly, for one, don’t think we’ve seen the last of Tiger Woods.”
On the problematic optics of lush green courses at a time when certain regions are experiencing severe droughts
“Golf can often be an easy target for people who don’t understand the game and don’t understand the impact golf has on the economy in the United States. Golf is not a pastime for an elite pocket of people in this country, and that really is a perception we need to fight. Golf is a $70 billion economic industry in this country that’s responsible for well over 2 million jobs. Charitable golf events in this country raise $3.8 to $3.9 billion a year. Golf actually has an incredibly good environmental story to tell, but there’s no secret. Water usage and sustainability are key factors, particularity in parts of this country if you look in the Southwest. But we are aware of that. Golf understands that we have to be environmentally sound, we have to be sustainable, and those are critical factors to the overall health of the game as we move forward.”
This segment aired on March 29, 2016.