KINGSPORT - In a bold initiative, the Tri-Cities PGA Chapter has made a major overhaul in its annual Pro-Am series. Reduced fees as well as a season-long points program will be in place for 2007 in an attempt to return the pro-ams back to the amateurs.
"We believe it's important to listen to the players who have supported our pro-am series throughout the years,'' said Tri-Cities PGA Chapter Director Ken Crowder. "The amateurs are the lifeblood of our pro-ams so we worked hard all winter on improvements based on feedback we received from them.''
One of the most significant changes comes with the '07 fees.
"We'd been hearing things about the entry fees and cart fees becoming too high,'' said Crowder, Director of Golf at Lonesome Pine Country Club. "So we took action to combat that.''
This season courses will be categorized as "A'', "B'' or "C''. The "A" courses will have an entry fee of $37 while "B" courses will cost $34 and "C'' courses "$30. Those costs include cart fees.
"We had people paying as much as $45 to play some golf courses last year," added Crowder. "Despite the fact they had a chance to win as much as much as $200 in merchandise, the higher costs were reducing some of our fields."
The most exciting change to the Pro-Am series is the introduction of the Tri-Cities PGA Partners Circle. Members of the Circle will earn points toward bag tags, caps and other merchandise as well as being the only amateurs eligible for the season-ending pro-am on Oct. 29 at Link Hills Country Club in Greeneville and the ensuing dinner that night.
"The pro-ams are our number one fund raiser for junior golf and all our other programs,'' said Crowder. "We wanted a way to reward pro-am players for their support.''
Entry into the Partners Circle will be gained through the accumulation of points. An amateur who plays an "A'' course will earn three points with "B" courses rewarding five points and "C'' courses six.
Any player who accumulates 65 total points will become a member of the Partners Circle giving he or she the opportunity to play in the final pro-am and attend the pro-am dinner.
Once a player plays in at least five pro-ams, they will receive a complimentary Partners Circle bag tag. Ten pro-am rounds earns a Partners Circle cap and 65 points earns a Partners Circle shirt.
"Additionally, we will hold out $1 per pro-am round played for our Partners Circle merchandise fund,'' said PGA Chapter Vice-President Pete DeBraal. "At the pro-am dinner all Partners Circle members who qualified will be given a gift certificate to be used at any pro shop at a course that hosts pro-ams.''
"Players may never win money in the weekly pro-ams but can earn points by their participation and still be rewarded,'' said Crowder.
Additionally, the pro-ams will no longer include closest-to-the-pin awards. There will be a guaranteed low-am winner's amount of $40 with any "A" player eligible for low-am regardless of which tee the player is playing.
Course classifications will be announced prior to the first pro-am on March 19 at Cattails.
Current handicap cards will again be required to play in the pro-ams.
"As PGA professionals, we feel there is still a need to maintain the integrity of pro-ams so the handicap card requirement will remain in place,'' said Crowder.
Upon registration at a pro-am, all amateurs will receive a brochure explaining the changes and the Partners Circle.
"We made an admission that there was a problem,'' said Crowder. "I'm extremely proud that our chapter professionals have responded with such solidarity in an attempt to make our pro-ams attractive to amateurs once again.
"We're excited about the upcoming pro-am season and encourage all area golfers to become regulars in the pro-am series and members of the Partners Circle.''