After two weeks of welcoming the world’s best golfers to North Texas, the Northern Texas PGA took the first of many steps to ensure that the new generation of local golfers is larger and more successful than the past and current group of golfers.
The first Golf 2.0 seminar took place last week as more than 20 North Texas pros gathered at innovative TopGolf in Allen to discuss best practices for their respective facilities to grow the game.
“We’ve got the private and public sector together,” said Stacy Jordan of the Northern Texas PGA, who helped set up and facilitate the discussion. “It’s neat to see them all working together to help and get new people into the game of golf.”
The national numbers themselves are jarring. In 2011, the National Golf Foundation estimates that 400,000 more golfers left the game than started, a net loss for all of golf’s effort and hard work.
Texas always has been a fertile area for golf and golfers, and defied the national average for golfers coming and going.
“We want to take ideas from understanding to action, to help keep people in the game of golf,” said Rich Richeson, a national player development manager for Golf 2.0.
The PGA of America program also recently hired longtime Northern Texas PGA executive director Darrell Crall as its national director, based at the national headquarters in Florida.
“I’ve talked to Darrell about this project and what we can do to help increase the momentum for golf,” said Richeson, who spoke at the three-hour seminar along with former pro Chuck Higgins.
Among the ideas exchanged at the meeting is the Golf and Dine function which is being tried at Hurricane Creek in Anna, among others.
The idea is to play nine holes in a fun, social fashion then come in for a quick dinner. The golf can take two hours and the dinner one, leaving players plenty of time in the afternoon and evening.
“We’ve taken away the time factor and made it short, fun and friendly,” Richeson said.
Some clubs even have experimented in shortening the holes to less than 100 yards, making the emphasis on chipping and putting and further shortening the time needed.
“Every course is going to have players and or members they see all the time, people who play 2-3 times a week. These are the core players,” Richeson said. “But you are going to have a large segment who come once a month and then stop coming at all. That is who have you to engage.”
Another idea talked about by the group is encouraging the spouse and children of active players to get involved either through organized activities, golf and dining or shorter games.
If the whole family is involved, the whole game is better and golf benefits as a whole,” Richeson said.
The location of TopGolf was testimony to that as well, as the three-year-old practice/gaming facility with locations in Dallas, Chicago and Washington, D.C. uses laser chips in each golf ball to record a golfer’s score as they hit to a variety of targets. The golfer’s score then is automatically displayed on TV screens at each hitting bay and the balls automatically are dispensed to the player.
At 10:30 p.m. on a Wednesday night, there still was a long line of players to get into the front door.
“How many times can you say that about a golf course, public or private, on a Wednesday afternoon,” Richeson said. “Pros who hadn’t been here before were blown away. It was a whole new core of golfers.”
Future Golf 2.0 seminars are being considered for later in the year in the Fort Worth area, and possibly south of Dallas.
“It’s all about thinking outside the box and using new ideas to grow the game of golf,” Jordan said.
Castroville’s Stanton Tondre overcame thunderstorms and tough course conditions at Woodforest Golf Course outside Houston to win medalist honors in the stroke play qualifying round of the 2012 Texas Public Links Championship.
He began his round bogey, birdie, bogey before recording birdies on the par-4 fifth and par-4 eighth holes of the West Course to turn at 1-under-par 34. Tondre, a member of the University of Texas at San Antonio golf team, rattled off three more birdies on the back nine with only one bogey to take medalist honors and the top seed with a 3-under-par 68 (34-34).
Defending Public Links champion Michael Smith, of Cedar Park, will be seeded second heading into the match portion of the championship after a qualifying round of 2-under-par 69 (36-33). The Stephen F. Austin golfer at one point carded five birdies in six holes.
Christopher Wheeler, of Carrollton, Cash Wilkerson, of Spring, Trevor Sauntry, of Houston, and Michael McLeroy, of Houston, all tied for third at 70.
Chilton’s Gabriella Dominguez, Tessa Teachman, from Baton Rouge, and LPGA veteran Jamie Hullett, from Mesquite, all qualified for the 2012 Women’s U.S. Open at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis.
Dominguez and Teachman tied for medalist honors at 144, Hullett was third at 145.
Qualifying is still open for two of the Texas golf majors of the year. Both the Texas Women’s Open and the 42nd annual Texas State Open will be held at the Lakes at Castle Hills.
The Texas Women’s Open is June 20-21 with a registration deadline of June 15. The Texas State Open will be held Aug. 2- 5 with a registration deadline of June 14.