Golf

Red numbers are usually good in golf. Not for this local volunteer organization.

Jake Johnson takes a drop during the final round of the California State Fair Men’s Amateur Golf Championship at Haggin Oaks in 2011.
Jake Johnson takes a drop during the final round of the California State Fair Men’s Amateur Golf Championship at Haggin Oaks in 2011. Sacramento Bee file

The concept of the Sacramento Golf Council is as sound as ever.

The financials, not so much.

The all-volunteer, nonprofit organization dedicated to conducting and promoting superior amateur golf events at city and county courses and supporting junior golf is losing $3,000-$4,000 annually.

Expenses, particularly in the form of insurance and use of electronic sign-up technology, are up. Revenue, generated almost exclusively via entry fees, is down.

“We are working on ways to stop that yearly loss,” said Marc Arcuri, council president. “I think we’ll have it figured out for next year.”

The council has a bit of a financial cushion, Arcuri said, but the perfect balance among value, prize money and fiscal responsibility is increasingly elusive as participation declines.

The number of players in the 25 tournaments the council conducts annually is down 15-20 percent from a decade ago, Arcuri estimated. Events that use handicaps to even the competition have been particularly hard hit. The Sacramento City Net Championship scheduled for May was scrapped because of low interest, and the State Fair Net Championship over Labor Day weekend at Ancil Hoffman had 48 players, a third as many as in its heyday.

In 2007, the five annual State Fair tournaments over Labor Day weekend had 450 players. That number was down more than 100 for the same set of events this year. Senior participation remains strong, Arcuri said, and the men’s championship at Haggin Oaks is seemingly invincible, but net events continue to be dogged by sandbagging issues of years past.

“It’s hard to get that perfect number, where you don’t charge too much and still have a nice prize fund,” Arcuri said. “Guys don’t want to come out if they can’t win anything.”

The idea of an independent group exercising control and setting regulations for area amateur tournaments traces to 1944, according to Dr. Milton F. Fenner’s “History of Men’s Golf in the Sacramento Area.” The Sacramento Golf Commission was renamed the Sacramento Golf Council in 1952.

The city’s golf-centric forefathers, led by longtime advocate Walter Strand and superintendent of recreation Reg Renfree, were ahead of their time. The organization, a novel concept in California, allows for a more coordinated schedule, better-run events and the ability to stage five tournaments over five courses in one weekend.

One of the goals in the 1952 evolution of the council was the promotion of junior golf. The proponents would be pleased that, 65 years later, there are six annual junior tournaments with subsidized entry fees.

“We’re not going anywhere,” Arcuri said. “We have some money in the bank. We are working on ideas right now. Ideas to just break even, support junior golf, pay the bills and still put on quality tournaments.”

Et cetera

▪ Rocklin’s Lynne Cowan made a nice run in the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur in Portland, Ore., before losing Tuesday in the Round of 16 to Lisa McGill of Philadelphia. Karen Garcia of Cool, who won the title in 2015, failed to qualify for match play.

▪ Kelly Wilson (El Dorado Hills), Daniela Okino (Elk Grove) and Marissa Mar (Sacramento) qualified for the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur in Naples, Fla., which was scheduled for next month but has been put on hold after flooding from Hurricane Irma.

▪ Jon Peterson (Granite Bay) qualified for next month’s U.S. Mid-Amateur in Atlanta.

▪ John Catlin (Gold River) won the Golden Eagles Taiwan Open, an event sanctioned by the Taiwan PGA with a total purse of $200,000.

▪ Katelyn Harris, Sienna Lyford, Ryan Parry, Hailey Rietz and Emma Sand will represent the First Tee of Greater Sacramento in next week’s Champions Tour Pure Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach.

▪ River Oaks in Nicolaus, which was expected to reopen Sept. 1, remains closed. The course’s website lists a delay in obtaining government permits as the reason.

Steve Pajak: 916-326-5526.

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