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February 22, 2018
Seven Questions with a Golf Pioneer in Colorado
WE ARE GOLF recently interviewed Ed Mate, Executive Director of the Colorado Golf Association (CGA) about his career path, unique western courses and new avenues to introduce young people to golf. This coming Wednesday, February 28, the Colorado Golf Industry will come together at the Broadmoor to discuss key industry issues through a day-long working seminar.
What’s new at the Colorado Golf Association in 2018?
The biggest news this year is the unification of the Colorado Golf Association with the Colorado Women’s Golf Association. This became official on January 1, 2018. As we like to say, this marks the first day of the “next century” of golf in Colorado since our associations celebrated centennials in 2015 and 2016, respectively. It is really exciting to be working with a newly combined board of directors and staff toward the common goal of promoting golf in Colorado.
How did you get your start in the golf industry?
As a caddie. Caddying led to the Evans Scholarship. The Evans Scholarship led to an internship with the CGA. The internship led to a full-time job with the CGA after graduating from the University of Colorado in 1988. I hadn’t thought about it, but this year is my 30th year working full-time in golf administration. Man, I am old!
Who do you consider a mentor?
Dennis Lyon. Dennis is a former president of the GCSAA and 30-year Manager of Golf for the City of Aurora, Colo. Dennis also served as president of the CGA and taught me a ton about management, priority and kindness. I really admire golf course superintendents in general—they are such an impressive, hard-working and well-educated group. Where would golf be without grass!
What is your advice for people who want to work in golf?
If you have a passion for the game, follow that passion.
Why is the CGA one of the few state golf associations to own a golf course, the Tom Doak-designed CommonGround Golf Course in Denver?
Wow! That’s a huge question. I would sum it by saying that CommonGround is a unique situation. It is truly a melting pot location in the City of Denver which gives us tremendous opportunity to implement unique, impactful and diverse programing. Without that location, I don’t think we would own a course. After all, it’s hard to own a golf course—the economics are tough and as a state association you need to be sensitive to competing with the other facilities in your state or region which you also represent. CommonGround is a laboratory for programs like our Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy, our Hale Irwin Player Program and countless others. That is why we own a golf course—not to compete with our members. CommonGround is a rising tide for the game.
Can you tell us a little about the Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy at CommonGround and why it’s central to the CGA’s mission?
I’ll answer the second part first. I often joke that the “C” in CGA stands as much for “Caddie” as it does “Colorado.” Caddying embodies some of the most important and fundamental attributes of our sport that make it great. Golf is a game of a lifetime and caddying puts young and old together to share it. Golf promotes health and wellness and caddies make it more enjoyable for adults to walk and gets kids outside and away from their video screens. Golf is a social game—show me a group of four golfers with four caddies and I will show you eight people having a great time!
The Solich program was created in 2012 with the goal of using CommonGround as a laboratory to bring the caddie back to the game. What makes it unique is that the caddies are accepted into the program based on economic need, academic excellence and leadership skills. They are “paid” in the form of an educational grant that is awarded in two-week installments during the summer months. Caddying is only one required element to receive these grant allotments. The other requirements include attending a weekly leadership training course, completing volunteer service hours and submitting a work log that documents every loop. The program now has chapters at Meridian Golf Club in south Denver and a small chapter in Grand Junction, Colo. that we launched in 2017. Of all the initiatives and programs I have been a part of in my career, this one is at the top of the list!
As an advisory member of the USGA Rules of Golf Committee, what do you think about the recent rules changes?
In one word—awesome! I don’t think many golfers appreciate what a monumental accomplishment it is to make this number of changes to a set of rules that has been around for hundreds of years to a game with infinite variety and complexity. To do it as thoughtfully, as carefully and as thoroughly as the USGA and R&A have done is truly remarkable. Sure, there will be some hiccups and perhaps an unintended consequence or two. But even those have been minimized by rolling out the changes in such a thoughtful manner. I can’t wait until 2019 to put them into play. It kind of reminds me of the line from the movie, “When Harry Met Sally” when Harry tells Sally something to the effect, “When you have decided you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you kind of want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible!”