After receiving the call from PGA of America Headquarters, asking if I would represent my Association and the industry at National Golf Day in Washington, D.C., there were a number of emotions that were swirling through my mind. Honored to be chosen, excited to represent my colleagues, and nervous of the fear that I might say the wrong thing or deliver a less-than-compelling speech. Nonetheless, I was asked to do a job and was going to give it my all, while embracing the moment and soaking in all that Capitol Hill can offer the common man. A number of folks have asked me upon returning, “What was it like?” In a nutshell, the best way to describe the experience of walking through those historic halls is that our elected officials are no different than you and me. They’re approachable, great listeners and seemed to have immediate solutions when presented with a problem or negative perception.
In the case of the golf industry, there certainly are stereotypes of the game and who can or cannot play it. Our job is to break through those misconceptions with education. It is our Congressmen and women who can be the voice for us in the golf industry, so it was important to get them up to speed on the economic impacts of golf annually. Last year, the golf industry:
- Had an $84 billion direct impact on our economy
- Accounted for more than 1.9 million jobs, and
- Generated over $25.7 billion in golf tourism.
These are eye-opening statistics, for sure, and important to bring to the table to our elected officials.
Of the 13 meetings that I had on Capitol Hill, the one that I left with the most excitement about was with Congressman Jason Smith of Missouri. He is spearheading the PHIT Act (Personal Health Investment Today), which would include golf along with a number of other recreational activities to provide consumers with a tax-free investment into their personal health or their children. His theory is simple – the healthier Americans are, the lower our health care costs will be. Personally, I think it’s a fantastic plan and will support it.
During my tenure as the Director of Programming of The First Tee, we had countless parents indicate that “golf is just too expensive.” If our government can help provide tax savings to Americans that will promote golfers to walk the golf course, purchase new equipment and enroll in a junior camp, we should support it 100 percent! Congressman Smith expects the Act to reach the Senate Floor later this summer.
All in all, the week could not have been more rewarding and inspiring as the CEO of a golf company. Our game is in good hands and it seems that government support will be there when needed. One final suggestion – if you ever have the opportunity to visit Capitol Hill, I would highly recommend it. Embrace the experience, explore our history and most importantly, talk to staff members. They are approachable and happy to share what life is like on the Hill.