Monday, January 20, 2014

When Two Passions Collide....

I often refer to the passion that is the profession of the superintendent.  After all, wake up between 3 and 4 in the morning, respond to the pressures Mother Nature throws your way, fight the never ending battle that is golfer/member expectations, and do it all again the next day.  Yes superintendents get paid, but I feel it is better described as a passion more than a profession.
I have also written articles based on the government relations actions taking place on your behalf by GCSAA.  Some members have told me that the work being done by the GCSAA staff “is worth the price of membership alone.”  So what were to happen when GR meets members here in the Northeast Region?

Here is where the collision happens: add Chava McKeel, GCSAA associate director of government relations, and see that not only do superintendents exude passion for their profession, so do McKeel and the GR staff.  The message was made clear to the Connecticut, Metropolitan, and Maine chapters, nearly 600 people, simply working to raise awareness of the profession of the golf course superintendent and the benefits of golf will not work.  Advancing the profession and enhancing the vitality of the game of golf must be done with passion. McKeel might not operate with enough passion to move mountains (literally), but definitely enough to move votes.
During the many hours travelling the region, I learned first-hand that GCSAA’s staff of McKeel, Margo Campbell Szabo, and newly hired Kaelyn Seymour are indeed passionate about your profession and you the member.  Many in government think golf is an elitist sport that needs no federal help. More in government think golf is a waste of open space and blight on the environment. Your GR staff at GCSAA considers operating in that element a challenge, and even fun. Building coalitions, developing relationships, and generating political capital are more than a job for McKeel and the staff; it is what makes them tick. Her messages of “we need to chip away at misperceptions” of golf, and “get involved in government relations, it’s not scary” resonated with the members.

I can attest to those two statements personally.  I attended my first New York State Turfgrass Association (NYSTA) Lobby Day in Albany last year.  There were four topics to be discussed with state legislators that day, and “leave behind” materials were distributed to the group.  I was petrified.  I had no idea what to do.  My first meeting was with the chairman of the environmental committee, and was an adversary of the green industry.  The discussion went as expected when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object -- nowhere.  By the second office visit of my six, I understood that we, the members of the industry, were the experts on the topics.  We were educating the lawmakers on our issues and were garnering favorable responses.  Was it effective?  If you consider getting $150,000 reinstated into the state budget for research, outreach and advocacy, then yes, it was successful.  It was also easy.
Look for more information about how you can become active in GR issues on the national level soon.  Also, consider taking a pro-active approach at the state level.  Remember, you are passionate and the expert, the two traits that GCSAA’s GR staff use to keep your tools in the tool box at the national level.  They will definitely work at the local level for you too!

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