McGarry Sees PGA of Alberta as Leader of Game

PGA of Alberta President Greg McGarry


EDMONTON, Alberta — In its role as a leader in the game of golf, it’s important that the PGA of Alberta helps foster the growth of the game, getting younger generations more involved by drawing them away from screen time and booking tee times.

That’s the word coming from the PGA’s newest president of the association’s Board of Directors,  Greg McGarry. He’s also focused on growing the game on the professional side, by continuing with the mentorship program put in place in the recent past.

McGarry, who is now in his fourth term on the board, stepped up to the top position after serving as vice-president during the last term. He says his progression up the leadership ladder is a natural step.

“It’s kind of a culmination as starting out as a younger head pro, volunteering for the association and working my way through a lot of the portfolios that the board handles. Getting your feet wet. Understanding how the association works from the inside to better serve the members of the association. It is a progression once you get nominated as vice-president and you’re in the pipeline and then you’re next to be president ... and now we’re here.”

The importance of this board to the over 500 members of the PGA of Alberta is a key component to the professionalism of the association, especially for the younger members, McGarry noted.

“I think it’s important to have a good cross-section (of professionals). Not all our members are the same. There are many different roles that we fill as golf professionals. It’s always good to have a good cross-section. We started a mentorship program within the association where some of the senior leaders reach out to new, young pros who may be at a more rural, smaller club,” who may not have the ability to learn by watching someone in a position above them simply because that position doesn’t exist for any variety of reasons.

“The culture of interacting at our events whether it’s the Buying Show, the Consumer Shows and  the tournaments, you’re exposed to a lot of members and being open to them, hearing their concerns and feedback. It’s a good board. We’re not an operational board obviously. We’re governance and we try to make things better. We have a good cross-section in our membership and that bodes well.”

To that end, and even though he’s just started his three-year term as president, McGarry said it’s key that he pass along his knowledge and experiences to the man that will follow  him, Dale Tomlinson, the new vice-president, as well as others on the board and beyond.

“At this point it’s still leadership and we make decisions on good information. There aren’t too many major things we do as a whole, but at the same time, the veepee is in charge of finance so you get a good grasp of where the organization is. You’re more checking on all the committees, making sure they’re operating properly, bringing good ideas to the table. I think we’re a good forward-thinking group so there’s nothing that comes out of left field and surprises us. Through the meetings, hopefully we can stay a year ahead, at least.”

One of the largest decisions made thus far by this newly elected board is moving the annual Buying Show, long a fixture in Edmonton, down south to Calgary. That has met both with nods of approval and some dissent.

“It’ an internal event for our association, for our members and the vendors,” McGarry said about the hectic week where clubs from across Alberta, and elsewhere, come to make decisions on the type of pro shop stock they want to carry the following golf season. “It’s been five years now where we’ve listened to the feedback, done surveys and almost to man — a few guys might argue with you — the feedback has been ‘Hey, we should try another venue. Try another city.’ We explored it ... so now we’ve partnered with the BMO Centre in Calgary and we’re going to move there.”

Asked about the state of golf in Alberta, and if he had any concerns, McGarry noted there has been a decline in young pros coming into the business. However, Alberta isn’t the only place noticing the dip in numbers.

“It’s kind of a countrywide ... uh, I don’t know if it’s a problem but the whole industry might have hit a reset button. I think what you’re seeing now is there are less assistants officially but they’re getting better security, contracts, where they’re on more long-term (employment). I’ve seen more movement this year then maybe any year I remember in the industry. There was a lot of movement, volatility with a lot of people losing jobs, changing jobs,” including his, where he has filled the interim role as general manager at the Glendale Golf and County Club in Edmonton leaving his former position as head pro open.

“I’m not sure there’s a lot of gloom and doom (in the industry). There was a lot of movement which I think is healthy. I don’t see a big concern that way but just more on the entry of young pros coming into the business because eventually we’re going to meed more down the line.”

Along with that there is always the dilemma of how to bring new bodies into the game to keep it a vital component of outdoor activities.

“It’s a different time we’re in. I think I saw a thing on the news this morning about online game, and at this event, more people around the world tuned into that than the Super Bowl. That’s people sitting in a chair. I think it’s exposure and some of the things we do like PGA on Wheels where we try to interact with the community with people that may not necessarily go out to a golf facility. I go back to the gaming, the technology-based idea,” where youngsters can keep track of their game improvement through the use of a cell phone, iPad, or computer and stay connected while becoming more active.

In closing, McGarry said his board isn’t here to tell golf courses how to run their business. Rather, he suggests, they’re there to bring about change for the better by helping courses find the right people to help grow that operation.

“What we can do is create opportunities for our members where we find facilities that might not have a professional in place and open up doors that way. I think we’re still seen as leaders, the most trusted resource in golf,” and by following that mantra, they’ll continue to grow the game, and the PGA of Alberta’s membership.

About the Writer
Gord Montgomery is a member in good standing of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. He is now in his 10th year of writing for Inside Golf. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. He’s also on Twitter at @gordinsidegolf and on Instagram at gordinsidegolf2.