2024 National Golf Day: News and buzz

Follow updates from the GCM team on this week's advocacy activities in the nation's capital.


GCSAA 2022 Conference Trade Show
The GCM staff is covering National Golf Day advocacy and community service activities in Washington, D.C. as they unfold. Check back often for the latest updates. For more stories on National Golf Day, click here.

Friday, May 10

First Green field trip

• Area students from Two Rivers Public Charter School and The Field School paid a visit to Langston Golf Course this morning to cap off National Golf Day activities. The trip included newly-added STEAM activities such as golf course hole design. Anthony Riggs, assistant superintendent at Hampshire Greens Golf Course in Ashton, Md., discussed the details of his job with students from Two Rivers, giving them an inside look at potential careers in the golf industry, alongside interactive stations on soil, irrigation and more.

— Abby Olcese

volunteers planting shrubs at Langston Golf Course

• National Golf Day community service projects commenced early this morning at the National Mall and Langston Golf course, allowing participants to further show the value of golf and golf course management to communities across the country. Tenia Workman, executive director of the Georgia GCSA, has come to National Golf Day for five years. She said the community service project is her favorite part of National Golf Day every year. "I love working with my friends and colleagues from Georgia and around the country," she said.

The teams at Langston Golf Course made quick work of their project, replacing old turf with more attractive shrubs. Adam Schilp, project manager for the National Links Trust, which manages Langston Golf Course, said the beautification of this part of the course was welcome. "With the help of 50 volunteers, it's been made into a space that hopefully visitors can enjoy for a long time to come," he said.

— Abby Olcese

Thursday, May 9

Patrick Van Vleck

• Patrick Van Vleck, CGCS, is all about his golf course. But there is something about where he is this week that is something to shout about. Van Vleck is a 21-year GCSAA member who is in Washington, D.C., for National Golf Day. Besides recently being recognized as one of the GCSAA Grassroots Ambassador Leadership Award recipients, Van Vleck was able to spend precious time in the halls of the U.S. State Capitol on Wednesday to share his story with lawmakers, including the state representative he is paired with, Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.)

Why Van Vleck chose to travel from Unicorn Golf Course in Stoneham, Mass., to D.C. is simple, even if it meant leaving Unicorn GC behind for a few days. “Why would I leave my golf course to be here? Because I think it’s important. I want people to hear our (golf superintendents) story, the real story, not by what you may hear from the non-golfing public,” he says. “When you have 300 of us (National Golf Day attendees) here knocking on doors, you can’t ignore us. It’s that one time of the year we can come out here in force and not be not heard.”

— Howard Richman

• National Golf Day participants celebrated a job well done with a dinner honoring Grassroots Ambassador Leadership Award winners. The program, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, now boasts more than 525 participants from 413 congressional districts across the U.S.

"The goal has always been to educate members of congress on what golf course maintenance means, and so we get our members to build relationships," said Michael Lee, GCSAA's senior manager of government affairs. Lee stressed that effective advocacy efforts aren't just limited to a visit to the capital once a year. "The good news is, you don't have to come to Washington to do this," he said. "Your representatives have local offices and local staffs that run them who you can get to know." Learn more about this year's award winning advocates.

— Abby Olcese

Kevin Sunderman being interviewed at National Golf Day

• Meetings on Capitol Hill for National Golf Day started at 9 a.m. and run until 4 p.m. EDT today. National Golf Day participants have scheduled times to connect with their legislative representatives to talk about big issues facing the industry, and how it impacts the courses in their district. Kevin Sunderman, GCSAA's Chief Operating Officer, says he's appreciated the growing relationships with legislators in the 10 years he's attended the event.

"Coming here for 10 years, you really do see the needle start to move," he said. "This year, in the meetings, it feels like we have some real champions in terms of issues like the tax bill."

