2021 President's Letter: Joe Enright

January 27, 2021

JAMESVILLE, N.Y. -- As the NYSGA looks towards 2021 and the upcoming golf season, our President Joe Enright expressed his thoughts in the following message to association members:

Dear NYSGA Members,

As I begin my second year as the NYSGA President, I think back to last year’s January letter reflecting on our plans for the 2020 season and all that accompanied these plans.  Who knew?  Who could have predicted that all of our lives, not just our golf plans, would be turned upside down and immerse us all in a pandemic and lock-down of society unseen for over 100 years?

While the plans for my first year of Presidency were suddenly altered in unimaginable ways, I want to give accolades to our entire staff and Board of Directors who quickly assessed the changing situation and provided communication and alternative plans – many in a constant state of flux – while progressing as far as conditions allowed with our 2020 program.

Especially in the earliest months of Covid-19, there was a great amount of misinformation, rumor, and general confusion about what activities were legal and allowed; might be allowed with stipulations; or were totally prohibited.  What complicated issues even more was that the State, at times, imposed different standards for different regions of the state.  The NYSGA moved to the forefront of communication by establishing direct links with the appropriate offices of the Governor, the NY State Health Department, and the NY Economic Development Council which established the rules for businesses, including golf courses and Clubs.  This up-to-date communication was made available to all of our member Clubs and Regional Associations.  Since golf was one of the few small-group activities allowed with certain stipulations, having accurate knowledge of the standards for play was essential for all Clubs and public courses.  Our staff worked hard to provide and update this information when necessary, and to encourage play statewide despite the many obstacles presented.  As a result of the hard work done by New York’s golf course Managers and Golf Professionals, coupled with the support of the Golf Associations in NY State, the number of rounds played and posted on GHIN showed an extraordinary increase beyond a normal year.  2020 saw our NYSGA GHIN members post 816,000 rounds which jumped 51% from 538,000 rounds in 2019.  

This great increase in golf play put additional pressure on our staff in providing core services to our golfers and Clubs.  The introduction of the new World Golf Handicap System coupled with the new USGA GHIN app for recording scores has required extensive education and support for individual golfers and for the 240 NYSGA-serviced Clubs dealing both with the new software and the need to educate the golfers about the changes and new procedures.  Our Executive Director, Bill Moore spent this last season immersed in launching the new handicapping system along with the USGA Tournament Management Program (Golf Genius) which is provided free of charge to all GHIN clubs.  This was utilized by Club Professionals and their staff to manage over 330,000 outing rounds, league scores, and tournament rounds in 2020.  With numerous hardware and software “glitches” that inevitably arose, Bill dealt with a large variety of support requests submitted by clubs. There was a 21% increase over the previous year and Bill was successful in successfully closing 89% of these – far above the industry average.  Planned regional Rules/Handicapping workshops had to be replaced by digital education involving email communication, video conferencing and webinars, websites and social media.  Overall, the new GHIN system has been a great success. Golfers can easily post scores and, if desired, maintain their own personal statistics. More recently, Digital Profiles were introduced to GHIN, requiring all members to create an email username and password to login and post scores. This update replaces the old method of logging in with Last Name and GHIN Number. The USGA also implemented Guardian Management to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, requiring children under age 13 to have a guardian tied to their account. Together these will improve data security and privacy for all GHIN users going forward.  Our online “join and renew” option that some GHIN clubs have begun utilizing makes the process of managing GHIN memberships much simpler.  We expect the 2021 season to reap the benefits of the service and education offered last season and to allow golfers to fully utilize the new GHIN system. Our efforts in support will certainly continue this coming season.

The restrictions placed on the conduct of tournaments in New York created myriad problems in setting up and then necessarily cancelling our State Championships.  Using online video conferencing technology, our Board of Directors listened to our staff provide the latest information on the procedures for allowable events and the exclusionary rules from the State.  Ultimately, the State would not allow any tournament to be played which involved players, staff, and volunteers traveling from one designated state region to another. This necessitated our Board to initially authorize postponement, and ultimately cancel all of our NY State Championships and Amateur Series tournaments.  Tournaments held within a single region were generally allowed and many proceeded with strong NYSGA support, working closely with the local golf communities and Regional Associations.  These regional events had very good participation and generally strong fields, especially considering statewide events were not available.  Many thanks to our Staff and regional volunteers who helped make this possible.

Our Assistant Executive Director and Tournament Director Andrew Hickey has been very busy planning for an active 2021 tournament season.  Obviously, at this point in the pandemic, we are unsure what activities will be permitted when this coming golf season arrives.  We are hopeful for a return to near normalcy, but in all cases, we will be actively communicating with the State Officials and with all of our Clubs and members.  Keeping our fingers crossed!

Another core service that continued without any significant impact from Covid-19 was course rating.  Director of Course Rating Mark Ackley and his Team Leaders Warren Winslow in Albany and Al Belair in Buffalo, along with their volunteer team members, rated 29 on-site courses across the state this summer despite getting a late start due to Covid restrictions.  Hoping to keep ratings on schedule, many more ratings are planned for this coming season.  We can always use more volunteers who wish to learn how course rating works, undergo field training, and contribute service to the great game of golf.  If you think you might like to help out, please contact our Syracuse office.

