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August 10, 2018
Five Questions with Jesse Menachem, Executive Director/CEO at Massachusetts Golf Association
What has been the most exciting part about the merger between the Massachusetts Golf Association and the Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts and introducing the new Mass Golf?
Having the opportunity to work with incredible and visionary leaders has been perhaps the most rewarding part of the past few years as the merger evolved from an idea into a sharp and thrilling reality. I remember sitting around a lunch table more than two years ago with leaders from both the Massachusetts Golf Association and Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts. While both parties had their own priorities at the time, there was a definite sense of optimism and belief that together we would be a stronger, more inclusive organization. We simply had the right people in the right positions at the right time. Their commitment and passion for golf, along with their willingness to take risks and try new things has allowed us to reimagine our organization and our goals for the future.
Where do you see Mass Golf going from here?
We are just getting started. The rebrand was an important first step in bringing two 100-plus year organizations together, but now the real work must begin. Our objective was not just to bring two groups together on paper and introduce a new logo and web site and then go along with business as usual. We’re striving to make a difference within the industry and bring this sport to as many people in Massachusetts as we can while benefitting our member clubs and golfers of all skill levels. This merger and the excitement that came with the launch of Mass Golf is a launching point. From here on out, you will see a commitment on every level – marketing, services, operations and player development – to introducing new programs and new pathways. We need to be an agent of change and that is our number one priority.
As a young executive director what is your advice for those thinking about getting into the golf industry.
You need to be committed, work hard every day, go the extra mile and be open-minded. When I came into this industry out of college, I knew that I loved the sport and wanted it to be a part of my life. At the time I probably didn’t envision becoming an executive director of a state golf association, but, over the years, I made sure that I kept my ears and eyes open, asked questions and learned from the leaders around me. The first position I had was an internship at what was then the Massachusetts Golf Association, and from there I just kept learning, growing and building on the relationships that I created. That might be the most important and enjoyable component in my tenure at Mass Golf – the personal and professional relationships that I have been able to create and sustain has helped me in all aspects of my role as an intern, Director of Rules and Competitions and now as Executive Director/CEO.
Who has been a key figure in your career?
During the 2014 Massachusetts Golf Hall of Fame Gala, Chris Harney said that his father, for whom he was accepting the award, always said that golf brings good people together. We reference that quote quite a bit in our parts because we have been fortunate to have golf legends walk amongst us here in Massachusetts. While many people have impacted my career, Harry McCracken, long-time Executive Secretary of the New England Golf Association and Past President of the Massachusetts Golf Association, has been the biggest mentor for me. His work on the local, regional and national level – as a volunteer - is unmatched and the respect that he as earned from the highest golf dignitaries is so well deserved. I’ve been lucky enough to spend hours with Harry on the golf course, driving to events across New England, in the board room and in casual/friendly settings to pick his brain, ask questions and, perhaps most importantly, to just listen. Harry is google for the golf administrator – and he is always there to help and/or give you a hard time (for those of you who know his 93-year-old personality)!
For the first time in our history, Mass Golf hosted both its amateur and women’s amateur championship at two public facilities this season. If you look in time, this would not have been possible without Harry. Back in the 1980s, Harry was one of the key figures who worked with the City of Boston to keep the two courses operational during a challenging economic time for the city. He stepped in at a critical time and helped to keep two of the most historic courses in our country in George Wright Golf Course and William J. Devine Golf Course at Franklin Park from closing. That is just one example of the impact that Harry has had on the game, so I feel fortunate to have been able to work alongside him – a legend - for so many years.
What do you think about the state of golf now?
Every week, we see reports on the news about how good or how challenged our industry is that it’s hard to focus on what makes our sport so unique and what I feel makes it timeless. What we see every day at the grass-roots level is that golf has a dedicated following and a tradition that can resonate with the youngest and oldest of players. There is no doubt that we face a serious challenge. People are busy and there are many options for people to choose, so we must adapt and grow as an industry so that our game can be seen as an option for all. Whether that is changing how we communicate about the game, present the game or allow access to the game… we need to think outside the box and adjust to the changing social and lifestyle patterns. The essence of the sport will and should never change, but as industry leaders we need to make sure that our audience understands that golf is a lifetime sport for everyone. We should see this as a huge opportunity to change the conversation and landscape, and continue to position golf as the most impactful sport – recreationally, socially and professionally – in the world.