PGA OF AMERICA TURNS 100

If you woke up last Sunday thinking the final round of the Masters was the only thing that mattered in the golf world perhaps you missed something.

That’s fair. The Masters, after all, is the year’s first major, the official start of the golf season for many people throughout North America, a tournament that’s “unlike any other.” To be solely focused on the outcome, on Danny Willett’s victory and all of the accompanying sub-plots from the final 18 holes at Augusta National is understandable. The Masters happens only once a year.

Last Sunday, a select group of 28,000 dedicated men and women throughout the United States woke up to something they will see, not once this year, but once in their lifetime.

The PGA of America turned 100 that day. Rodman Wanamaker, Walter Hagen and a group of 35 other charter members officially formed the PGA of America April 10, 1916. It was the culmination of a series of meetings and communications that began three months earlier in New York. Wanamaker, whose name now adorns the PGA Championship trophy, saw rising interest in the game and believed strongly a national organization of professionals could better promote golf, grow the game and serve its best interests going forward.

“The essence of being a PGA professional is a deep love for golf and as deep a respect for its rules, values and traditions,” said Joe Steranka, the PGA of America’s now retired former CEO, during an interview at the PGA Show. “I see this centenary as a real celebration of the grass roots golf professional, not just the institution. Let’s face it. Whether it’s golfers in Canada or golfers in the United States their experience with the game comes in many cases from interaction with PGA professionals, the people that welcome them onto their facility and ensure they’re going to have a positive, fun experience while they’re there.”

Steranka knows all about that. He served as the organization’s CEO for seven years, following 18 years with the PGA of America as a broadcast executive. With all quiet at the end of a very busy second day at this year’s PGA Show in Orlando, Fla., in January, Steranka sat down to chat about the PGA of America centenary. He was happy to oblige.

“You know, I see this as a great milestone but it’s also a great celebration of the profession,” he explained. “This is that one game, the only game, you can enjoy from age eight to 80. Literally at any time of people’s lives a PGA professional is ready to assess what we’re hoping to get out of the golf experience. They’re really in the people business. They’re trusted advisors. I don’t think they’re trying to sell the game as much as they’re trying to provide us with what we’d like to get from it.”

Steranka, now a consultant and brand coach for golf and sports public relations firm, Buffalo Brand Invigoration Group, is particularly enamoured by a commemorative campaign the PGA of America launched early in 2016.

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