A major goal this past year was to expand the scope of the charitable arm of the NYSGA – the NYSGA Foundation.  We undertook several needed major changes in the structure and operation of the Foundation starting with the addition of a new staff position to the NYSGA – a “Foundation Manager” position, filled by Kara Cushman, who has assumed the oversight, management and promotion of the Foundation’s two main initiatives, the annual scholarship fund and specific grant programs that enable and encourage young golfers to participate in youth golf programs including golf education and on-course access to playing golf.  The NYSGA’s Foundation, which is a 501(c) 3 and charitable arm of the Association, has long been awarding college scholarships to deserving young men and women and offering grant support to junior golf programs and other worthy developmental initiatives to continue growing the game. We have awarded over $450,000 in scholarships in the past years and since 2009, have awarded over $121,000 in grants supporting junior golf in our region.  We are proud of the difference this NYSGA Foundation has been able to make throughout this past decade, and we look to continue strengthening its footprint across the Empire State throughout the future years. 

Along with overseeing the above programs, the Foundation Manager is leading and managing the implementation of the NYSGA’s new and exciting development initiative, “Youth on Course” (YOC).  YOC is a national membership program that allows junior golfers to sign up to play at select golf venues in their area for only $5 a round.  This program has had a gradual rollout during the 2020 season and in 2021, as we expand the scope of the program, will be offered to more NYSGA members at clubs in our upstate New York territory. 

Kara, with support from the Board, has also been actively working to streamline our scholarship application and selection process while making recommendations for expanded marketing and fundraising efforts on behalf of our Foundation.  We are hopeful that all of the efforts we are engaged in will greatly expand both initiatives in the upcoming years.

Despite the cessation of most of our tournaments, Director of Marketing and Communications, Dan Thompson, has actively worked to retain our sponsors and continue expanding the marketing opportunities available to all of our members and tournament participants.  These sponsorships provide us with additional resources used to operate our tournaments while also offering our membership many marketing opportunities not normally offered to others outside of the NYSGA.  As we approach the 2021 season, more details will be released regarding these upcoming initiatives. 

Dan has also been diligently updating our website to enhance improved communication with the membership, by delivering updates on tournament results, scheduling information, a monthly eNews, and weekly eRevision details. Of great importance to all golfers are the handicapping resource pages (including the World Handicapping System) and the membership information pages. The overall goal is for us to develop a centralized resource center which can easily be accessed by our golfers and which will efficiently provide answers, guidance and direction to helpful online links for all of our individual golfers and Clubs.

Following the recommendations of the Nomination Committee of the Association, a slate of incumbent Officers and four new Executive Committee members was presented at our Annual Meeting and whose terms became effective on January 1st, 2021 and will extend through December 31st, 2021. 

The following officers were voted into office by the General Committee during the Annual Meeting, held by online video conference, on December 17, 2020.  The slate was approved unanimously.

President – Joseph Enright, Lancaster Country Club 
1st Vice President – Henry Fust, Onondaga Golf & Country Club 
2nd Vice President – Jamie Miller, Crag Burn Golf Club 
Treasurer – Robert Smith, Camillus Hills Golf Club
Secretary – Iris Stanek, Lancaster Country Club
General Counsel (Non-voting) – Peter Jones, Drumlins Country Club

I would like to welcome four new faces who have been added to the Executive Committee. 

Lee Bearsch, an active NYSGA volunteer, Past President of Binghamton Country Club;
Jim Gifford, a regular top NYSGA and regional Capital District tournament competitor from the NYSGA Capital District eClub; 
Lawrence Lessing of The Creek, a collegiate golfer and two-year Captain of the University of Richmond golf team; and 
Brian Williams, a successful collegiate player and Captain at Hamilton College, a NYSGA tournament competitor from Winged Foot Golf Club.

We are especially pleased to add Board representation from Westchester County and Long Island, which will undoubtedly increase our statewide perspective in all golf issues. These new volunteers will spend many hours working for the entire NYSGA family and represent a broad spectrum of active involvement in New York golf.

In addition to the Officers, the NYSGA Executive Committee now consists of: Shawn Baker, Lee Bearsch, John Cooney, Ryan Gabel, Jim Gifford, Lawrence Lessing, Warren Winslow, Christy Schultz, Frank Suits, Doug Vergith, Rich Weber and Brian Williams.

This past year has seen some volunteer Executive Board members enter into “retirement” from their duties after years of valuable input into our policy formation.  After many years on the Executive Committee, Joe Strykowski’s current term of office, which included being the NYSGA’s President from 2016-2017, has come to an end.  Joe’s influence will certainly continue as an integral State Tournament official, who will be very instrumental in the set-up and operations of our many State Tournaments.

Brian Clark of Burden Lake Country Club, is leaving his Board seat to focus on his main interest of Rules education and application.  Brian will continue his efforts as a member of our newly-formed NYSGA Rules Committee.  On behalf of the NYSGA, I thank all of the above for their dedicated hard work and inspiration.

Despite the conditions presented to us this past year, we all still look for bright spots and positive signs for the future.  Here at NYSGA headquarters, we have signs of a terrific end to 2020.  Both our Assistant Executive Director, Andrew Hickey and his wife Mary, and our Foundation Director, Kara Cushman and her husband Jordan, brought a newborn child into the world – ironically, on the same day, December 27, and in the same hospital.  We welcome Fiona Hickey and Joelle Cushman and on behalf of the entire NYSGA family, I would like to offer my congratulations to both families and our wishes for good health and happiness for all involved.

I encourage all of our members and volunteers to fully support all of the efforts and initiatives being presented to us to get this pandemic under control.  If we all are able to join together in fighting and controlling this terrible disease, hopefully, we can all get our lives back into a condition of normalcy. This is the only way we will be able to resume the golf play to which we are all so dedicated.  While golf is certainly secondary to the health of the people, it is most certainly a large part of our quality of life.


Joe Enright
President, NYSGA


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