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Whitcomb Blog: A jam-packed week gets even more exciting
The President of the PGA of America talks about how his last week has been all about promoting great PGA Professionals, great PGA programs and initiatives, and a great fastball that some major league team might need.
TULSA, Okla. - Well, here we are, the season's final major -- the 89th PGA Championship at beautiful Southern Hills Country Club. I could not be more excited about this tournament, this week, and all the opportunities we have to show off what a wonderful association we have in the PGA of America.
But let me back up for a moment and address a question I've been asked a good bit lately. I've had a number of friends and colleagues let me know that they enjoyed the picture of me throwing out the first pitch at last week's "PGA of America Night" at the Washington Nationals baseball game. What an honor and thrill that was. And to answer the question on everyone's minds, yes, it was a strike -- right down the heart of the plate. I think the Nationals wanted to sign me right there.
But what fewer people know was what we did earlier in the day, which is much more important to the game of golf and the role I play as President of the PGA of America. We were able to meet with Congressmen and Senators and many government leaders about issues that directly affect our PGA Professionals. We discussed health care, tourism, water and environment; just a whole range of issues that impact golf. And I think it was productive and informative and gave us a chance to talk to, and develop relationships with, the decision-makers in our government about how important golf is to people -- not just as a recreational sport, but as an integral part of a community. It was exciting and memorable to be a part of that process.
This is my first PGA Championship as President of the PGA of America and as I knew it would be, it has been incredibly busy and demanding. But it's important to note, it's also a great honor and privilege to represent the PGA of America and its members at these functions.
This past Sunday evening, we had an event with the chairpersons of the PGA Championship that represent the 3000 volunteers that it takes to put on a show like this.
On Monday, we met with the Governor of Oklahoma, Brad Henry, mayors, congressmen, and other civic leaders to emphasize the economic impact that having an event like the PGA Championship can have on a community. It's important that the people in their position understand the role and significance that golf plays in a community and thus, hopefully they'll have an open ear when topics come up before them that impact golf and PGA Professionals in their districts. So we work very, very hard on promoting that part of golf as well.
Also on Monday, there was a community outreach program at a nearby course that had over 200 kids take part. Of course, that's very exciting. We had 500 people come receive free lessons from South Central PGA Section Professionals and we had a Play Golf America Day added to that. We are working hard to promote and grow the game, after all, that is what the PGA of America is about.
Tuesday night was out Champions Dinner hosted of course by Tiger Woods, our defending champion. And really, the history and excitement in seeing all of those great champions gathered together, it really is a thrill indeed.
Today, I've had meetings with Paul Azinger, our 2008 Ryder Cup Captain, and we also did a press conference together. And I've taken part in our State of the Association address with the CEO of the PGA of America, Joe Steranka.
I want to take a moment to point out what a marvelous job Joe Steranka has done as the Chief Executive Officer. As was pointed out at the press conference today on the State of the Association, we are in rare form right now, much of it due to Joe's efforts. His work on the business side has made the PGA of America stronger on almost every level.
My work tends to deal more on the fraternal side. I have several initiatives that I'm excited about, but probably I'm most proud of Patriot Golf Day which will be taking place September 1st. That program is a joint venture with the USGA and will provide funds for scholarships and other needs for the sons and daughters of our true heroes, those in our military who have fallen in service to their country.
I should mention people like Dan Rooney, who is a PGA Professional right here in Oklahoma in the South Central Section, and is also an active fighter pilot who has made two tours in Iraq. What a great example of the quality and character of people we are fortunate enough to have in our association. What group wouldn't love to claim someone like Dan Rooney, and he proudly wears the badge of a PGA Professional.
So we are all working together to create a foundation that will honor and support the real heroes of our country and their families.
I guess the important point to make is that the PGA of America isn't just about golf between the ropes or even what takes place on the tee boxes or greens across the country - it's about the people and communities that are involved. There will be 36 charities in the greater Tulsa area that will be served with proceeds from this PGA Championship, with as much as $600,000 for them to do their important work.
We are very proud of the outreach of the PGA of America and how the PGA Professionals play such an integral part of their respective communities. We've spent a great deal of time this week in promoting and protecting that important aspect of our jobs as PGA Professionals. I want to strengthen the bonds between the members and the leadership. I am a PGA Professional, I'm very proud to wear the badge. I think that some of these new programs are going to really showcase the role of our members in their communities.
Oh, and let's not forget, there's also a tremendously important golf tournament to be played: Glory's Last Shot, the PGA Championship. We are anticipating an exciting and special championship, what a great venue we have in Southern Hills, a great crowd and a superb field. The course is in absolutely phenomenal shape and it offers a very fair, but very stern test of golf. I can't wait to watch it unfold.
So be sure you watch and follow the championship, I promise it will be a special one. I know here on PGA.com there will be live web streaming and of course, TNT and CBS will have great television coverage. It's already been a great week for the PGA of America - and it's about to get even better.