— Abby Olcese

Wednesday, May 8

Robert Helland speaking before a crowd at National Golf Day

• National Golf Day activities began this afternoon with a discussion of the legislative issues that GCSAA members and industry representatives will discuss with their legislators during tomorrow's day on the hill. Robert Helland, GCSAA’s director of congressional and federal affairs, encouraged the assembled superintendent audience to be sincere about the value of golf. “We need you to make the argument tomorrow that Golf matters. That we have a community and economic impact," Helland said. "Congress doesn’t think outside of their silos a lot of the time. And that’s why it’s so important that you be here. We have an institution in this country that shouldn’t be discriminated against.”

— Abby Olcese

Steve Sands and AGIC CEO Greg McLaughlin

• Steve Sands has watched Tiger Woods, Scottie Scheffler and many other standout players for years. It is those behind the scenes, though, that he recognized Wednesday. Sands, the NBC Sports/Golf Channel anchor and reporter, served as keynote speaker on his home turf during the American Golf Industry Coalition event as part of National Golf Day event festivities at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel Washington, D.C.-Crystal City.

With more than two decades of experience, Sands has seen more than his share of golf courses, whether at major championships, tour events or courses he's played that aren’t necessarily in the broadcast spotlight. The superintendents and their teams that prepare golf courses deserve to have that light shined on them, he says. “We see it every single week. It’s amazing,” Sands says, “and the people who work and belong to your organization (GCSAA) are the greatest in the world. They’re the ones that drive the engine. They literally are the people who make it good for those like me who play recreationally.”

— Howard Richman

Ryan Deering in the capitol building at National Golf Day

• Less than halfway into 2024, Ryan Deering already has had a full, fruitful plate. Equipment manager at Rolling Greens Country Club in Arlington Heights, Ill., Deering is spending this week nearly halfway across the country. He’s in Washington, D.C., for National Golf Day. Deering is set to be on mulch patrol Friday for the service project on the National Mall. And he’s excited to participate. “It’s unbelievable. I think I can learn from others,” Deering says. “It’s a pretty unique opportunity.” Deering has already had quite a year. He applied for and was selected for the Melrose Equipment Management Experience, which included a trip to the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show this past winter. Deering isn’t done. He’s working his way toward becoming a Certified Turf Equipment Manager. If anything, Deering is a go-getter. Once he returns from the National Mall experience, he has immediate plans upon returning to Illinois. “I’ll be at work Saturday,” he says.

— Howard Richman

Congressional reception at National Golf Day
GCSAA members, industry partners and members of congress came together to kick off National Golf Day activities on Capitol Hill at a congressional reception on Wednesday Night. Photo by Daniel Swartz

• “Members of congress need to hear from you,” Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) told the assembled group of superintendents and industry representatives at the Kennedy Caucus Room at the Russell Senate Office Building on Wednesday night. Panetta, who received the Champion Award that night from National Golf Course Owners Association, was speaking at the opening reception for National Golf Day, addressing a bill he had co-sponsored for tax code modernization that would benefit golf courses and those who work on them. “They need to hear why you need this bill, which will bring you natural disaster relief, because you deserve it.”

The need for golf course superintendents and industry professionals to share their experiences with their representatives and illustrate golf’s community, environmental and economic impact was a consistent theme throughout the night — as it has been throughout the event itself. “If you don’t tell your story, someone else will,” Kevin Sunderman, GCSAA’s chief operating officer, said. “That’s why advocacy matters.”

GCSAA president Jeff White, a repeat attendee at National Golf Day, says he’s seen the effects of that storytelling on behalf of the industry firsthand. “I think the general opinion of golf has changed over the years, in part because of us coming here to this,” he said. “The most surprising thing for me about this event is how much we’ve managed to change the perception of golf and what it means. What we do here is working.”

If you need proof that the public’s interest in golf is increasing alongside the legislative opinion, Penny Lee of the Government Relations Leadership Forum pointed to the upcoming Solheim Cup, which will be hosted at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Va. (where Lee is a board member) In September. She told the assembled crowd the event is on track to have record-breaking attendance for a women’s sporting event.

“We appreciate the work you do on behalf of players, on behalf of staffers, on behalf of superintendents, the whole gamut,” she said. “Now that the Solheim Cup is back domestically, I'm expecting more of you to be here in the nation’s capital to cheer on team USA.”

— Abby Olcese

— Abby Olcese