2012 PGA Championship Interview Transcript -- The PGA of America State of the Association

JULIUS MASON:  Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  I'm The PGA of America's Julius Mason, and I would like to welcome you to the 94th PGA Championship here at Kiawah Island Golf Resort.


There are a few people in the audience that I would like to introduce you to now, beginning with The PGA of America vice president, Ted Bishop; honorary president, Jim Remy;  a collection of past presidents and PGA of America board members amongst yourselves:  From Kiawah Island, PGA director of golf, Brian Gerard.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, it's my pleasure to introduce from Hillendale Country Club in Phoenix, Maryland, the 37th president of The PGA of America, Mr. Allen Wronowski.

ALLEN WRONOWSKI:  Good morning, everyone, and thank you, Julius, and welcome, everyone, to the 94th PGA Championship.  We are once again pleased to have the strongest field in golf with 103 of the top 103 world ranked players.

This year we have 71 international players in our field representing 21 countries, which is more than any other U.S. event.  And to remind everybody, this is the only all?professional major championship, and we are so privileged to have the 20 PGA club professionals in the field, led by our Professional National Champion, Matt Dobyns, of Sea Cliff, New York.

We appreciate also the Carolina Section as one of our 41 sections of the PGA of America and the largest section of the PGA of America with more than 1600 men and women professionals, and this week, we will have over 20 of them represented and volunteering their time and talents for the Ocean Course.

As we talk about The Ocean Course, what an unbelievable golf course.  Certainly is very, very unique and very, very demanding.  The view of the ocean from each hole means that the golf course is exposed to the area's briskest breezes and certainly the unpredictable winds.  Pete Dye, with no prevailing wind here, essentially designed the two courses into one, one for an easterly wind and one for a westerly wind.

I know Kerry Haigh discussed all of the specifics of our conditions of play yesterday and how we will rule on the sandy areas, so I won't go into any detail of that.

Certainly an exciting week, also, for The PGA of America, as this week, we will button up the eight spots where players qualify through the points system.  The U.S. Ryder Cup Team will be determined at the conclusion of this week, and our captain Davis Love will finalize the team on September 4.

We will have a media session with Davis and myself this coming Monday in Charleston.

You may have seen some of the PSAs about launching the new Get Golf Ready and a bigger campaign, and if we could, let's watch these two spots.

(PSA played.)

This year, we have about 3,000 Get Golf Ready?certified facilities nationwide, and for the first time, we have a Get Golf Ready Family Zone that has been created as a free traveling golf festival in the Charleston area parks, and it's an attraction to get golf in the community and get more people playing and enjoying the game.

And with, that player development, the Tee It Forward Program, can't thank the USGA enough for their support of Tee It Forward.  I know I certainly enjoyed my time with Glen Nager, the president of the USGA, as well as the presidents of the others.  We teed it forward and had just a great day and a lot of fun and excitement.  We have about 3,000 facilities of that also on board for this year, and it's catching on because amateurs enjoy it.  It's a better way to play the game at a yardage that's more acceptable, more fun, and find out that most of them feel that we play faster.

Being a professional still on facility, I can tell you that my members have been ecstatic.  They come in and talk about shooting lower scores than they have in five or ten years, talk about the number of birdies they made, and quite a few times I've had people say, I was thinking about giving up or quitting but this has given me renewed hope and interest.  I know it's certainly given me renewed hope and interest, and it's lot more fun, because we certainly don't hit it like the great players that we have with us this week.

We had two really exciting community relations initiatives this year with the Kiawah Island Resort.  We partnered with the Links to Success program, which assists the region's most at?risk and underperforming schools in order to increase high school graduation rates.  Within two years, participating schools have shown consistent improvement and higher ratings.

I was fortunate to be there for the Sea Island Habitat for Humanity ribbon cutting on Sunday where we built a house in the Charleston area.  The house was built in roughly a two?week time span from June 23 to July 7.  200 volunteers took more than 425 shifts to complete the house.  When you saw Lauren Francis speak to the crowd, you know how much that having a project like that means to individuals in the community and the lasting legacy that that program will create.  A $50,000 contribution was made between The PGA of America and the Kiawah Island Resort.

