The Pellucid Perspective - June 2015 - (Page 17)

THE LAST WORD NGCOA facing a critical leadership decision T he folks at National Golf Course Owners Association headquarters in Charleston, S.C. and NGCOA Board Members will have an interesting and potentially crucial decision to make soon, as they mull over the qualifications of candidates to replace the retiring Mike Hughes as the organization's executive director. Rumor has it that they and the Spencer Stuart executive search firm hired to identify and screen potential candidates have culled the finalists to six people. I typically despise using the word "rumor" in an article or column - one now defunct industry publication rarely published an issue without the lead-ins "Word on the street is ..." or, yes, "Rumor has it," but in this case, NGCOA sources are playing it close to the vest in terms of the finalists for Hughes' corner office. But, having made a pathetic attempt to justify my own journalistically unsound lapse into speculation, I'll throw caution to the wind and repeat some of the names who were purportedly (capital P) among the final 6 according to my sources. The first and most obvious is the NGCOA's current #2 man, Deputy Chief Executive Officer Mike Tinkey, who has been with the organization since 1995. Another contender is Bob Mauragas, who was the president and CEO of National Golf Management in Myrtle Beach for several years until the sale of most of their properties to the Chinese-backed Founders Group International in April, following stints as president of the Myrtle Beach National Company and VP of Golf Operations for the Reynolds Group of Companies in and around Reynolds Plantation in Georgia. Those two candidates have been confirmed. Tiptoeing into "slightly" more speculative waters, although both make perfect sense, are the industry-familiar names of Joe Steranka and Cathy Harbin. Steranka spent 24 years with the PGA of America, the last 7 as the organization's CEO, and is currently serving as a Global Sports & Media Strategist for the Buffalo Brand Invigoration Group subsidiary of Billy Casper Golf Management. Harbin is currently the VP for Public Golf, ClubCorp Academy & Programming for ClubCorp, following tours as the general manager of World Golf Village for Honours Golf and subsequently the director of Golf 20/20 for the World Golf Foundation. And now for the headlong dive into the icy waters of Lake Speculation, a fifth candidate, I'm told, is none other than Ted Bishop, the general partner and director of golf at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin, Ind., and until he was impeached less than two months before the end of his 2-year term, served as the president of the PGA of America. Regrettably, my source "mis-remembered" the name of candidate number 6, which may mean that he or she is something of a dark horse selection, given the breadth of my source's knowledge of who's who in the golf industry. I regret that I can't be more definitive, but I suspect that anyone I query at NGCOA headquarters would fall into the "I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you" category, and I'd hate to deny that pleasure to others with previous claims. Of those mentioned, I have a favorite, but I'll keep that to myself. I suspect my endorsement would be about as welcome to any of the candidates as a call to Red State Democrats from President Obama's office offering to come and stump for them. Regardless of who eventually gets the nod, the number of issues currently facing golf course owners and the industry as a whole make it even more important that the NGCOA provide dynamic, innovative and forward-thinking leadership. While the independent spirits of the NGCOA membership (and the thousands of nonmember owners) can make herding cats seem like child's play, there is a real need for advocacy on behalf of the owners. The biggest global golf concern, of course, is the continuing drain on the player base, as golf struggles to find the key to both engaging new players, retaining current customers and somehow en- ticing the Millennial crowd to fill in the void that will be created by increasingly decrepit baby boomers. I'm not sure that the NGCOA, or any other of golf 's associations, can fully accomplish that, but partial achievement in the form of some new strategies or best practices couldn't hurt. Another major hurdle is some sort of resolution to the ongoing third party tee time marketing conundrum. For some time now, the NGCOA has been "gathering input" and apparently discussing with some potential providers a tee time reservation system that, one assumes, will either be commission-based or, if barter is unavoidable, is structured in a way that truly benefits the golf course owner and primarily redounds to his or her financial benefit rather than the tee time vendor. Last week's announcement that the PGA Tour and EZLinks have teamed to form as a highpowered alternative to the omnipresent GolfNow makes any NGCOA-led tee time company even more unlikely. Unless the NGCOA can find a partner with both the technological expertise and the financial horsepower to enter the fray against Comcast/NBC/Golf Channel/ GolfNow and the bottomless Tour pockets in tandem with EZLinks' technology and current customer base, it seems to me that yet another entry into the marketplace is a waste of time and money better spent elsewhere. And, like all the other industry associations, the new NGCOA leader will have to find a way to continue to make membership relevant to owners, and worthy of their financial support. As owners continue to pare costs, especially as they try to figure out how they're going to get and pay for enough water to keep their courses open, things like association membership dues and trips to the Golf Industry Show figure to get an ever-closer look. The NGCOA has an important decision to make - here's hoping they make the right call. -Jim Dunlap The Pellucid PersPecTive 17

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Pellucid Perspective - June 2015

PGA Tour/EZLinks-backed site challenges GolfNow
Municipal golf property tax exemption affirmed by Ohio Supreme Court
California course owners adapt to new water cutbacks
Reinventing vs. Reinvesting
Golf participation in 2020: Two “educated guesses,” you pick
What’s right with golf?
May golf weather impact: Starting the full season in “neutral”
Dallas: Room for improvement in Big D P&L
NGCOA facing a critical leadership decision

The Pellucid Perspective - June 2015