Kansas, United States: Both Michael Upchurch and Brian Stiehler were influenced by golf at an early age.
Upchurch was always fascinated by the golf course his grandfather built with four friends in West Texas, and Stiehler’s first job at 14 was working on a course in his native Pennsylvania.
Both are now members of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and will travel to Washington DC to be a part of GCSAA’s National Golf Day [NGD] contingency on May 18.
National Golf Day, a programme of the We Are Golf coalition, celebrates the game’s nearly US$70 billion economy, US$4 billion annual charitable impact and many environmental and fitness benefits.
Industry leaders will meet with members of Congress, the Executive Branch and federal agencies on Capitol Hill to discuss golf’s 15,000-plus diverse businesses, two million employees, tax revenue creation and tourism value.
While it will be the first trip to National Golf Day for Upchurch and Stiehler, both have been active in promoting the golf course industry by serving as GCSAA Grassroots Ambassadors, a programme that pairs association members with members of congress.
“I am a firm believer that if you are a professional, you should be a part of your professional organisation,” said Upchurch, superintendent at Old Bonita Golf in Marshall, Texas. “Being an ambassador and having the chance to go to Washington on the day that golf is the focus is an honour.”
For Stiehler, certified golf course superintendent at Highlands (NC) Country Club, being an ambassador and attending National Golf Day is an extension of his already active political life. He is currently in his second term on the city council of Highlands, North Carolina.
“Locally, when we vote on something in the city council, you can do a lot of good things and nearly instantly change lives,” Stiehler said. “Being an ambassador has come really naturally to me. I can’t wait to visit the offices of (North Carolina Senator) Thom Tillis and (North Carolina Rep) Mark Meadows.”
Stiehler is paired with Meadows through the Ambassador programme and said he has a good relationship with the Congressman, who is a former golf course owner.
GCSAA has expanded its National Golf Day presence for 2016 by doubling the number of participants and lining up more than 100 meetings on Capitol Hill. The entire NGD delegation will focus on three core areas during their Hill meetings: the Personal Health Investment Today Act, current labour laws and regulations, and environmental regulations impacting golf.
In addition, the foyer of the Rayburn House Office Building will play host to a National Golf Day exhibit, and members of GCSAA’s Mid-Atlantic chapter will showcase a display about the professional land management of golf courses.
“We are fortunate that we have such a large group of members willing to come and share golf’s story,” said Chava McKeel, GCSAA Director of Government Affairs.
“They are able to give first-hand accounts of the benefits of golf as well as the challenges they face. It’s really what National Golf Day is all about.”
Many of the GCSAA members who are coming to Capitol Hill are paying their own way, but Upchurch says the experience is well worth the cost.
“In my 15 years as a superintendent, I have paid for my GCSAA membership and the annual Golf Industry Show, so I am happy to pay my way to National Golf Day.” he said. “If I can convince one person that golf is an attribute to American society, then it is money well spent.”