The Envelope Please!

In the middle of the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, I was surprised, and very proud, to learn that I’d been awarded two first-place awards in the annual writing contest conducted by the International Network of Golf. The two pieces that won were a look at Presidents who played golf, which ran in the February-March, 2009, issue of The Met Golfer, and can be accessed here, and a feature I wrote for Tee It Up magazine that ran last spring (so it’s admittedly out of date), and is reprinted below. The full list of winners is right here. Congratulations to all the other winners and thanks.

17th Annual ING Media Awards Presented In 11 Categories; Darin Bunch, James Frank Each Capture Two First-Places

ORLANDO, FL ˆ Winners were announced and presented in 11 categories Thursday in the 17th Annual ING Media Awards. The presentations took place in ClubING, the ING Hospitality Room, at the PGA Merchandise Show in the Orange County Convention Center.

James Frank and Darin Bunch each won two first-place awards in the contest. Frank won the Opinion/Editorial Category for his piece, “From Where I’m Sitting,” in Tee It Up magazine, and also took top honors in the Profile Category for his story in The MET Golfer called “Golfers In Chief.”

Bunch won twice for articles in Fairways + Greens magazine. His Equipment Category story called “Handmade Tradition” was tops, and in the Travel Category, “Magical Moorea” was judged No. 1 by the three category judges.

The International Network Of Golf is a 20-year-old, non-profit, media-based networking organization whose mission is to enhance and promote communication and education in golf. The group conducts two meetings each year in the spring and fall, when media and industry leaders gather to discuss issues, launch and test new products, and develop relationships.

Other ING Media Award winners included James Dodson for his book “A Son Of The Game,” Gary Van Sickle of Sports Illustrated for his article “Last Ditch,” and Sally J. Sportsman for her article “Upholding History, Forging The Future” in Golf Range.

The ING Media Awards program was sponsored by Golfpac Travel, Gustbuster/Sunbuster, PGA Golf Exhibitions, and Sundog Eyewear.

The ING’s next meeting will be its 20th Anniversary Conference at historic Pinehurst Resort May 9-13. For details, visit, or call 407-328-0500.

Results by category in the media awards


1st Place : Scott Kramer, The MET Golfer (“Happy Feet”)

Outstanding Achiever : Bob Seligman, Carolinas Golf (“Winter Warm-Ups”)


1st Place : James Dodson, (“A Son Of The Game”)

Outstanding Achievers : John Feinstein, (“Are You Kidding Me?”); Jon Rizzi/S. Savlov (“The Club Menu”)


1st Place :   Sally J. Sportsman, Golf Range (” Upholding History, Forging the Future”)

Outstanding Achievers : Jay Mottola, The MET Golfer (“What’s Next”); Adam Schupak, Golfweek (“The Asian Gold Mine)


1st Place : Gary Van Sickle, Sports Illustrated (“Last Ditch”)

Outstanding Achievers : David Barrett, The MET Golfer (“In Good Measure”); Mike Kern, Philadelphia Dailey News (“Yang Gives Tiger∑”); Adam Schupak, Golfweek (“Liberating”)


1st Place : Darin Bunch, Fairways + Greens (“Handmade Tradition”)

Outstanding Achievers : Tony Dear, Cybergolf (“Least Best In Show”); Bob Seligman, Golf Illustrated (New Adjustable Drivers)


1st Place :   James Frank, Tee It Up (“From Where I’m Sitting”)

Outstanding Achievers : Tony Dear, Cybergolf (“Faldo Wants Another Go”); Michael Donovan, Golfnuts.Com (“Am I That Spoiled?”); Tony Leodora, Golfstyles (“Cheesesteak Open”); Gary Van Sickle, Sports Illustrated (“Bag Dad Diary”)


1st Place: Joann Dost, Fairways + Greens (” Bagpiper at Spanish Bay”)

Outstanding Achiever : Dan Vukelich, Sun Country Golf (“Missing Right”)


1st Place: James Frank, The MET Golfer (“Golfers In Chief”)

Outstanding Achievers : Billy Condon, The MET Golfer (“Top Dog”); John Steinbreder, Golf Digest (“Saucon Valley”); Vic Williams, Fairways + Greens (“The Full Casey Martin”).


1st Place : Holly Geoghegan, The Golf Insiders, ESPN Orlando (“Making Of A PGA Tour Champion”)

Outstanding Achievers : Matt Adams, PGA Tour Radio Network (“Fairways Of Heaven”); Tony Leodora, GolfTalk Live (“Ron Jaworski”).


1st Place : Darin Bunch, Fairways + Greens (“Magical Moorea”)

Outstanding Achievers : Tony Dear, Cybergolf (“Room With A View”); Brian McCallen, The MET Golfer (“Northern Light”); Vic Williams, Fairways + Greens (“West Side Glory”)


1st Place : Steven Frigard, RSN TV Network (“Troon North Golf Club”)

Outstanding Achiever : Tom Sutton, FSN TV Network (“Big Fish”)

From Where I’m Sitting

By Jim Frank

The season has barely started, yet to hear the experts talk, golf in 2009 is already done. Done as in dead, dormant and disastrous.

This will be the year, I keep hearing, that golf double-bogeys. Or worse, rolls up its fairways and goes home. Before listing your clubs on eBay, though, take a breath. Yes, the economy is shakier than one of John Daly’s marriages, but maybe there’s a bright side to all this.

