Garden State Golf Authority
Good service is good business – it’s a time-tested adage in the world of commerce that also resonates clearly when the New Jersey State Golf Association is concerned. Keeping abreast of members’ concerns and opinions, putting on more than 20 tournaments a year, golf-related seminars and spearheading initiatives to improve the golfing experience and promote the sport’s growth are but a few of the services the NJSGA provides for its almost 70,000 members comprising 250 member clubs, courses and organizations throughout the Garden State.
“We’re here for the golfers of New Jersey,” said Mike Moretti, the director of communications for the Kenilworth-based nonprofit which was founded in 1900.
Moretti’s pronouncement captures the essence of the NJSGA’s mission statement, which declares that the non-profit “promotes, supports and ensures the quality, traditions and development of the game of golf for everyone throughout the state.”
“Proud” is a word that pops up frequently in chatting about the NJSGA with Moretti and the association’s director of handicapping and membership services, Rich Kennedy.
The association is proud of the 23 tournaments it conducts, which enable golfers of all ages and skill levels to compete for a championship. There are 16 men’s championships, five for women, one mixed competition and junior championships for boys and girls.
Amateurs are able to tee it up with professionals at the New Jersey State Open and the NJPGA/NJSGA Senior Open Championship – tournaments the association holds jointly with the New Jersey section of the Professional Golf Association, the organization for pros and assistant pros at member country clubs and courses.
The NJSGA also takes part in three regional invitational matches: the Compher Cup with the Golf Association of Philadelphia, the Stoddard Trophy matches with the Long Island and Westchester Golf Associations, and the Senior Team Match with the Golf Association of Philadelphia, the Delaware State Golf Association and the Maryland State Golf Association.
New Jersey is also the headquarters of the United States Golf Association and its USGA Museum and Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History, located in Far Hills, about one hour from Manhattan.
The association celebrated a milestone in September when its contingent at the 10th USGA Women’s State Team Championship captured the championship, the first national title for a men’s or women’s team from New Jersey.
Leading the way for the New Jersey squad was 17 year-old Alice Chen, who tied for the individual title and (with three others) tied for the lowest score in the event’s history with a 6-under-par 67 at the par-73, 6,153-yard South Course at the NCR Country Club in Kettering , Oh.
“We’re very proud about that,” said Kennedy. “We’re just proud about how we conduct tournaments (and) the feedback we get from our membership. Their feedback is very important to us.”
Another source of pride for the NJSGA is its Caddie Scholarship Foundation. Created in 1947, the foundation has provided in excess of $10 million in college tuition grants to more than 2,700 caddie-scholars from the association’s member clubs.
“Last year we raised $880,000, our biggest year, and we gave 192 scholarships for college kids,” said Moretti. “The minimum (grant) is $3,500, but some kids can get up to a full scholarship.”
These scholarships, which can be renewed to cover up to four years of undergraduate study, are based on scholastic achievement, SAT scores, financial need and the applicant’s length of time as a caddie and the quality of their service. Scholarship funds are generated by contributions from individuals and NJSGA member clubs.
The association’s Youth Foundation supports the growth of golf and other sports-related programs across New Jersey through grants and instructional clinics, along with recognition through NJSGA publications and events.
More than $34,000 was awarded to deserving organizations last year through the proceeds of the annual Youth Foundation Pro-Am which precedes the State Open each July.
The foundation is also affiliated with The First Tee, a national program founded by American golf’s major governing bodies that is dedicated to making golf accessible to youth who otherwise would not be exposed to the game and its positive values. The program’s mission is to impact their lives through providing learning facilities and educational programs that promote character development and life-enhancing values through golf.
“We have a certain amount of resources at the ready and what we’re aiming to do is maximize what we have, and what we have is the ability to communicate to golfers and member clubs,” said Kennedy. “The demographics run the gamut. Golfers come from all different backgrounds. But that’s what’s great about the sport is we’re hitting all different backgrounds.”
Kennedy said the NJSGA’s board of directors has many members with backgrounds in business, so it’s no surprise that the association takes a lot of queues from the business world where its practices are concerned.
“But I think difference between what we do and a Fortune 500 company, is we operate on a much smaller budget, but we still try and deliver what we think is first-class service,” said Kennedy. With the benefits program that you see, I’ve certainly looked at everything that a huge company does – looking at their member services and what they do – when thinking about what we can do for NJSGA members to give them another reason to want to be a part of our association.”
A queue has also been taken from the PGA and the USGA in the association’s embrace of “Pace of Play,” the national organization’s campaign to raise awareness in the golf community about the importance of picking up the play when playing a round.
The NJSGA website states that industry research has revealed that the time a round of golf takes “is a principal driver that adversely impacts enjoyment of and discourages participation in the game.”
Since the PGA unveiled the public education campaign in June, the association has asked its members to visit NJSGA.org and take the “Pace of Play” pledge and a survey which will be used to help it and its member clubs speed up play statewide. Association members will receive a personalized NJSGA “Pace of Play” bagtag for taking the pledge.
“We just thought it was a great idea to have our members take the pledge and to be able to send them something that they can have on their golf bag,” said Kennedy. “We know that’s going to be right with them on the golf course and other golfers hopefully will see that, showing that they’re a member of the New Jersey State Golf Association and they took the pledge. That excites us. I think it is catching on. We’re not the pioneers, so to speak. At the very least, what we’re doing is penetrating the consciousness of golfers – all golfers – so that when they’re on a golf course, they’re thinking about it. I think that’s probably three quarters of the battle right there in making our rounds of golf go faster.”
For more information, please visit their website at New Jersey State Golf Association