TAMPA, FLORIDA | Let’s hear it for lifelong amateurs.
Something weird and wonderful occurred after Tiger Woods defeated Trip Kuehne, 2 up, in the final of the 1994 U.S. Amateur Championship.
Kuehne didn’t talk about turning pro. He was not going to entertain any ideas about becoming a touring professional. Period. In an era when almost all of golf’s top amateurs have interviewed agents and managers and openly inquired “What can you do for me?” Kuehne was content to focus on a career in business, finance and investment.
Fred Ridley won the 1975 U.S. Amateur, outlasting Keith Fergus, 2 up, in the final. Ridley also remained an amateur. An attorney, he has specialized in the administrative side of golf, becoming president of the USGA and chairman of Augusta National Golf Club.
The notion of remaining an amateur was discussed frequently by Bobby Jones, whose 1930 Grand Slam included two major amateur titles (British Amateur and U.S. Amateur) and two open crowns (U.S. Open and Open Championship).
Many, if not most, of today’s amateurs want to be recognized as golf heroes, and they want it fast. Turning pro is the first step.
The Amateur Golf Alliance is a non-profit organization with the clout to alter many of the traditional perceptions of amateur golf.
However, the practical, real-life definition of the word amateur may be changing. Here at the Gasparilla Invitational, being played at Palma Ceia Golf & Country Club, Rob Addington is unveiling his rusty golf game. What isn’t rusty is Addington’s devotion to amateur golf. He is vice president of the Amateur Golf Alliance, a non-profit organization with the clout to alter many of the traditional perceptions of amateur golf.
The AGA originally was created to manage the Concession Cup, featuring mid-amateur and senior amateur golfers from the United States playing against mid-ams and seniors from Great Britain and Ireland.
It didn’t stop there.
“Our mission is to promote amateur golf,” Addington said. “To accomplish this, we are providing funding for some players who have some financial needs. We want them to be able to play without financial restrictions. We also have made a commitment this year to provide some funding for anyone who is asked to participate on the practice squad for the Walker Cup team.”
Financial aid for aspiring Curtis Cup players also appears to be on the way.
The AGA has worked closely with the USGA to make sure no golfer, male or female, will be in jeopardy of forfeiting amateur status. Addington knows all about this, because he served 19 years as executive director of the Texas Golf Association.
There is more. The AGA is helping to support several diverse golf tournaments, including the Gasparilla. Palma Ceia is a 103-year-old course that is in spectacular condition. Designers Tom Bendelow and Donald Ross were here in the early years, and it has kept its historical mystique over the years.
On behalf of the Gasparilla Invitational, the AGA contacted state and regional golf associations, promising to pay the entry fees for their mid-amateur champions. A total of 13 accepted and entered.
More tournaments for women will be scheduled, Addington said, as women’s golf becomes a priority. Another important development will be the availability of swing and equipment testing for amateurs who otherwise might not have the opportunity to experiment with these high-tech sessions. A prototype testing program is in development.
“We are trying to figure out how to attract more golfers and provide them with instruction and video and the best modern golf equipment. We’ve got to make this game more popular, more viable.” — Rob Addington, vice president of the Amateur Golf Alliance
Addington credits Alan Fadel of Toledo, Ohio, the AGA’s president, with much of the progress in player development. “We are trying to figure out how to attract more golfers,” Addington said, “and provide them with instruction and video and the best modern golf equipment. We’ve got to make this game more popular, more viable.”
A fundraising campaign will help with various programs as amateur golf and junior golf remain in the AGA spotlight.
Addington admits to being very excited. He doesn’t need any additional encouragement from his family because this fervor appears to be in his genes. His mother, Suegene, and his father, Don, met here at Palma Ceia in 1953. Don was on his way to winning a tournament that was the predecessor to the Gasparilla. He returned in 1962 to win the Gasparilla itself.
Addington, who lives in Dallas, has become a good friend of Jordan Spieth.
“I’m a big Jordan Spieth fan,” Addington said. “I’ve known his family for a long time. I actually introduced him to Cameron McCormick (Spieth’s coach). I had a feeling they would be a great team.
“Jordan is a first-class young man. He comes from a great family. I like the fact that he’s honest about his feelings. He’s got some fire about him.”
Fadel, a longtime friend of the Addington family, wants to provide working experience in the golf industry for boys and girls. “We want to identify youngsters who love golf,” he said. “We’ve even talked of organizing a tournament and letting the kids run it.”
Annie Verret, who is the wife of Jordan Spieth, is a former employee of The First Tee program in Dallas, where she and Jordan live.
“She worked for us in our First Tee program for three and a half years,” Addington said. “Between Jordan’s family and Annie, they keep him pretty grounded.”
Being grounded is a huge part of AGA objectives. The result? Today’s junior golfers are tomorrow’s adult golf leaders.
Top photo: Trip Kuehne, right, remained an amateur after losing to Tiger Woods in the 1994 U.S. Amateur. Robert Walker, USGA Archives
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