By Allen Wronowski, PGA of America President
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Upon being elected President of The PGA of America last October, one of my first thoughts was a great anticipation of Louisville, where I would preside over my first major championship at this week’s Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid. And despite a late-night tornado watch Wednesday night and a little bit of Thursday rain, Valhalla Golf Club and the city of Louisville have again shown incredible support and enthusiasm for championship golf and The PGA of America. As I knew they would. So my first words for my “Welcome to the Senior PGA Championship” message are: “Thank You!”
People often ask me what my roles and duties are during the week of these major championships. As much as I’d love to say that I can enjoy the entire week as a fan watching many of the best players in the world, it’s also a week of getting a lot of work done on behalf of our association.
In truth, I relish both of those roles, as a golf fan and as the Association President because it gives me a unique opportunity to enjoy and impact a game that we all love so much.
I tell people all the time that “G.O.L.F.” is “Great Opportunities and Lifetime Friendships.” I mean it. In fact, this week may be just as much about making and solidifying relationships and friendships as it is about championship competition -- at least, from one perspective.
When I arrived on Monday, one of my first obligations was to do a media interview that not only talked about the week to come, but also emphasized our new partnership with KitchenAid and the benefits that this partnership will have on local communities around the country. Here is another example of a mutually beneficial relationship that is going to have a positive -- a very positive -- impact beyond the golf course. This is critical, in my opinion.
I also attended the Pro-Am draw Monday evening that was held at Churchill Downs. My friend David Marr did a great job as emcee and my team was able to select Fred Funk as our Professional partner. The great story regarding Fred Funk and I is that he and I used to play together as assistant professionals in the Middle Atlantic PGA Section many years ago. In fact, we were paired together in the last group of the 1986 Mid-Atlantic PGA Assistants Championship. Who would have thought that 25 years later, we’d play together again: He as one of the most popular and successful players to have played on Tour and me as President of The PGA of America. You would have raised some eyebrows with that prediction back then. But what a great and exciting way to renew an old acquaintance.
So we did play together in the Pro-Am, and, no, we did not win. Thus, I don’t really want to say too much more about that. Actually, we did win because I promise you no group on the course had more fun than we did. Furthermore, our friends at KitchenAid were out on the course having a lunch prepared for us on the 10th tee. It was probably the finest burger I’ve ever eaten. So yes, it was a great day. Isn’t that what golf is really about?
Tuesday night was our traditional Champion’s Dinner. Defending Senior PGA Champion Tom Lehman did an outstanding job, and there were some really nice comments by Mike Reid and Hale Irwin as well. I felt honored to be around these Senior PGA Champions, people I would call champions of life.
Wednesday meant an early-morning Rules meeting, a Past Presidents meeting (an invaluable source of wisdom and advice, as I’ve learned) and then an evening reception for the Volunteer Chairpersons -- great people without whom we could not conduct these championships. As golf fans and promoters of the game, we owe them great deal of gratitude. I hope I was able to convey that as well as I’d wanted to to each and every one of them.
So my welcome message is one that is mostly gratitude and totally sincere. I feel blessed and honored to serve as President of The PGA of America and this week is already showing me why it is such a privilege to play a part in the growth and promotion of golf.
Enjoy the coverage of the world’s top players this week! I’ll write one more message after play concludes Sunday. Between now and then, watch the great golf, maybe get a good round in and take some time to renew or establish a friendship. It will make your week a whole lot better. Believe me, I know.