PGA Junior Golf League, can't tell you how excited about this; everybody knows how passionate I am about junior golf.  We are really excited to announce a new initiative called the PGA Junior League, where we have partnered with LEJ Sports outside of Texas, and it's just like the thousands of kids that play the other sports, whether it be baseball, soccer, the team consists of kids who get to wear jerseys with numbers on their back, and this year, in our inaugural year, we had 1800 juniors between the ages of 7 to 13 compete through 123 teams and in 22 cities around the country.

There will be a National Championship that will be played at Cog Hill this coming September in Chicago.

Tonight, I know we are all excited, it's our annual Distinguished Service Award.  This year we will be honoring our 1991 U.S. Ryder Cup Team captain, which was played right here at Kiawah, Mr. Dave Stockton, who also played on two Ryder Cup teams himself, was a two?time PGA Champion, and I hope to see you all in Charleston tonight as we give Dave Stockton some incredible recognition.

With, that let me turn it over to our CEO and honorary member, Mr. Joe Steranka.

JOE STERANKA:  Thank you, Allen.  This is a special site for us to return to.  It's where the modern day Ryder Cup was born, on the Ocean Course.

This championship, also, since it is the championship whose identity is born out of 27,000 PGA professionals that make us the largest sports organization in the world and the leading driver of the golf industry in this country; in addition to crowning the final page or champion of the year, it gives us the opportunity in our conversations with you and our media partners to speak on behalf of the state of the game.

Our PerformanceTrak system that we use to measure the relevance of the game as a business around the country; we have got 16,000 small businesses that are America's Golf Courses, where many of those 27,000 professionals are employed; those rounds played are up 14 percent year over year, which is we believe a testament not only to sustained good weather throughout the year, albeit hot in many areas of the country but the work of golf professionals following the lead of folks like Ted Bishop, our vice president, who has been a great advocate for Get Golf Ready and many other initiatives such as those that Allen spoke about.

It's gaining traction, and shows that even in this post?recession world, that golf is an important part of the fun and recreation of folks' lives.

In my role with World Golf Foundation and Chief Executive of the PGA, have led much of the work to elevate the stature of golf in Washington, D.C., and the state capitals.  We talk about we are golf, stating the economic and the human and the environmental impact of golf, and that has certainly been the case here in South Carolina, a state that certainly gets it in terms of understanding the importance of golf, not just this week where we have a $92 million economic impact of this PGA Championship, but really week?in, week?out.  There are 33,000 South Carolinians that have jobs that putt food on table for their families because of the golf industry in this great state, over 300 golf facilities and many other golf?related businesses that allow those folks to earn some $800 million in wages.  Golf tourism for this state is a $1.2?billion?a?year industry with three quarters of a billion people that make golf trips to the state of South Carolina.

It's great that 800 PGA professionals are the leading part of the 33,000 jobs; but when you get Governor Nikki Haley and House Speaker Bobby Harrell, and we had U.S. Congressman Tim Scott at our government relations lunch yesterday, and they all are fans or participants in golf at varying levels.  We would like to get them all to play more.  But they certainly are uniform in their high respect and understanding of the importance of golf.

Part of what we do when we come to a community is turn the spotlight of the media coverage of an important sports event on the host community.  Having a thousand of you that are coming in and reporting to over a dozen countries around the world is important; the 28 hours of television coverage in High Definition this year, that our partners at CBS and TNT provide and a total of 125 hours of production that is now broadbanded out via PGA.COM.  We have seen, and this goes back, this is our 22nd year now with Turner; and when we introduced four days of cable coverage in what is now 18 hours of cable coverage, folks said, do you really think fans are going to consume that much television?  And the answer is, absolutely.

So 125 hours on broadband and we are finding great traffic even though the Olympics has got a fair amount of content of their own coming out.

One of the things in Washington, D.C., again, that we talk about, is the human impact of golf, and I'm wearing one of the pedometers that we hand out that I think a number of you are wearing, as well, to remind people that this is a healthy activity that we can have.

