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Joe Duball's NH Golf: NHGA, NHWGA talks lead to deal on collaboration

By JOE DUBALL
August 12. 2017 11:32PM

HARRITY 



IT'S AMAZING what five hours in a room can do.

That was all it took for leaders of the New Hampshire Golf Association and New Hampshire Women's Golf Association to find a way to put aside their differences and agree on a joint effort to facilitate amateur golf throughout the state.

Last Friday's meeting at Manchester Country Club between the two associations and the United States Golf Association was a necessity for all parties.

"I think it had a lot to do with a lack of communication between the two organizations as to what all of this change meant," NHGA executive director Matt Schmidt said.

The "change" was the USGA mandate for state golf associations to consolidate.

"I think there were a lot of positive conversations had along the way and we certainly looked at areas of collaboration, but there wasn't that commitment by either organization to sit down and have the discussions we did on Friday about how this was going to work. It's a big change for how golf is going to work around the state."

The NHGA and NHWGA had a disconnect and a lack of face-to-face dialogue during prior negotiations, which had gone on for 1½ years after the USGA first called for all state golf organizations to unify.

The drawn-out negotiations also left New Hampshire as the only state that had yet to adjust to the mandate.

The meeting was tense for the first few hours, according to Schmidt, but that tension wore off once the two groups heard each other out.

"What we had was one side had an idea of how (a collaboration) should work while the other had their own idea," Schmidt said. "At the end of the day, I think we found out that we weren't all that far apart after all. We worked through some of those issues and it felt like we decided to make more of a commitment to actually talk about how we will collaborate instead of just saying we'll collaborate and leave it at that."

NHWGA president Dana Harrity said the contract will be for three years and be held by the NHGA while the NHWGA receives an undisclosed percentage of the revenue generated by handicapping services for both men and women.

Without divulging specifics, Harrity offered her stamp of approval.

"The agreement we came up with is going to be enough to keep our tournament director and keep the organization going," Harrity said. "Things are going to change some but we'll be fine economically. I'm just thrilled it's over, really. Being president of this organization and a 16-time champion, I didn't want anything bad to happen while I was at the helm."

Harrity's greatest fear heading into the big meeting was that the NHWGA brand, which has stood tall for nearly a century, would dissolve and leave women without their own entity.

Schmidt stressed the elimination of the NHWGA "could never happen" and that "it is incredibly important to have the name recognition for both organizations."

Schmidt also acknowledged differing philosophies likely played a role in the disconnect between the two organizations.

"We've always been about what's best for the individual golfer and the club, but we've come to understand that (the NHWGA) is built differently than us," Schmidt said. "They've got a voting group of members while we're made up of member clubs. It's very different for who they are responsible to at the end of the day. It's a big change and we are certainly sympathetic to what their members have to endure. Ultimately we got to a place where we're all on board."

Terms of the agreement were not provided by either organization as the board of directors for the NHWGA and NHGA need to review and approve the agreement. However, Schmidt and Harrity did open up about the benefits of their collaboration.

The first of the benefits is a simplification of processes for handicapping and course rating, which both offered varying levels of frustration and confusion when the organizations handled those duties themselves. Centralizing those services for men and women creates less hassle for both organizations.

Combining services will also allow for more interaction between the two organizations, as course rating teams will consist of volunteers from both organizations while more men and women will take part in rules seminars.

"You never want to work in a situation where the men and the women are completely separated," Harrity said. "It's always so much better working with both sides and it's something we are definitely going to do. That might be the best thing that will come out of all this."

The collaboration is also expected to help improve the schedules for both organizations. Schmidt and Harrity both look forward to sharing input on how popular tournaments put on by each organization became so successful. Harrity is particularly adamant about adding a match play event to the women's schedule.

"I'd really like to see our tournament director work with Matt on setting up a match play event," Harrity said. "It's our first priority, in my opinion, because we have a lot of people in our organization asking for it.

"The problem has been that it's a multiple-day event and it's difficult to book a course. We could handle it on our own, but now having NHGA, which has experience organizing such events, with us will be really nice."

Schmidt

Creating more playing opportunities for women was one of the many talking points at last Friday's meeting and one Schmidt was very open to examining.

"The NHWGA showed the willingness to admit there is room for growth, which I am in favor of," said Schmidt, who praised the success the NHWGA's Tuesday tournaments and mixed events.

"The question for them is, how can we be more inclusive and get more people involved? And to some extent, it's the same process we've gone through over the last four years."

Schmidt went on to talk about how the NHGA used to be a "tournament club that carried a schedule geared towards the elite player."

Since taking his post in 2013, Schmidt has made it his goal to expand interaction to the entirety of the NHGA's membership with playing opportunities for higher handicaps. The goal will remain the same with the addition of NHWGA members.

"You take the 14,500 members we have and their 3,700 and try to increase what we're doing for every one of those people," Schmidt said. "Both organizations are committed to promoting the events that exist and filling holes in the schedule. They've been willing to promote us and we are happy to do the same with their events through our social media, e-mails and that type of stuff.

"Our organization always talks about building bridges instead of walls with everything we do," Schmidt added. "At the end of the day, we're all partners in the golf industry. Everybody wants to see this succeed because if we start to fail, forget about one organization or the other dying. Both are going to go away."

- - - - -

MIKE MARTEL'S lopsided victory at the NHGA Stroke Play Championship last week had his peers within the field clamoring that he should go pro. Well, it appears Martel is going to take his friends' advice.

The New Ipswich resident and Nashua Country Club member revealed his intentions to go pro next year following his 20-under-par performance at Rochester CC.

"I won't be an amateur next year," Martel said. "This was probably my last big NHGA event. I'll play Tri-States in the fall, but then that'll be it.

"I kind of had the plan before (winning the Stroke Play title), but it's kind of nice to end it like this."

Martel's performance at Rochester CC was quite the cap for his amateur career. The 24-year-old set Stroke Play Championship records with the lowest single-round score (63), one-day 36-hole total (130), 72-hole total (268), under par to finish (-20). He's also the second player in NHGA history to win the Stroke Play Championship and State Amateur Championship in the same year.

Martel said his plan is to start his pro journey during the offseason and head south to play in mini-tour events during the winter.

- - - - -

RICH BERBERIAN Jr., of Hooksett, failed to make it to the weekend at the PGA Championship in Charlotte, N.C. Berberian had a tough time managing the grounds at Quail Hollow Club and missed the 5-over cut after shooting 11-over across his two days at the tournament. The former Windham CC professional put himself in a hole with an 8-over 79 in his opening round while shooting 3-over 74 the following day. Twelve bogeys across 36 holes set Berberian back as well.

jduball@unionleader.com


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