PGA of America President, Jim Richerson poses for a photo during the 104th PGA Annual Meeting at Grayhawk Golf Club on October 29, 2020 in Scottsdale, AZ. (Photo by Traci Edwards/The PGA of America)
That was a word you heard a lot during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Everything at that time, we were reminded, was unprecedented, from the scope of school and business closures to the overwhelming sense of isolation many felt. Even golf, the game that had always provided a nice distraction from the complications of daily life, wasn’t immune to the unprecedented upheaval taking place in the world.
It was under that pall that PGA of America President Jim Richerson was elected to office two years ago. Unlike most of his 41 predecessors, dating back to 1916, Richerson wasn’t afforded the opportunity to step into the presidency and get his footing before steering the direction of the Association. He had to act, and act fast, to help ensure the game weathered the unprecedented challenges of a global pandemic.
“It was very, very unique at that time,” Richerson says. “When I was sworn in, in the fall of 2020, the PGA Annual Meeting that year was done electronically, and that was the first time we’d ever done that. I don’t think myself, the other officers, the board or the staff had a list of things we wanted to accomplish [long term]. There were things at that time that were immediate that we needed to try to address to help PGA Members.”
The most immediate question was how to safely reopen golf courses after so many had been forced to close.
“As everybody remembers, different towns, different city governments, different state governments all had different rules and regulations at that time, and they were changing pretty quickly,” says Richerson. “I’m really proud of how the staff, led by [PGA of America Chief Membership Officer] John Easterbrook and many others, came together. There was so much communication going on to get out as much information as possible to PGA Members as things were changing, really, on a daily basis from state to state, and sometimes county to county and city to city.”
The plan that Richerson and the PGA’s leadership put in place proved successful. Now, the stage was set for the golfing boom that followed.
“One of the silver linings of the pandemic was that a lot of people found golf or came back to it,” says Richerson. “Golf professionals around the country reacted and set their operations up to be able to stay open based on whatever restrictions they had. People got really creative, and they rolled up their sleeves and got busy to make sure they were able to offer golf as a safe haven, from a physical and mental standpoint, with everything the country was going through.”
The challenge then, Richerson says, was keeping all those golfers engaged for the long haul while attracting new professionals to the industry to support the growth. Even after his term ends, Richerson hopes the Association will keep that as a primary focus. One of the best ways to do that, Richerson adds, is by serving the PGA of America’s Membership and keeping them excited about the careers they’ve chosen.
“Hopefully, as an entire Association, we just continue focusing on the Members,” Richerson says. “There’s a lot going on in the golf world, a lot going on in the golf industry. We have phenomenal sponsors and great media partners, and they’re all essential to what we do, but none of those things exist if there are no PGA Members.
“We’ve had the same mission statement as an association for over 100 years, and that’s to serve the members and grow the game. I think those who formed the Association were very, very wise in that serving the members was the very first thing mentioned, and I don’t think that’s changed since day one.”
The last two years have been incredibly fulfilling for Richerson personally, and an all-time career high, but, he says, his dedication to the Association won’t end just because his presidency does.
“You continue to serve, you continue to try to work, you continue to try to hopefully create programs and offerings that better help support PGA Members and sections,” says Richerson when asked what he sees himself doing going forward. “Whether I’m in the President’s role or some other role, or just as a PGA Member, hopefully that type of service never stops.”