The news of the past nine or so months has been pretty lousy. Not just for your 401k, but for your favorite game. Courses are going out of business and private clubs are losing members—especially those members who used to pay their initiation and dues—to say nothing of Junior’s private-school tuition—with the big bonus that (uh-oh) isn’t coming this year.

Residential golf communities are going belly up or halting construction with houses half-built. Resorts have had to lay off staff or face the risk of having more waiters than diners in the restaurant, even in high season. And fairways are being mown in only one direction to save gas—which is a good idea anytime, actually.

The problems didn’t start when Lehman Brothers fell. Despite claiming the most recognizable athlete on the planet, the game of golf hasn’t exactly been roaring like a Tiger the last few years. Rounds and participation have been flat or down for some time. We’ve been hearing for years that for every woman who comes into the game, one leaves. And despite feel-good programs like The First Tee and the availability of child-sized golf clubs, I’m not convinced that a whole bunch of kids are taking up the game. (If we can’t get them to ride a bike, toss a ball around, or go for a walk—hell, if their only “sport” is Nintendo—then the next generation is not going to save the game.)

Don’t bother pulling the reports off the shelves, trotting out the experts, or bombarding me with MBA-speak from a cacophony of consultants. Where I’ve been playing, golf ’s numbers have been slipping for some time. For the past few years, the unpretentious little club I belong to has been asking us to bring in new blood while offering financial incentives to prospective members. We’re not alone.

And please don’t throw TV ratings at me. Although that’s one area where golf is healthy, we all know it’s a one-man show: And when Tiger’s not rattling the cage, the rest of the zoo doesn’t attract as many viewers.

So what’s the bright side of all this?

Well, in the short term, those of us who love golf should find it a lot easier, and less expensive, to play. Just about every other day there’s a story in a newspaper (remember those?) or online about courses offering unprecedented deals. The Sacramento Bee ran a story a few weeks ago about local private clubs cutting fees—including Catta Verdera, which slashed its initiation from $47,000 to $20,000 (and most of that could be deferred). In Naples, Florida, the ultra-luxe Tuscany Reserve golf community is offering a three-year trial membership for $35,000—refundable at the end of the test period. And the New York Times wrote that Glenwood Country Club in Old Bridge, New Jersey, about 40 miles from midtown Manhattan, is advertising initiation-free memberships on the radio and raffling off a membership online.

Resorts are putting together very affordable packages as well, and we can expect more if others want to avoid the fate of the famed Greenbrier resort, in West Virginia, which recently declared bankruptcy and was sold to Marriott. On the retail side, last year’s woods, irons and putters are already on sale—as are some of this year’s. Meanwhile clubs that depend on catering revenue are cutting costs for hospitality, so this might be a good year to throw that wedding or bar mitzvah; at least take some friends out to dinner—on you! Perhaps best of all, the courses should be wide open. No crowds. No playing behind foursomes thinking they’re putting for the U.S. Open trophy on every green. No blaming the eight-hour round for keeping you from mowing the lawn.

When the madness ends (and it will, eventually), golf could be affected almost as momentously as the mortgage-lending and automobile manufacturing industries. But admit it, there’s a little perverse glee in watching the comeuppance of the Wall Street types who brought their masters-of-the-universe attitude to golf. Even if you’d never pay it, there’s something obscene about a $750,000 initiation fee, no matter how good or private the club is.

Although golf equipment has never been better, lately it seems as if there’s something new to lust after every few months, if not weeks. I’m certainly not hoping that the economic tsunami tosses manufacturers against the rocks, but maybe a business climate that’s less obsessed with short-term profit would result in more regard for the average golfer who can’t or doesn’t want to pony up $500 for a new driver or $900 for a set of irons every fiscal year.

Certainly, nothing would be better for the game, and for the earth, than if we all took a good look at course maintenance. Owners could save a bundle if they changed their habits. Augusta National should not be the model, either economically or environmentally. Some superintendents and architects have already taken the lead, making courses safer with saner uses of land. Now we golfers have to learn to enjoy a little hardpan and a lighter shade of green (or brown). It seems to work pretty well in Britain.

In fact, we all must bear some implication for the mess golf has gotten itself into. And a good smack upside our collective heads wouldn’t be a bad thing for the game and those of us who play it. But is it too late? Will we still be playing when the Dow Jones stops being the Down Jones? And if 2009 is already done, will golf survive to see 2010?

As others have noted, it survived the Great Depression. Golf even grew in those years of high unemployment and low consumer confidence thanks to the federal dollars and government-funded labor that built courses like Bethpage Black, site of this year’s U.S. Open. And, lest we forget, the stressful and troubled 1930s and ‘40s were followed by the placid ‘50s, which was a very good time for the game. That decade featured Hogan, Snead and Zaharias, and introduced us to two young men named Palmer and Nicklaus.

Back then, the game was also helped immeasurably by a president who openly loved it. While no one expects there will ever be an Obama Cabin at Augusta National, our young, vibrant president enjoys his rounds: As a man of color and youth, he could have a tremendous effect on golf ’s appeal.

I’m not saying it’s all going to happen. But golf could come out of this mess with a more sustainable and accessible future ahead of it. And from where I’m sitting, that’s just what it’s needed for some time.

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