By Rick Jenkins
Photo courtesy of James N. Lum

What better time to reprise the NJSGA’s activities than the beginning of a new year. If you follow our championship schedule, read our magazine NJSGA GOLF, or periodically visit our web site, you hear and read a lot about our tournaments, players and member courses. But you may not know much about the organization itself. How is the NJSGA doing? What sorts of goals and priorities are we focused on for 2011? What do we do during the off-season?

To address the first question, the NJSGA is doing well. The organization has strong leadership and is financially healthy. We have watched costs carefully and most of our revenue sources are intact, so we have survived the Great Recession with flying colors so far! Most of our corporate partners have stood by us and provide valuable contributions to our programs in many ways. The last two seasons have been two of our most robust in terms of championship play. Fields increased in eight different events and reached capacity or remained even in all others. We accepted a record number of entries for the Men’s Public Links Championship and the Women’s Senior Amateur in 2010 (though the latter was canceled due to repeated bad weather), and participation in the State Amateur and Junior/Boys Championships reached their highest level in nearly a decade. It’s rewarding to see tournament play across all demographic groups doing well, because the NJSGA is all about promoting golf to a broad audience. It’s also satisfying to see tournament play thriving in a down economy; we hope we are doing our part to relieve stress and provide an outlet in challenging economic times. Plus, financially, tournaments are an important source of revenue for the NJSGA from entry fees.

While we’re on the subject of NJSGA championships, let’s summarize some changes in store for several events this season. The Mid-Amateur Championship, which will be conducted in early May at Deal Golf and Country Club, will be expanded from 32 to 50 players (and ties) from the usual two qualifying sites and exemptions. Once on site at Deal, the players will start with 18 holes of stroke play to determine the field of 16 players who then will compete in match play to determine the champion. The Four Ball Championship, scheduled for Knickerbocker Country Club in mid-August, will undergo a similar tweak. The field will be expanded from 32 to 40 teams (and ties) from the usual two qualifying sites and exemptions, then the first day of the championship will consist of stroke play qualifying to determine the 16 teams that will advance to the match play rounds. These changes are designed to give more players the opportunity to compete at the championship venue.

Bigger changes have been applied to the Senior Amateur Championship this year. First, the Pre-Senior Division has been separated into its own event and is open to male amateur golfers between the ages of 45 and 54; it will be played on different dates and at a different site than its former “parent” tournament, the Senior Amateur. The Pre-Senior Amateur is scheduled for Navesink Country Club on August 22-23 and is 36 holes of stroke play over those two days. Second, the Super-Senior Division, which traditionally was another part of the Senior Amateur Championship, will be split out and played from a different, shorter set of tees at the same venue. The Senior and Super-Senior Championships will be played at Bedens Brook Club on August 2-3. One other Championships note: the Senior Open, conducted jointly by the NJSGA and NJPGA, is moving on the calendar this year from mid-September to mid-May.

Things have been happening on the caddie scholarship front, too. The Caddie Scholarship Foundation is a vital mission for the NJSGA; by assisting New Jersey caddies in paying for their college educations, it is one of the important ways we all give back to the game. 2010 saw a number of positive developments in this area: the minimum annual award was increased from $2,500 to $3,000; In the Loop, a quarterly e-newsletter for caddie scholar alumni and friends, was launched; the first-ever annual report for the Foundation was published; the caddie scholar presence on the web was expanded to Facebook and LinkedIn; and a Caddie Scholar of the Month feature was added to the web site. The Foundation “stats” continue to be impressive: 188 scholars representing 83 colleges and universities and 45 NJSGA member clubs were awarded $643,386 in grants for the 2010-11 academic year. Very impressive! If you don’t contribute to this vital cause, it’s never too late to start. It is an easy way to give back to the game (made even easier through online donations at and to keep the caddie in golf!

The NJSGA’s philanthropic role expanded even further in 2010 with the enhanced mission of our Youth Foundation. We decided we weren’t doing enough to support junior golf and special needs golf. So, with our history of supporting The First Tee program, we expanded our philanthropy to include other non-profit organizations that support junior golf or golf-related programs for special-needs children around the state. The funds we raise at our Challenge Cup Pro-Am, which kicks off the State Open Championship in July, benefit these programs. In addition, did you know that all junior golfers are eligible for a free GHIN handicap from the NJSGA?

So how does the NJSGA spend its off-season? This is an often-asked question. The obvious answer is that the activities described above don’t happen overnight; they need planning. So, we spend most of the off-season planning for the upcoming season. Setting up the tournament schedule and securing host clubs is a very time-consuming affair, and actually starts in earnest every fall. In fact, some major events, like the State Open and State Amateur, are set several years in advance. We spend a lot of time on technology during the off-season. Special projects like these are difficult to work on once the golf season starts because we are in tournament operation mode then. For example, one winter a few years ago we re-built the web site with a completely new design and tournament registration module. This winter, we are overhauling the NJSGA databases, consolidating and streamlining the information into a Microsoft CRM solution hosted by the USGA. Like the GHIN handicapping system, this is one way the USGA helps state and regional golf associations manage information and communicate better with their constituents – which for us consist of players, GHIN handicap subscribers, member clubs and their staffs, caddie scholar donors, NJSGA officials and committee members, etc.

One key activity this winter is planning the various seminars and educational offerings we run in the early spring. Our line-up of popular Rules Seminars, hosted by the NJSGA Tournament Committee, is being scheduled for dates in March and April and will be announced soon. A new offering this year will be the NJSGA Education Summit, which aims to bring a number of hot topics in the golf industry up for review and discussion with special guest speakers at a forum of our member clubs. The program is underwritten by Zurich Financial and will feature an interesting array of discussion topics. Watch for more news shortly on this program.

The Course Rating Committee also is active this time of year setting up their schedule. In 2011, 28 courses are slated to be rated or re-rated. Courses are required to be re-rated every five years, or sooner if they undergo modifications or restorations, and this is an important service we provide to our member clubs. The work is very specialized and technical; if you are interested in joining the course rating team, let us know and we’ll schedule you for training in the spring.

Finally, our magazine receives a lot of attention over the winter months. NJSGA GOLF has come a long way since we joined forces with Madavor Media in 2009. It is now a much more attractive and larger publication, and the advertising sold by the Madavor sales force helps offset the production costs. NJSGA GOLF reaches nearly 50,000 households and 225 clubs/courses in New Jersey. The editorial staff uses the off-season to plan content for the upcoming season of four issues, and even begins to work on some of those articles. We also meet with Madavor to discuss ways we can improve the magazine, from design elements to production logistics.

We manage to keep plenty busy over the winter, even though most golf courses look like the one pictured above! If scenes like this are getting you down, check out some warm-weather golf destination packages in the eBenefits section of this web site.

We hope you are now better informed about the mission and programs of the NJSGA, and we hope you can participate in them in the coming season, whether it be playing in a championship or attending a Rules Seminar or supporting the Caddie Scholarship Foundation. If you love golf, the NJSGA is for you!

Best wishes for a successful 2011 season in golf!

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