Q&A with Jeff Jensen, GCSAA Southwestern Field Representative

What attracted to working with the GCSAA?

I started working in the golf industry in 1994 with Golf Enterprises and then proceeded to work for American Golf, KSL, Black Mountain Golf & Country Club and OB Sports before leaving the golf business for 6 years to run the day-to-day operations of a marketing and public relations firm. 

When GCSAA advertised the position, they were looking for someone with golf experience and public policy experience, so the fit was pretty natural, and I was looking to get back into the golf industry. Having some familiarity with GCSAA was a big factor and CEO Rhett Evans had a mission and vision that I truly believed in, so I went through a lengthy process and was hired for the position five months after I applied.    

How long have you been with the GCSAA, and what is your role and primary responsibilities?

I have been with the GCSAA for nearly 10 years and my primary role is to serve as a liaison between the 10 GCSAA affiliated chapters in the Southwest Region and our corporate headquarters.  My responsibilities include working with our chapter executives and boards to assist them in the operation of their chapters, provide government advocacy and public policy services, work with allied golf associations to address challenges and grow the game, provide education via speaking engagements and to assist members with various aspects of their membership experience. 

In addition to California, you serve three other states. How many golf and sports turf facilities are located within the SW Region?

There are approximately 1,350 courses located in the GCSAA Southwest Region encompassing Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada.  There are 10 chapters in the region. 

What is a typical day for you?

The best thing about the position is there is no typical day.In a normal year, I spend approximately 110-120 days/nights on the road attending chapter functions, board meetings, allied golf events, speaking engagements, golf tournaments as well as site visits to golf courses.In between the travel, I spend a lot of my time working on issues related to government advocacy, addressing member issues, promoting GCSAA products and initiatives and working with all of our great partners throughout the Southwest.And of course, a lot of meetings!!

As part of your work assignment, besides CAG what other organizations do you work/collaborate with on a regular basis?

The Arizona Golf Alliance, Nevada Golf Alliance, Coachella Valley Golf Industry Water Task Force, Cactus and Pine GCSA Water Task Force, California Turfgrass and Landscape Foundation, California Golf Course Owners Association, various PGA chapters, numerous state, regional and local government entities and state legislatures.  I am probably most closely associated with the Southern California Golf Association and their Government Affairs team of Craig Kessler and Kevin Fitzgerald.  Our two organizations are joined at the hip in regard to fighting many of golf’s battles throughout California. 

What do you view as the greatest challenge/s facing the golf and turf maintenance industry?

From an overall perspective, I think perception is a huge challenge facing the golf industry moving forward.  We have long been seen as a white, old, rich, elitist game and it has been exacerbated in today’s political climate.  It is a message that needs to be taken seriously and addressed properly. 

From a maintenance perspective, water and labor are the two greatest challenges in my opinion.  Water sources in the western United States are overallocated and we are facing longer periods of drought than in the past.  Less supply and rising costs are a bad combination, and as an industry, we need to look into partnerships and efforts that reduce potable water use.

Labor will continue to be an issue moving forward as it is in most industries.  Golf is facing challenges with not only finding hourly help, but finding the next generation of qualified superintendents, assistants, and equipment managers.  Facilities will need to pay more competitive wages, provide better benefits and provide a better work/life balance for their employees.  One of GCSAA’s main functions will be recruitment to the turfgrass industry as well as diversity in the workplace.  Additionally, we are going to have to look at some non-traditional pathways to becoming an assistant or a superintendent.     

The GCSAA is committed to sustainability, what is it doing to reduce, reuse and recycle?

As of Dec. 31, 2020, each of the 50 states now has established state specific Best Management Practices (BMPs) featuring agronomic practices that support environmental stewardship. This program launched in 2017 and took nearly four years to complete.The BMPs are a blueprint for managing a golf facility in a sustainable manner and cover key areas such as water management, integrated pest management, energy, cultural practices, maintenance operations and pollinator protection. A PDF of the California golf industries BMP is available at https://www.gcsaa.org/environment/best-management-practices/state-bmp-guides

The next step in the BMP process is to have individual facilities adopt their state specific BMP guide and edit it to fit the needs of their facility. The guide is free of charge for golf course facilities and the goal in California is to have over 300 facilities adopt the guide.

The guide will play an integral part in showcasing golf’s commitment to environmental sustainability and will be a tool that we can use to communicate with golfers, media, and our regulators and lawmakers.