But maybe the most important and rewarding thing is what we do from a charitable standpoint.  We have got 57 charities involved here, but for the last several years, we have used the PGA Championship to launch America's attention about the Folds of Honor Foundation and Patriot Golf Day.  Coincidentally, I'm the chairman of the Folds of Honor this year and their board of directors, but our association since the inception of Patriot Golf Day was captivated by Major Dan Rooney, who is with us today; Major Ed Pulido, your tireless efforts; PGA professional Tony Biata, who has helped grow the game and participation among PGA professionals.

But when we have a spouse of a fallen hero come into our board room as happened earlier this week and speak from the heart about what impact, not the $5,000 contribution to a scholarship for her children has, but more as she said, that her husband's contribution to keep this country safe was not forgotten.

So for that, I would like to recognize Leslie Bauguess, the spouse of one of our fallen heros and one of the recipients of the Folds of Honor Scholarship.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

So we know that your daughters, Ryan and Ellie, even though they are just 11 and 10 now, they have a bright future ahead of them.  I guess Duke has already identified one of your daughters to get into a gifted program, and we know the Folds of Honor and the PGA will be there to support you as you give the gift of education to them.

So, again, great to be with you.  This is a very proud moment for me to look back over 25 years of PGA Championships and see where it's grown, and to be able to work with great gentlemen like Allen Wronowski, we've got a great lineup coming in the years to follow with Ted Bishop and Derek Sprague.

Thanks, and we'll turn it back to you, Julius.

Q.  You bring up 25 years for yourself, I was curious where perhaps the search for your replacement stands now in the search process.

ALLEN WRONOWSKI:  There's a search committee that's been formed.  There's a firm that's been hired.  We are already vetting through candidates.  There will be a meeting this week as we continue the process.  The transition has been absolutely spectacular.  We are moving forward.

Q.  Is there a timetable?

ALLEN WRONOWSKI:  No timetables.  Don't want to make it too fast, too long.  We will take the appropriate amount of time and really take a good look at where we are going to go.

Q.  I know that you've said in print a couple of times, your goal was to leave the game in better shape than you found it here at the end of your tenure.  Both of you will be transitioning from your positions at the end of the year; do you feel good about that statement still, that the game is in better shape than when you guys first came into your positions, and what will be the highlights of your career, do you think, as you look back?

JOE STERANKA:  Well, I'll go first.  We still have a couple more highlights we think to finish up this week and then in September at Medinah.  I see Richard Hills, who is the director of the European Ryder Cup back there, and they are going to send out a great team to battle us and Captain Love.

I won't speak too much about the highlights, but I will say, this has been a challenging time for golf professionals and business owners.  And it speaks to the importance of making sure that our elected leaders and other community spokespeople understand the value of that local golf course.  It might employ 40 or 50 people, and the business survival rate of golf courses through this recession has been over 99 percent a year of those business stay going.

Somehow these men and women are putting a lot more blood, sweat and tears into it and keeping the doors open, keeping people coming out and having a good time playing golf, and keeping 40 or 50 jobs in the community.  We have to remember, after you take out the PGA professional and GCSA superintendent and occasional club manager, most of the jobs at America's golf courses are service economy jobs.  And we do the training.  We train these men and women to deliver golf services, and they come from middle and lower income households.

So we think we are a vital part of local communities and then when you roll up what that impact is nationally; so we have a lot of help in overseeing the game, whether it's the USGA and globally the R&A and other stakeholders.  Our professionals are really the caretakers of the game at the local level.

But, yes, we very much need to recognize the importance of our contribution to the economy.

Allen?

ALLEN WRONOWSKI:  Thanks, and my tenure, certainly much shorter than Joe's.  But since I started volunteering at the local for the section was 1983,  so we've been doing this for a long time and in a lot of different capacities.  When you raise your hand in the air and ask to volunteer, you just hope to leave it a little bit better than you found it and that you somehow can make a difference, and hopefully some will feel that I have done that.

Certainly we have had a great board, great officer corps, the staff at headquarters has been outstanding, and our relationship with the allied partners and the strengthening of our partnerships with the USGA, Golf Course Superintendents, club managers, the PGA Tour, it's been rewarding to see everyone come together in a collective effort to make sure the game moves in the right direction.

