York County Amateur Golf Association at crossroads with financial problems, fewer players
The York County Amateur Golf Association (YCAGA) has been a local sports institution for decades.
Since its inception in 1951, it's been the area’s premier forum for local amateur golfers to compete against one another.
The YCAGA hosts or helps organize numerous events during the golf season, including prominent tournaments such as the York County Amateur Championship, the Champion of Champions, the York Open and the War of the Roses.
Successfully putting all of those events together is no easy chore.
The weather, for one, is certainly something that can wreak havoc on any given day. The Interclub Championship, for example, was rained out earlier this season and rescheduled for Aug. 19.
Holidays and family obligations can also be a hurdle when trying to attract quality fields.
Then there's the cost of competition and equipment.
In the middle of it all is YCAGA executive director Dave Bennett. As the organization’s leader for more than a decade, Bennett has experienced a few challenges along the line.
This year, however, has probably been one of Bennett’s most difficult. With a declining core of dedicated members, along with some changes by the United States Golf Association (USGA) this year that have affected the organization’s finances, Bennett is doing the best that he can to keep things afloat.
In many ways, however, the YCAGA is at a crossroads.
Financial hit: In years past, the YCAGA was one of six entities across the state authorized by the USGA to offer handicaps, as well as perform course ratings and slope ratings for its member courses.
Starting this year, however, only two of those six organizations were still permitted by the USGA to continue offering those services — the Golf Association of Philadelphia and the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association.
The YCAGA was left out in the cold. The net result of the change is that the YCAGA will no longer have roughly $8,000 in income that was generated by those services coming into its coffers.
“The impact to the YCAGA is a substantial loss of income,” Bennett said.
Clubs impacted: Income, however, is only part of the change.
“That not only affects us, but it also affected the clubs as well,” Bennett said. “Now the only way that the clubs can issue a USGA handicap is by belonging to one of those two associations. And in the past, I was the one that our member clubs would call on to help with problems with the tournament programs or how to set up tournaments, as well as handicap issues. I would work with the clubs to help train them.”
As a nonprofit organization, the YCAGA used the funds generated from handicapping and ratings to help offset some of the costs of tournament play and defray administrative costs, as well as boost their prize payouts.
Numbers down: In a normal year, the loss of that much funding would be nearly a full-time task for Bennett to attempt to resolve. That mission, however, is complicated by a decline in players signing up for some of the YCAGA’s more prominent events.
The Brewvino’s Senior Championship at Grandview Golf Club this summer had to be postponed to September because of low participation. In a normal year the participation rate was around 40-50, but this year’s event attracted only 13 participants.
“We listened to the players and this year we expanded the event from a one-day thing to a two-day competition,” Bennett said. “So we expanded it and opened up the eligibility to players in the Harrisburg and Lancaster areas. But we had to (postpone) it and then found out through additional feedback that most people really preferred a one-day deal and that York County still prefers the tradition of just keeping it to York County players.”
The participation for the senior event at Grandview may have also been impacted by a well-publicized incident of alleged racial discrimination at the Dover-area course, which may have discouraged some players from competing there.
Touching nerve: The Quality Digital Office Technology York County Amateur Championship, meanwhile, is set for this upcoming weekend at the Bridges Golf Course in Abbottstown.
The Bridges recently had a fire at a storage building that destroyed much of the course's maintenance equipment. At this point, it's uncertain what impact, if any, that fire may have on the course's preparation for this weekend's tournament.
That's yet another issue that Bennett has to be concerned with.
As of Sunday, only 37 players have signed up to play in the two-day event, well below the normal of 70-80.
For a guy such as Bennett, who enjoys competition regardless of outcome, the feedback received through a recent email survey seemed to touch a nerve with him.
Many players will sign up for events when they're held at one of the premier private clubs in the county, such the Country Club of York, the Out Door Country Club or the Hanover Country Club. When those same events are held at public courses, the numbers often drop.
“It’s clear that the majority of the golfers in York County, and I know that I’m probably going to catch heat for this, but I don’t mind saying that the majority of golfers in York County are not really into playing competitive golf,” Bennett said. “Now we do have a core group of about 20 or so seniors and 30-40 amateurs that enjoy playing no matter where the event is held and who is in the field. They’ll play no questions asked. But the majority of York County golfers are not into tournament golf and are not into testing themselves in any type of situation.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.