During the recent cold snap, the Tri-Cities Chapter of the PGA cast some warm rays of sunshine over the local golf landscape. Area pros announced last week some sweeping changes to the format for the weekly pro-ams.
It wasn't just some obvious issues that had to be addressed that caught the eye of many local golfers, but an aggressive new plan to reward amateurs for their participation and support.
The weekly fee to enter the pro-ams had been on the rise in recent years. Included in the green fee was a contribution to junior golf and, when you tacked on cart fees, the cost to play was spiraling upward, much to the dismay of participants.
The pro-ams are the local PGA chapter's main fundraiser. With costs going up, rounds per season in the weekly pro-ams were falling and something had to be done.
Cost wasn't the only factor in lower rounds played. The pros realized that there is even more competition today for golfers' dollars. Monday outings, weekend tournaments and charity events as well as the price of gas were cutting into the pro-am pie.
The Tri-Cities professionals are to be commended for addressing the issue in the manner in which they did.
The decision to layer the green fees based on the courses played was outstanding.
Now everyone knows going in what the costs will be and can budget accordingly.
What stands out even more is the new Partners Circle concept the chapter initiated. While everyone has a chance to win prizes each week in the pro-ams, it's possible to play an entire season and not have the computer match you up with a winning team.
Recognizing that the amateurs are the life blood of the pro-ams, the professionals came up with a way to reward them for their weekly support.
A points system based on participation has been installed and it has some unique features.
Players earn points each week that they play. Courses will fall into one of three categories, earning golfers three, five or six points based on a course's designation. As they accumulate points, golfers can earn prizes like bag tags, hats and shirts.
Eventually, when a golfer accumulates 65 points, he or she earns a ticket to the season ending pro-am dinner. Only those golfers who accumulate the minimum of 65 points can attend the dinner and earn shares in the Partners Circle merchandising fund.
It's a brilliant concept in that golfers are rewarded for their support alone. Just playing weekly can get you something.
It has been my contention for some time that the local golf scene has been a bit stale. We've done the same things the same way for so long we've fallen into a rut.
Our local pros should be thanked for their insight and imagination in breathing new life into the pro-ams. Golf for amateurs in the Tri-Cities Chapter of the PGA just took a giant step forward.
Pat Kenney is executive sports editor of the Times-News. E-mail him at email@example.com.