PGA of America's original members could not envision incredible growth

By
Anthony Chiang
The Palm Beach Post

Series: PGA

Published: Monday, January 25, 2016 | 11:54 p.m.

When the PGA of America was founded on April 10, 1916, it included 78 original members.

A lot has changed in 100 years.

The PGA of America has grown to more than 28,000 current men and women professionals. It's a rate of growth that the founders of the first nationwide all-professional golf association probably didn't see coming.

"I would say they knew it was going to be pivotal to the growth of the sport," PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua said. "But do I think at that moment they would envision 28,000 members and the type of championships and the scope and the scale of the organization? Probably not."

The PGA of America is set to commemorate that growth with a 100-day celebration of its centennial that begins Tuesday in conjunction with the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando.

"We wanted to take this moment in time to certainly reflect on the past 100 years and everything that's gone into the PGA of America with a look toward the future," Bevacqua said. "We wanted to shine the spotlight on the stories of the professionals around the country and on the stories of our 41 sections."

The festivities will kick off with a Ceremonial Tee Shot on Demo Day at the Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge in Winter Haven on Tuesday. It will feature PGA of America officers, representatives from the PGA's 41 sections and 41 PGA Junior League Golf participants.

The celebration will culminate at six sites around the country that will host clinics televised on the Golf Channel on May 4 featuring PGA professional instructors.

"The PGA professional has proven to be the tangible connection between the game and quite literally everybody that plays it in the United States," Bevacqua said. "Whether it's a private course in South Florida or a public venue in the Northwest or a practice facility in the middle of the country, chances are it's a PGA of America professional that connected the people to the game through lessons, introducing the game or making the game more enjoyable."

The centennial celebration includes the launch of #ThxPGAPro, a grassroots platform that allows golfers to share stories about and show gratitude for their own PGA professional. Golfers from all levels can participate by posting videos, photos and messages on ThxPGAPro.com or through social media channels using the hashtag #thxpgapro.

"All of those personal connections over the course of those 100 years is unbelievably moving and impressive," Bevacqua said.

While the next few months will focus on celebrating the past 100 years, the PGA of America is already planning for the next 100 years.

"We are the PGA of America, but we also know we need a global footprint," Bevacqua said. "If the organization is to remain as relevant as it is and grow in its relevancy, we know we need to expand our reach beyond the borders of the U.S."