Virginia superintendents lobby at capitol

Virginia GCSA members are helping golf's voice be heard.


Filed to: Advocacy, Virginia

VGCSA members standing in front of the Richmond, Va., state legislature building
Members of the Virginia GCSA — from left, Neil Jones; Jay Wade, CGCS; Jordan Spitler; and Ryan Dwyer — gather during a break during their annual lobby day in Richmond, Va. Photo courtesy of David Norman

For the 12th straight year, the Virginia GCSA board of directors and government relations volunteers headed to the state capital in Richmond in January to represent the interests of Virginia’s golf course superintendents. This year’s visit was coordinated by Executive Director David Norman, Chapter Executive Tyler Eastham and VGCSA’s lobbyist, Robb Bohannon of Hunton Andrews Kurth. The group of around 15 included VGCSA President Mike Mueller, the entire board of directors and GCSAA field staff representative Katrin Wolfe. The group represented every corner of the Commonwealth.

During an evening event, a smaller group consisting of Mueller, Eastham, Past President Jeff Whitmire, CGCS, and Eric Ferrell had the opportunity to visit with Gov. Glenn Youngkin at the Virginia Agribusiness Council dinner.

The state lobby day started with a walk to the capitol and visits to legislative offices — all 140 of them. A small gift bag containing a green golf ball with the VGCSA logo, representing environmental stewardship, was distributed to the elected officials. The gift bag also included beeswax lip balm, representing the commitment to protect pollinators, plus a candy bar from Virginia-based Mars Inc., the famous maker of M&Ms, Snickers and more. Norman’s business card was also included, with the message on the back, “The VGCSA is totally committed to environmental stewardship. To that end, VGCSA works with state agencies on such projects as Best Management Practices, Water Quality Monitoring and Reporting, Nutrient Management Planning and the initiative to protect pollinator health.”

VGCSA representatives met personally with over a dozen key legislators on the Agriculture Committee and others. The “leave behind” also included GCSAA’s new “Priority Issues” booklet. The talking points included the following:

  • Environmental stewardship — conservative use of water and inputs; groundwater recharge; stormwater collection; mitigation. 
  • Recently published second edition of Environmental Best Management Practices manual to ensure stewardship. 
  • Professionally managed lands, noting golf courses are leaders in environmentally sensitive landscape management. 
  • Cooperation/collaboration with state agencies. 
  • Protection of pollinators. 
  • The benefits of golf in Virginia: 
  • Economic impact — 28,000 jobs, $2.33 billion direct economic impact. 
  • Protected green space, wildlife habitat, carbon sink. 
  • Healthy exercise — walking 18 holes burns approximately 2,000 calories. 
  • Funding charity, generating $20 million. 
  • Driving tourism. 

The delegation moved on to the General Assembly building, where half the group went to the Senate and half to the House for an introduction on the floor by the Senator and delegate of Mueller’s locality. The prepared remarks were as follows:

“Earlier today, representatives of the Virginia Golf Course Superintendents Association visited their legislators, sharing good news of the golf industry.

“VGCSA members maintain Virginia’s golf courses, a $2.3 billion industry, employing 28,000 Virginians.  They recently published the second edition of their ‘Environmental Best Management Practices’ manual to ensure that Virginia golf courses exhibit environmental stewardship in maintenance practices. They work with state agencies to conserve water and monitor water quality. They maintain nutrient management plans and seek to protect pollinators. Please offer a warm welcome to association President Mike Mueller, golf course superintendent for the Herndon Centennial Golf Course, and other superintendents from across the Commonwealth.”

Face-to-face advocacy between golf course superintendents and policymakers is the most important part of working with government officials to foster understanding and start conversations about the issues and needs of the golf industry. The VGCSA has done remarkable work forging connections with legislators who are key to golf’s interests. When superintendents meet with their legislators, they can introduce themselves and what they stand for, such as environmental stewardship and engagement with local community, as well as provide faces and stories to how national legislation affects people’s daily lives and jobs. Without representation like this, the voices of the people who make the game of golf so enjoyable would go unheard.

GCSAA applauds everyone who worked hard to make this lobby day happen and encourages continued advocacy efforts by all chapters. From responding to action alerts and joining webinars to attending town hall meetings and speaking directly to policymakers, advocacy is a vital part of supporting and growing the golf industry.

David Norman is executive director of the Virginia GCSA. Elliot Rausch is GCSAA’s government affairs intern.