From pro golfer to sustainability game-changer
Aubrey McCormick steps up as a leader in golf course sustainability efforts.
Pamela C. Smith, CGCS
Aubrey McCormick has traded hitting the green for helping golf businesses hit their sustainability objectives. She also spreads the word about golf’s environmental, economic and social benefits, and her audience has included the White House, which she visited with her message during the Obama administration.
Photo courtesy of Aubrey McCormick
Aubrey McCormick has parlayed a career as a professional golfer with a passion for the environment into a new role as catalyst for reimagining how golf facilities approach sustainability. While topics like water, energy and pesticide use have long been the measurements of environmental gains and losses, McCormick extends her focus past the well-worn corners of traditional sustainability to help golf businesses also assess their economic and social influence.
“Any examination of golf course sustainability needs to look beyond their impact to the environment, and must include a comprehensive evaluation of the business’s role in their community and economy,” says McCormick. She aims to assist the industry in gaining that broader perspective via the joint venture IMPACT360 Sports (www.impact360group.com), which she founded in October 2015 with business partner Gina Rizzi.
McCormick played professional golf for about six years after finishing college in 2006. The grueling world of raising sponsorship capital, working full time and competing at a high level eventually took a toll, however. “‘This is all about me, and I want to do more to help others have a more positive impact on the planet,’” she recalls telling her caddie during Symetra Tour Qualifying School in summer 2011.
McCormick left the tour and began working for Green America, a nonprofit dedicated to ethical consumerism. Her golf career resurfaced in 2012 when she competed on the reality show Big Break Atlantis on Golf Channel. Holding true to her vision of a more sustainable industry, McCormick played recycled golf balls while on the TV series, and seized the opportunity to bring her message of environmental consciousness in golf to a national and international audience.
IMPACT360 Sports engages leaders of sports franchises, facilities, management companies, suppliers and governing bodies in impacting the environment, the economy and their communities for the better. In 2016, the company collaborated with The Olympic Club in San Francisco to create a corporate social responsibility (CSR) report. In the report — the first of its kind in the golf industry — the club detailed all aspects of its operations, from environmental best management practices to employee engagement, diversity and inclusion, community involvement, supply chain, and health and safety. IMPACT360 then developed a sustainability dashboard to help the club optimize operations and set benchmarks, all with an eye toward sustainable solutions. You can access The Olympic Club’s CSR report at http://goo.gl/rGuKQm.
Through IMPACT360 Sports, McCormick also guides golf businesses in connecting with community partners. The company is currently working with Mauna Kea Golf Club on the island of Hawaii to produce a sustainability assessment and case study that will showcase the club’s efforts to protect natural resources and preserve the local island culture. The case study’s goals align with the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan, the state’s long-term strategy to address pressing issues such as climate change while safeguarding the unique, rich heritage of the islands. Through this initiative, Mauna Kea is setting itself up for continuing effectiveness as an environmental champion and community asset. (In 2015, the club celebrated its 50th anniversary with “50 Acts of Aloha,” a campaign that raised more than $500,000 for the community and through which Mauna Kea employees donated more than 700 volunteer hours.)
McCormick travels the country and overseas to educate stakeholders on the valuable role golf can play in environmental stewardship. She has spoken at numerous events and corporate leadership forums, among them the NCAA Sports Diversity and Inclusion Symposium, Golf Industry Show, PGA G4 Summit, and National Golf Day.
In all of her efforts, McCormick has been keenly aware of the importance of the maintenance side of the golf industry. Her respect for the work of superintendents and their staffs took root about 10 years ago when she was working as an assistant golf professional at Brookville Country Club on Long Island, N.Y. McCormick shared a house with the club’s other assistant golf professional and its assistant superintendents, and just across from their home was the residence of about 15 maintenance employees. Such close quarters fostered a connection to and appreciation for those in agronomy.
“Having seen firsthand their dedication to beginning their day pre-dawn and their turf maintenance stories, I developed a respect for the maintenance and grounds crew, and understood the hard work that went into their everyday job,” she says. “They are experts in their craft and are brilliant environmental specialists that serve as the backbone to any successful golf course. It is important that golf course superintendents and golf professionals work together and see each other as equals, because they are both vital to the success of the club.”
Pamela C. Smith, CGCS, is an attorney and the director of agronomy for a large city. She is a 26-year member of GCSAA.