New ASGCA President sets agenda
Golf’s affordability, accessibility and environmental challenges top recently elected American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) President Jason Straka’s list as he settles into his year-long term.
Straka told Syngenta how, as a youngster growing up in Northeast Ohio near Cleveland, he had 30 public courses a short drive away while a large part of his development was spent appreciating nature and the outdoors.
“I didn’t always know it at the time but we were all so fortunate to have such affordable, accessible golf,” said Straka.
“I remember my Dad, a schoolteacher, grumbling once because we went to play nine holes one time and they’d raised the rate by $5,” he added, laughing at the memory.
Straka’s love of golf and the environment shines through – at a time where climate change is more important and more discussed than perhaps ever before, none more so than at this week’s COP26 gathering in Glasgow, Scotland.
“In some arenas those (golf and the outdoors) are seen as competing for resources and not necessarily complimentary of each other.
“But I knew that if it was done and done well they could be mutually beneficial. That’s where I started.”
Straka wrote a thesis on municipal 18-hole course Widow’s Walk in Massachusetts – the first environmental demonstration golf course in North America which successfully brought together designers and environmentalists rather than driving a wedge between them.
“Climate change is happening but you can’t always get people to agree on the reason why,” he said.
“We have a lot of smart people in this industry: scientists, creative people, designers, I’m confident we can do our part now.”
Straka also wants an emphasis on youth and to make the golf industry more welcoming – again drawing on his own experience of writing to designers Tom Doak, Gil Hanse and Jim Urbina only for them to mentor him through college.
“I’m determined to bring those experiences and encourage others to do it,” he said.
“It’s easy for us to get caught up in our industry and businesses – lots of times it’s an ego-driven business and it’s so fast-paced.
“When you step back you really want to perpetuate people within our industry, get kids into the game and into the industry, it takes grassroots efforts. That’s definitely one of my biggest focuses.”