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Golf is a $5.3-billion business in NYS

Hamilton Copes tends to a bunker on the

Hamilton Copes tends to a bunker on the fourth hole at Bethpage Black. Credit: Newsday / Alan Raia (2008)

So you want a job in golf. Chances are, you will find one if you can prepare a meal or track accounts receivable or carry bags or mow grass or develop marketing strategy or answer phones or shoot 70.

Golf is responsible for 56,000 jobs in New York State, according to New York Golf Economy Report issued last week to state legislators by a Long Island contingent and others in the business. The group claims that New York golf is not just a hidebound recreation for a relative few, but a $5.3-billion industry that helps everybody.

"We're pulling the wagon, we're doing our share to help the economy," said Meadow Brook Club manager Dennis Harrington, who made the trip to Albany.

"Let's face it, there are some perceptions in the world about what the game of golf is about," Harrington said. "The fact is, we have a lot of middle class workers who are just making a living. When I think of the 40 to 80 people we employ in a season, I think of seniors coming back into the work force, single parents, people from traditional families. It's really such a piece of Americana."

The committee that traveled to Albany was headed by PGA of America CEO Joe Steranka and including Metropolitan PGA Executive Director Charlie Robson, Metropolitan Golf Association Executive Director Jay Mottola, Town of Oyster Bay Golf Course superintendent Steve Matuza and others. Their figures were supplied by Golf 20/20, which is managed by the World Golf Foundation.

It wasn't so much so much a matter of lobbying for specific measures. "I think it was just for awareness," said Harrington, who represented the Metropolitan Club Managers Association.

Robson said the group met with Sens. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) and the staff of Assemb. Steve Englebright (D-Setauket). "We emphasized the concept of 56,000 jobs in New York and what that relates to in terms of payroll taxes, and people being able to put food on the table," he said. "This is not just about the golf pros and the superintendents and associate executives."

The report, based on figures from 2007, said golf generates $1.6 billion in wage income. It added that the game is responsible for $2.9 billion in direct annual revenues (the $5.3 billion figure includes calculations for indirect and induced output).

Golf became a sensitive national issue last year when lawmakers were concerned over why companies that received government bailout money were sponsoring or participating in tournaments. The argument from the golf industry was that those outings helped waiters in the clubhouse, workers in the bag room and charities. Golf advocates are encouraged about the way they have delivered their message. The message is that golf is more of a pump than a drain.

"Say you're the person who sells fertilizer to Woodcrest," Robson said, referring to a Long Island private club that reportedly will remain shuttered this year. "If Woodcrest goes out of business, maybe your business goes out of business."

The industry on Long Island has been neither cresting nor plummeting, the advocates say, but it is a place where people still can come to find work, especially blue-collar work. "I think we can hold our heads up," Harrington said.

Just for good measure, while they were there, Robson and Steranka planted a seed with state legislators about a certain state-run course in Farmingdale that has hosted major championships but doesn't have any scheduled in the near future. They encouraged state officials to consider bringing the PGA Championship or Ryder Cup to Bethpage Black.

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