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Woodward has his challenges as GCSAA CEO.
But the circumstances will be different for Woodward this year. Last year, nearly 26,000 people attended the Golf Industry Show. It was a record showing, which was expected as it was the first year that the Club Managers Association of America had joined the event.
But attendance is expected to be down sharply this year to around 18,000, according to the GCSAA. There are at least two reasons for that: One, of course, is the struggling economy. Many superintendents aren't attending the show because it isn't in their courses' budgets. The second reason is the site. New Orleans is simply not the draw that Orlando is, even in a down economy.
The mood will be different, too. Last year, the economy wasn't great, but it wasn't in the dumps like it is now.
Woodward has taken over the GCSAA at a challenging time, not just in the golf industry, but in the world. Things are tough all over.
Superintendents are not only not attending the Golf Industry Show this year because of tight budgets (I know several who are going on their own dimes), it could be assumed they might not renew their memberships for the same reason. That's a concern for Woodward, although GCSAA Communications Director Jeff Bollig said membership is holding steady.
"We have lost memberships because members have left the industry due to job loss," Bollig said. "We have had some members not renew due to budget cuts. But, all in all, the losses have not been what you might expect.
"We actually grew overall membership last year. We have marketed membership stronger in the past three years than ever before, and I trust that has allowed us to demonstrate the value of membership and how it can help in times of economic troubles."
Woodward, like new President Barack Obama, realizes the top challenge he faces.
"The economy is a challenge for all of us," he says. "It's the No. 1 thing we're worried about. It affects our budget here at the GCSAA. I've gone through every single line item in our budget with my staff. We did this so we can see where we can get the most value out of the money and resources that we have."
Woodward is also concerned about the economy as it relates to the golf industry.
"Even when the economy was good, the golf industry was flat at best in some parts of the country," he says. "Even when the economy does recover at some point — and I know it will — will golf recover with it? That's one of the challenges we face because there's slow development."
Membership retention and growth is a top goal.
"And that's a challenge right now with the way the economy is," Woodward says. "If we can retain our membership at the current level, I would be happy this first year or so until the economy gets better. But, ultimately, we need to grow membership.
(Editor's note: Membership is about 20,000. A $20 membership increase went into effect last May bringing annual dues to $320.)
Woodward admits it's a challenge in the tough economic climate to get members to see the value that GCSAA provides as an association.
"But you never really understand the programs and services we have to offer until you get in our building [in Lawrence, Kan.] and see them," he says. "And that's my challenge — to try and get that word out to our members about what we have to offer them, whether it's through troubled times or to help them do better at their jobs. One of the things I'm going to do personally is stay very engaged and connected with our members because I understand their plights. I've been through them in my career. "After 35 years, you see just about everything there is to see at one time or another."