USGA’s member events play key marketing role

Arnold Palmer chats with Bill Campbell during the first round of the Greenbrier Classic.

Arnold Palmer chats with Bill Campbell during the first round of the Greenbrier Classic.

Arnold Palmer still has “it.”

Without hitching his pants or hitting a golf ball, Palmer did what he’s always done. He made golf fans smile. And applaud. A lot.

This time Palmer simply told stories and the more than 100 members of the United States Golf Association members program in attendance drank in his every word.

On Jan. 17 in Orlando, the USGA held its third Member Education Series event. These gatherings are intimate affairs that bring together admirers of the game and offer an insider’s look into an association often accused of being private and stuffy. The first featured the LPGA’s Morgan Pressel at Pinehurst No. 2, the second united Tom Watson and Johnny Miller at Pebble Beach. It took two e-mails for the event at Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge to sell out. Those who jumped at the chance paid $1276 for single occupancy, $2252 for double occupancy (room, golf, meals included). Young and old traveled from 26 states, including brothers Steve and Connor Brown from Los Angeles, who were 12 and 10, respectively, and enjoying a Christmas present they’ll remember a lifetime. (Though they didn’t earn the most sky miles – one couple flew from Norway.)

There could be no more appropriate host for the event than Palmer, the man who launched the members program in 1975. Indeed, the USGA presented Palmer a framed photo immortalizing the moment when he enrolled President Gerald Ford as its first member.

While Palmer was the headliner, the event included an appearance by USGA president Jim Hyler and a rules seminar. Already, a small fraternity has formed of attendees who have participated in all three events while others were begging to learn where the next event would be held. This may be the USGA's best idea since the stymie rule was abolished.

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