Certainly as somebody that has taught the game and promoted the game and been at a level of one of the 27,000 men and women that I speak of all the time, I'm really glad to see where the direction is and the concentration on player development; to get back out on the range, to give tips, to do Get Golf Ready as a sports academy, to make a difference in watching the development of today's youth.  It's such a challenge, and we talk a lot about the health and wellness and obesity, but I think just as much, we have concerns about their values and the way they have respect for life and people.  And golf is just such a great game to watch that just coming back from Fort Wayne, Indiana, and the junior PGA Championship and watching these young men and women in an environment that they not only get to compete but they get to interact; and like Allen brought up, from Sandy Jones, the saying about G?O?L?F stands for 'great opportunities for lifetime friendships'.

You see what the game of golf can do, and one of our charitable aspects is the Folds of Honor, but part of the other $3.5 million is given to charity each and every year through the game of golf.  It's a special sport and fun to have been part of, and hopefully I've made a little bit of a difference.

Q.  Colin Montgomerie recently said, a major will be played in Asia one day; the Masters is going nowhere; the U.S. Open probably isn't, either, but the PGA Championship could possibly be the one to move.  Could you respond to that statement, please?

JOE STERANKA:  When you win The Ryder Cup, you get to speak on a lot of topics.  So, you know, congratulations again to Captain Montgomerie.

America represents about 60 percent of the global GDP.  A big part of the IOC's interest in adding golf to the Olympics was because of the size of the American marketplace and the television and media viewership.

You know, moving the PGA Championship away from the No. 1 market in the world, you know, that's a real tough thing to justify from a business rationale standpoint.  So just speaking from the business side.

We are still The PGA of America, which represents American golf professionals, and though we are proud of our leadership on the global stage, we'll leave it at that.

Q.  Would you endorse the idea of a fifth major being established in world golf?

JOE STERANKA:  We've always said that majors have been defined by the players and the media.  There was a time when Western Open and the U.S. Amateur, British Amateur, were considered major championships when Bobby Jones won that era's version of the Grand Slam.

For us, it's our job to make the PGA Championship and the Senior PGA and The Ryder Cup and the Grand Slam as good as they can possibly be, and we are going to leave the titles on those to someone else.

Q.  There's no doubt that the PGA Championship resounds around the world a lot more in 2012 than it did, say, 30 years ago.  Where do you rank it in the four major championships?

JOE STERANKA:  Well, I'll go first.  Our unique distinction is that we are the only all?professional major; that PGA professionals at every level, whether it's organizing their local club and course tournaments, or setting up The Ocean Course for the PGA Championship, we think we have to set the highest standard for professionalism in doing that.  That's why we have hired great staff such as Kerry Haigh to come in and do that job, and it's the reason that we invest millions of dollars every year in training PGA professionals on how to do it at a much lower scale on either a section or a local level.

So it's the only all?professional major.  And again, we are going to leave it to someone else to weight them in some particular order or to hang an identity on each and every one of them.  We know it's elite company that we keep and we're proud of that.

ALLEN WRONOWSKI:  I've been asked the question before, and I'm afraid he'll take me out to the shed if I don't say No. 1 (turning to Julius).

How do you rate them?  They are all so different.  They all have different histories and different traditions that you look, especially when you're at home in a TV audience; when you think of Augusta, you think of the back nine charges, the beginning of the season, the azaleas.  When you think about the U.S. Open, a solid, firm test of the game of golf.  Going over to The Open Championship across the pond, you think about a lot of weather and links golf.  When you think about the PGA Championship, you think about an all?professional field and Glory's Last Shot, the final chance for a player to make the Grand Slam of Golf or make a Ryder Cup Team.  It's hard to say what's better, the Super Bowl or World Series?  They are just too different.

Q.  You mentioned earlier the local focus that you put on the communities and the world gets to see that.  In 2017, you'll be coming to Charlotte.  Talk about what that's going to mean above and beyond a normal PGA Tour event for the greater Charlotte community.

JOE STERANKA:  Well, you're seeing it here.  The size of this media center; the number of people that we have to handle through the most elaborate urban transportation system for a sporting event; this is the biggest sporting event in the history of South Carolina.

