Golf Course Management

MAY 2019

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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74 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 05.19 In 1985, I worked the U.S. Open at Oak- land Hills Country Club in Birmingham, Mich. e purse was $650,000, and the winner, Andy North, took home $103,000. By comparison, the 2018 U.S. Open purse at Shinnecock Hills was $12 million, with the winner, Brooks Koepka, taking home $2,160,000. Adjusted for inflation, the $103,000 that Mr. North earned in 1985 would be $245,745.48 in 2019. at's approximately nine times less than Mr. Koepka was awarded in 2018. So, the question is, where did all the extra money come from? e answer is, an increase in television broadcast time, spon - sorship, and advertising focused on high-end watches and expensive cars. No blue-collar beer commercials here. To put things in perspective, the first na - tionally televised U.S. Open was in 1954. It aired for a total of two hours on Saturday. Note that it was a three-day event, with 36 holes played on the final day, a Saturday. In 1965, it became a four-day event and was televised for three hours. ere were seven hours of coverage in 1977, and, for the first time, there was 18-hole coverage of the lead - ers during the closing round. By 1982, cover- age had ballooned to 14 total hours of TV by two networks, ESPN and ABC. In 2018, the U.S. Open accounted for 37 hours of televi - sion time. is increase in television coverage en - hanced sponsorship and advertisement, en- larging the purse. In addition, growing on-site audiences have generated funds for numerous local charities. Golf is a wonderful game, but one group is not sharing in this wealth. Why are volunteer maintenance staff needed to prepare the course for the best play - ers in the game, competing at some of the most prestigious clubs, which have some of the richest members in the world? I could be mistaken, but I don't think the professional sportscasters, cameramen, technicians or crews that set up and tear down grandstands, etc., are volunteering their time for profes - sional golf. No one would suggest that David Feherty volunteer his entertaining commen - tary at tournaments because he does not work on the golf course staff. It is certainly wonderful that golf course superintendents have been supportive of one another, and I am not implying that should end immediately. I am just asking, "Isn't it time educated and experienced golf manage - ment employees earn compensation for the meticulous work they perform while setting up a world stage?" Until now, trickle-down economics has not worked for the golf course crew at these events. As they state their appreciation for the profession of golf course management, the GCSAA, USGA, PGA and even Golf Chan - nel commentators have acknowledged a short- age of qualified management and staff on golf course ground crews. In addition, university turfgrass management programs continue to report lagging enrollment, partly because of the cost of education compared to start - ing income. In 1992, I paid $1,579.50 for 19 credits at Michigan State University. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $2,940.47. e minimum a student would have paid for 19 credits last semester at MSU was $9,158. As a turfgrass management educator, I think it wouldn't hurt enrollment if students knew the profession was compensated as much as it was appreciated. Even the socialists in America are capitalists first. It is noble to volunteer to help those less fortunate than oneself, but I don't understand volunteering to help those that are more fortu - nate. If an equivalent of 1% of the purse were split among the volunteer crew, each could easily be taking home $25 per hour. Should we work toward relationships so that the educated caretakers of golf course grounds are compensated at these events? is seems like low-hanging fruit, and we should not have to shake the tree too hard. Please send your comments to me at the email address above. Thomas A. Nikolai, the "Doctor of Green Speed," is the turfgrass academic specialist at Michigan State University of East Lansing, Mich., and a frequent GCSAA educator. Shaking the tree for low-hanging fruit? Why are volunteer maintenance staff needed to prepare the course for the best players in the game? Thomas A. Nikolai, Ph.D. nikolait@msu.edu (up to speed)

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