An international focus for Rafael Barajas

GCSAA’s 2019 president views the association’s global growth as good for both business and the sustainability of the game.

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Rafael Barajas GCSAA
Rafael Barajas, CGCS, was elected GCSAA’s 83rd president during the 2019 Golf Industry Show in San Diego. Photo by Montana Pritchard


Editor’s note: Read more about Rafael Barajas and his career path in American dream: Rafael Barajas, CGCS.

For many elected officials, the only good platform is a complicated platform. The more on the to-do list, the better.

That’s definitely not the case with new GCSAA President Rafael Barajas, CGCS, however. Part of that stems from the fact there are only so many new products or initiatives that can be revealed during a one-year term at the helm of the association. But the real driving force behind the focused goals that Barajas will bring into office in 2019 is the work those who came before him have already done, and what he views as the significant and effective initiatives that GCSAA already has in the pipeline.

“I’m going to keep things simple. For me, this year is going to be about continuing to assist elected and paid leadership advance our profession through 2020 and beyond,” Barajas says. “We have some great initiatives in place right now, like the BMPs and trying to get all 50 states to establish their own by 2020. We’re trying to grow membership to 20,000 by 2020. The plate is really full right now, so I don’t need to come in here and reinvent the wheel.

“Any mark that I leave on the association won’t be a personal one by any means. I’m way more interested in leaving a collective mark, as a board of nine, and I believe we’re on track to do that.”

If there is one effort that Barajas does have a vested interest in, however, it would be GCSAA’s work to expand its international presence — to become, as the organization’s official vision states, “the global leader in golf course management.” Specifically, Barajas hopes to strengthen ties with golf course management professionals in Mexico, relationships that hold particular interest for him for a variety of reasons.

The obvious one is Barajas’ heritage. As a native-born Mexican who has spent nearly two decades assisting other superintendents south of the border in connecting with GCSAA and the education it can offer, Barajas was especially gratified when the Mexico GCSA became GCSAA’s 99th affiliated chapter in November 2017.

“I’ve seen them come a long way in the 17 years that I’ve been involved with that group,” Barajas says. “The best part to me is that the Mexico chapter understands the importance of education and professional development. They wanted to be affiliated with GCSAA. They wanted that education, the networking and the credibility that comes with that. They wanted to be recognized as professionals and as the most important person at a golf facility.”

But Barajas also sees an increased global presence as being beneficial at home, as a means of ensuring the stability and long-term future of the game and the profession in the U.S.

“Golf is growing internationally, at least when compared to what we’re seeing here,” Barajas says. “It makes sense for us to look to expand what we do so well here to these markets. We absolutely will not put an emphasis on international that leads us to neglect our domestic members and our responsibilities to them. But we have programs and services that can have a positive impact on the industry all over the world, and I feel a responsibility to let our international colleagues know about those.”


Scott Hollister is GCM’s editor-in-chief.

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