Quail Hollow has already proven it can handle some pretty substantial crowd, but knowing from our conversations with Johnny Harris and Governor Perdue, they believe that they will have even larger crowds for an event like the PGA Championship, which, with 71 international players and 21 different countries represented here, we see our commitment to having more international players than any other players in America.  It will be a global event, and you'll see the media coverage that I talked about earlier, which is much more than a week?in, week?out event, even one as successful as Quail Hollow has been.

Q.  I'd like to you elaborate a little, you answered already about finding Joe's replacement, but he gave notice in April and it's been about four months.  Can you share a little more about the process, search committee, what exactly you're looking for?

ALLEN WRONOWSKI:  And Joe graciously is going to go through the end of the year.  He still thinks there's quite a few things to be done.  He talked about we still have The Ryder Cup and Grand Slam of Golf and the Annual Meeting and it's a process that we didn't feel a need to rush or make a drastic change.  He wasn't walking out the door the next day, thank goodness for me and the rest of us.

JOE STERANKA:  (Smiling.)

ALLEN WRONOWSKI:  We are just taking a look and we have vetted through a lot of different firms to make sure we hired a firm we were comfortable with and one that we really thought would give us an outside view, not only of people maybe not in the industry, but one that would give us candidates that could relate to the culture and what The PGA of America and our professionals were about.

With that, we have had numerous conference calls and we have met in person.  No timelines, no rush.  We are just going to keep looking through candidates.  It changes quite a lot with people that we look at and know, and we are going to take our first time and to make sure, and Joe has actually been pretty helpful with the process saying, this is what I have learned through my seven years, which has been quite an education and experience for him, as well, to assist us in that process.

If we really looked at, if you're going to crunch it down, probably by November in our Annual Meeting, we will have named somebody and have somebody in place.

Q.  What's the name of the search firm and also how important ?? Joe is the first CEO that didn't have background of being a PGA club professional.  How important is that for the replacement?

JOE STERANKA:  It's RSR out of Connecticut that's handling the search.

Keep in mind, I'm the second chief executive in title, but we've had several chiefs of staff that had the old executive director title.  Jim Awtrey was actually the first chief of staff to be a PGA professional.  So we have had primarily non?golf professionals prior to that, but Jim left me some pretty big shoes to fill after 20 years as chief executive and his background on the board of directors and as tournament director.

Q.  To follow up on the earlier question about the stature and how it's improved over the last 20, 30 years, what do you attribute that to?  This is such a much more respected and widely followed championship.

JOE STERANKA:  Well, having been there for 25 years, and Jim Awtrey, who was my predecessor, when he hired Kerry Haigh and myself, and then Julius in 1992, and we would spend a lot of time as staff and then reach out to our past presidents; we have found that it was a fairly simple formula.  It was going to start with the athletes; that if you had the best athletes ?? this is the reason that the IOC went down the path of bringing the Dream Team and professionals and why we are going to have professional golfers in the Olympics.

If you have the best athletes for your significant event, then that's the most important element.

Secondly, you want to have a great, fair test, something that can challenge the very best players in the world, and so to have a golf course that literally has 8,000?plus yards of teeing grounds that we can put in Kerry Haigh's hands and whittle it down to 7,676 for this championship; you need a great test.  And if you look at the site selection in the time that Jim was CEO and I've continued as CEO, we have had a very great lineup of not just old, traditional sites that are famous in golf history, like Baltusrol or Medinah, but new venues.  We think introducing The Ocean Course and Valhalla that produced the Tiger/Bob May shootout, and then a great Ryder Cup, is part of who the PGA is.  We are going to try to represent all of golf.

And then the third part after you get the players and a great venue is the community support.  I tried to speak to that a little bit earlier about raising the stature of golf at the state level and at the federal level, and you see now states that are actively participating with private clubs.  Governor Jay Nixon down in Missouri did it to partner with Bellerive to bring us in for the 2013 Senior PGA and 2018 PGA Championship.  So you are getting states that recognize that, hey, golf is good.  It's good for the economy and the incremental economic impact of a major championship is important.

So those three things, and as long as you stick to that simple formula ?? don't get us wrong, we have tried to improve on that every year, although 103 out of 103 may be tough to top.

JULIUS MASON:  Thank you for joining us today.

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