Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Golf Becoming Larger Piece of Indiana's Economy

National Golf Day in Washington DC
PGA President Allen Wronowski, PGA Vice President Ted Bishop,
 PGA Secretary Derek Sprague and PGA CEO Joe Steranka

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana native Ted Bishop spent Sunday at the exclusive Augusta National Golf Club as a rules official for the prestigious Masters golf tournament, where the winner earned international fame and took home $1.44 million in prize winnings.

He spent Tuesday morning at the Indiana Statehouse, talking to legislators about how golf is a game for the common man — and one that brings in millions of dollars to the state's economy.

Bishop, vice president of the PGA of America, uttered a phrase legislators love to hear, that golf is a “tax-revenue generator” before telling them that its impact is on par with some of the state's more iconic industries, such as soybean production and dairy products.

“I’m here to dispute the notion that golf is a game for the elite,” said Bishop, who learned the game as a teenager working a public par-3 golf course in Logansport. The former PGA pro will serve as president of the PGA next year.

Bishop spoke at a press conference in the first-floor atrium of the Statehouse, while PGA professionals from Indiana golf courses offered legislators and their staffers swing lessons and putting advice in a makeshift hitting cage and putting green set up nearby.

Facing a long day of legislative business, few lawmakers took  advantage of the offer.

But Bishop and members of the Indiana Golf Alliance, whose members work in the state’s golf industry, made sure legislators and the media knew about a just-released study that says Indiana’s 400-plus golf courses and ranges generate about $600 million a year in gross revenues and that the golf industry employs about 21,000 Hoosiers.

“And that’s not to mention all the business deals that get done on Indiana golf courses,” said Rep. Bob Morris, a freshman Republican legislator from Fort Wayne. Last week, Golf Digest magazine named Sycamore Hills Golf Course in Fort Wayne to its biannual “America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses.” Augusta National, where the Masters was played last week, tops the list.

The Indiana Golf Economy study was commissioned by GOLF 20/20, an initiative of the World Golf Foundation. It’s one of a series of economic-impact studies commissioned by the golf industry and prompted by federal legislation created after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005.

In the wake of the hurricane, Congress created a tax-incentive program designed to boost business investment in the coastal area. But specifically excluded from the program were massage parlors, liquor stores, casinos and golf courses.

Bishop said it was a wakeup call to the golf industry that it needed to boost the economic benefits of the sport. Economic impact studies for more than 20 states have been conducted since then.

Indiana has hosted some prestigious golf tournaments, including the 2010 PGA Professionals National Championship at the Pete Dye Golf Course in French Lick. But both Bishop and Indiana Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman said much of the game’s economic impact —including $136 million in golf-related tourism — comes from public golf courses that have greens fees of less than $30.

That’s why Bishop had one last piece of advice for his Statehouse audience: “I just ask that you play more golf.”

Story written by
Maureen Hayden
Tribune-Star Statehouse Bureau

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