| Sep 17, 2021
GCSAA Grassroots Ambassador Dustin Plemons from Cleveland Heights Golf Club in Lakeland and I recently enjoyed a meeting with Representative Scott Franklin from Florida’s 15th Congressional District. The meeting was facilitated by his District Director, Alice Hunt. There was a unique connection between Dustin and Alice in that Alice’s husband built Dustin’s parents’ home back when Dustin was about 10 years old. The local tie made the meeting feel extremely comfortable. Congressman Franklin was also very welcoming and receptive to our messaging, so we were at ease from the start.
After introductions, I had the opportunity to comment on the congressman’s military experience as he was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and spent time as a naval aviator. I asked about his time in the Navy and was impressed with his record and the planes that he piloted. I shared that ambition as I graduated high school and I am always intrigued by the individuals who have successfully achieved that status. We also ascertained that the congressman enjoys the game of golf, but he believes his competitive playing days ended in junior high school when he was paired against Lee Janzen. His front 9 score of 40 was bested by Janzen’s score of 31. Congressman Franklin realized then that he needed to become a stronger student. He admitted that he was able to enjoy a round of golf more frequently prior to his time as a congressman.
Once we got down to the actual business at hand, we began with a description of GCSAA’s Grassroots Ambassador Program and our goal of pairing all 535 members of congress with a GCSAA member living or working in their district. We talked about the importance of building such relationships with policymakers so that when federal issues impacting golf course management arise, asking for their help and support becomes easier. Our meeting on this occasion was more of an introduction of Dustin and our program.
We were able to make use of our time to demonstrate the positive economic and environmental impacts of golf both within Florida and nationally. When we mentioned that the economic impact of golf in Florida exceeds the impact of all the amusement parks combined, Congressman Franklin was surprised by that fact. It definitely drove home the point that golf is a huge contributor to the state’s economy. Golf in Florida, in terms of economic impact, is second only to agriculture.
We also discussed the positive environmental contributions of golf courses and how our members are trained professionals who follow sound agronomic practices based on best management practices as established by universities worldwide. The greenspaces that are home to wildlife and pollinators in urban environments serve as a showcase of superintendents’ stewardship. We also cited information from GCSAA’s Golf Course Environmental Profile Surveys and noted that golf courses are utilizing 22 percent less water since 2005 across the country and 39 percent less water in the Southeast region. Dustin was able to relay how his recent irrigation system renovation has seen an annual reduction of over 2 million gallons.
We did bring a few issues to the table regarding WOTUS, H-2B Visas, and anti-pesticide legislation in Congress. We explained GCSAA’s position on the issues and they appeared to be received favorably by the congressman. The meeting continued with our description of the successful GCSAA initiative to have best management practices established in all 50 states by the end of 2020. We mentioned that the Florida GCSA has been a leader in the effort to utilize best management practices and certifies our members with an exam of the information in our BMP manual. We relayed our constant battles with local fertilizer ordinances and how we are moving toward facility adoption of BMP’s with the utilization of GCSAA’s Best Management Practices template.
We concluded the meeting with a photo opportunity and went on our way. It was a great initial connection for Dustin, and I was glad I had the chance to participate and add color where needed. I believe we have a supporter of the golf industry in Congressman Scott Franklin and look forward to the next occasion to interact with his office.