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Utah Golf Association // Past President’s Message
By Stewart Walz,
In 2021 the Board of Directors adopted a mission statement for the UGA; “The mission of the Utah Golf Association is to promote and advance golf. The Utah Golf Association provides its members with golf related benefits, supports golf-related programs, and conduct championships.” Despite being very simple, that statement contains many concepts worth a little amplification.
Has the UGA furthered its mission in the last year? I think so, but as the term “advance” connotes, there will always be more to do. The old saying applies, “If you are not moving forward, you are moving backward.” So, what have we done over the last year, and what still needs to be done?
The UGA fulfilled its obligation to conduct championships. Last year the pandemic prevented us from putting on a full slate of championships, but our staff, interns and volunteers exceed all expectations in hosting the tournaments we did. This year we returned to a complete calendar. We scheduled a Net Championship for early October, but not enough golfers entered to conduct a championship with four divisions. Hopefully, the UGA can find a date more appealing to a larger number of players next season so this tournament can be held. I believe that we should maximize the opportunities for players of different skill levels, genders and ages, to claim the title of UGA champion. To that end, the UGA added a Legends Division for golfers over seventy to Winterchamps and the Senior Stroke play.
One other change bears mention. In the Women’s Sate Amateur we expanded he match play bracket from 16 to 32 players. This created the thrill of match play for more women players; it seemed to be a well received modification which will continue in the future. That said, we had fewer than 70 registrants for the Women’s State Am while almost 900 registered for the State Amateur. I hope that that gap will close in the future.
These changes helped fulfill our obligation to advance the game in Utah through our championships. But, you might ask, how does our Association with a full time staff of only five conduct seven men’s and eight women’s championships in a season? (Don’t forget that the State Amateur has 11 qualifiers, the Senior Amateur 4, and the UGA conducts 9 qualifiers for the United States Golf Association). It starts with our incredible staff. Jake Miller, Easton Folster, Lisa Immamura, William Michetti and Colin Clawson. These people are dedicated to putting in the hours and effort it takes to organize and run our tournaments.
Two other groups of people are essential to running our tournaments, interns and volunteers. Jake and Easton are perspicacious recruiters; they have done a fantastic job in hiring superb interns. These women and men put in hours marking courses, coordinating volunteers, schlepping equipment, manning scoring areas, and doing whatever else their mentors require. I hope you had an opportunity to read my column in Fairways Magazine because it was about our volunteers. They work many days and long hours to ensure the players are introduced on the first tee each day, that the competitions are conducted according to the Rules of Golf, and Utah courses are rated properly so the handicap system will work as designed. These men and women deserve thanks from all Utah golfers.
Does the UGA provide its members benefits? Yes, and one way is by providing each member with a handicap index. In fact, for many this is the major benefit the UGA provides its members. Administering the index is the exclusive province of the UGA. Golf is a competitive game. Bernard Darwin wrote, “It is the undying hope of improvement that makes the game so exquisitely worth the playing.” That index is the truest measure of improvement, measured either against yourself or your opponents. All golfers who have an index realize it is the handicap system that allows players of different skill levels to compete in a fair match with others of different skill levels. Of course, to be effective, the handicap system must be honest, and the UGA helps professionals police the handicap system so that it is honest.
This year the UGA has decided to provide the clubs in the state another significant benefit, continued access to the Golf Genius software. The USGA decided to cease paying for Golf Genius after 2022. Golf Genius is a tournament software program the UGA and many courses in the state employ to efficiently run tournaments. The UGA decided that paying for the basic Golf Genius package for courses in the state is part of its mission, and will do so through 2025.
In addition, the UGA’s mission is to support golf related programs. One way it does that is through its charitable arm, the Utah Golf Foundation. The Foundation has two very successful programs, Youth on Course and Vets on Course. Youth on Course allows junior UGA members to play at over thirty course in the state for maximum of $5 for nine holes. Vets on Course provides Veterans with afternoons of clinics and nine hole scrambles so veterans can associate with each other. The UGA has helped raise money to assist these programs and provided administrative assistance for them this year and in the past. (Before Youth on Course, there were approximately 900 junior members of the UGA. Now there are about 4500). Additionally, the UGA helps support the Utah Junior Golf Association and provides money to the PGA earmarked for junior golf. The staff and board members of the UGA also enjoy a warm relationship with the First Tee of Utah.
The UGA also supports the Golf Alliance of Utah, which provides lobbying efforts and public information that protect and hopefully advance golf within the state. As Utah grows, the Alliance, and the organizations mentioned in the preceding paragraph, are essential to encourage public entities and the public to support golf. This is something that clearly is within the mission of the UGA. It is also something that is within the mission of all members of the UGA.
We golfers know that our game is valuable recreation. We also know our game provides health benefits for its players. We know our game teaches valuable lessons in honesty, fair play and courtesy toward others. We know that most can play golf for a lifetime. Some think that golf is only for the well to do, or is not welcoming to women and certain ethnicities. To a degree some of that is true. Golf will never be free. But there are things we all can do to help golf and help the mission of the UGA. Donate money to the UGF and The First Tee. Donate used clubs, balls and other equipment to the First Tee at Golf the Round. Encourage the junior at the driving range by simply saying nice shot. Take your daughter, granddaughter or or junior of any gender to the driving range. And extol the achievements of golfers of color, particularly Utah golfers of color. Apelila Galeai is our Women’s State Amateur Champion, Tess Blair is a former champion, Kerstin Fotu made the cut at the Utah Open, and Tony Finau won on tour and is a two time Ryder Cupper. The game is growing in all quarters and must continue to do so.
Stewart Walz is the immediate past president of the Utah Golf Association who has completed his term on the Utah Golf Association Board of Directors.