By Matt Hombach
Stepping into PGA of America president Allen Wronowski's office is like stepping into any golf fan's dream.
In one corner you'll find an unopened bottle of wine with an engraved inscription from Tiger Woods. There are two official U.S. Ryder Cup team bags along with two mini replicas of the Ryder Cup itself. The walls are adorned with dozens of framed photos of Wronowski with former U.S. presidents and dozens of the top players in the world -- Woods, Phil Mickelson, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and many others.
|Allen Wronowski (Matt Hombach)|
What many Baltimore-area golfers don't realize is that Wronowski's office isn't tucked away off a palm-tree-lined boulevard in south Florida. The office of the president of the PGA of America is located (at least for the next two years) in the rolling countryside of northern Baltimore County at Hillendale Country Club.
Wronowski took the helm as president in November 2010 and follows in the footsteps of Bill Clarke, former PGA professional at Hillendale Country Club and former PGA of America president. Clarke and Wronowski, who is also the director of golf at Hillendale, are the only two PGA presidents who have worked together at the same facility.
On a recent spring afternoon, Wronowski offered some of his thoughts on the perks and challenges of his new job, where the game of golf is headed and how he intends to help the PGA fulfill its mission.
PressBox: What's your view on the current state of the game?
Wronowski: The game of golf has been pretty resilient in the face of some serious challenges. In the 1990s, pharmaceutical companies and other businesses were forced to cut back on the amount of golf they could pay for employees and clients, there were financial impacts after the events of 2001 and the recent recession, and of course changing cultural and family cultural values. That being said, the game of golf is only down 6 percent in the past 10 years, which isn't bad considering. In my mind, the game of golf has survived these challenges and my goal is to make it thrive.
PB: What would you say to encourage someone to start playing golf?
AW: The game of golf fits in nicely with a lot of national fitness initiatives happening now, like First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign. A round of golf can burn 1,500 calories. You are outside in a great environment getting fresh air and it reduces stress. Studies have documented that golfers live five years longer than non-golfers.
It is also important to look at sports and the family involvement factor. In most other sports kids play today, parents are on the sideline, but the game of golf presents the perfect opportunity for dad and son or mother and daughter to play golf together and get quality one-on-one time you can't get anywhere else.
PB: What is the PGA of America doing to attract new golfers?
AW: Traditionally, people are introduced to the game by a family member or friend; there seems to be a comfort level in playing with someone you know the first few times. I encourage all golfers and our 27,000 PGA professionals to "pay it forward." If everyone got motivated and introduced 10 people to the game of golf, it would have a tremendous impact. There's too much good about the game to not keep growing it.
The PGA also has set up a lot of programs and resources to help people get started. Our Play Golf America program gives you all the information you need to find introductory lessons and people to play with. We also have the Get Golf Ready program we launched two years ago that offers golfers five lessons, on course instruction and everything they need to get started for $99.
PB: What are going to be the personal highlights for you during the next two years in terms of tournaments you will be involved with?
AW: Serving as the host and presenting the trophies at the Ryder Cup, PGA Championship and Senior PGA Championship is something I look forward to. The PGA has had some of the most dramatic finishes in all of major championship history in the past five years or so. The Grand Slam of Golf is a great event too, with all four major champions participating.
The old axiom in the golf industry is if you work in the game, you don't get to play much.
PB: Do you play a lot of golf with your demanding travel schedule?
AW: I am coming off a full hip replacement last year, but I still try and play golf at least once a week, mostly with members here at Hillendale. I also get to tee it up in special events. I'm looking forward to playing with Senior PGA champion Tom Lehman at the media day for the tournament later this year.
Issue 160: April 2011