PGA professionals out at city golf courses - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

PGA professionals out at city golf courses

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Madison city officials say four city golf courses will be run in the future by the city, ending years of contracted, course management by four PGA professionals with more than 100 years combined experience.

City Parks Director Kevin Briski says the city's golf course operations have been running a deficit.

"The last four years, we've really been in financial damage control," Briski tells 27 News.

But, Glenway Golf Course PGA professional Bill Sheer disputes the city's portrayal of golf course financial gloom-and-doom.

Sheer tells 27 News the departure of PGA professionals threatens the level of customer service for golf leagues, outings, lessons, and course issues.

"With the absence of a PGA professional, I guess we're not sure what kind of management would come in, whether there would be quality or not," says Sheer.

Briski says one PGA professional would be hired to manage golf instruction at all the courses.

Briski also says existing golf course staff will be invited to apply to return to their jobs, and Sheer and the other outgoing PGA professionals could apply to manager positions at the courses, albeit with less responsibility.

Golfer Bob Nielsen of the Madison Area Retiree Golf Association says several hundred senior golfers are currently in leagues at the four courses. He worries the change in management will result in an almost self-service approach.

"You'll just have a kid, like in the grocery store, behind the counter here, collecting my money," Nielsen says.

At least one marquee event, the state PGA junior championships at Yahara Hills, may not return, if there is no PGA professional on staff at the course.

Briski tells 27 News the management make-over will allow the city to capture more revenue from course services such as golf cart rentals. The PGA professional managers currently retain the majority of proceeds from rentals and other services. Briski estimates the net gain at $400,000 annually.

Briski tells 27 News the windfall is already earmarked.

"Reinvesting proceeds back into the golf course - club house improvements, course improvements," says Briski.

Briski says it's possible there will also be a reduction in green fees, as the city strives to remain competitive in the recreational golf market.

But, Sheer says the potential quality drop-off and loss of institutional knowledge may alienate long-time course patrons.

"I've personally put thousands of kids through my junior program here," says Sheer.

Sheer also maintains the transition from contracting for golf course management, to a city-run operation, took place without necessary input from the city's oversight golf committee. 

Briski counters there's no requirement for the committee to approve course management decisions, although he says committee members were made aware of the plans to change management structure.

Briski says similar golf course management change from an out-source model to internal, municipal control, in Milwaukee County and elsewhere, were studied before Madison's decision to oust the four PGA pros. 

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