On Thursday October 18, our host Tony Castaneda spoke with Bill Scheer, one of Madison’s golf professionals. The City of Madison has decided to end the contracts of four of the Professional Golf Associations (PGA) of America professionals at the end of this year “to capture the extra revenue that can be used to upgrade golf facilities,” says city parks spokesperson Laura Whitmore. The city will be ending the contracts of Yahara Hills Golf Course pro Mark Rechlicz; Odana Hills Golf Course pro Tom Benson, Monona Golf Course pro Rob Muranyi and Glenway Golf Course pro Bill Scheer.
Bill Scheer explains his take on the situation, “The idea that this is going to save money for us is an opinion, and that is the biggest thing in question right now. Our golf courses have been manned successfully for a long time, and it’s a very difficult time in the industry…the economy has hit us very hard. Right now nobody is making much money at all in the golf industry. So [the idea] that money is going to be saved, I think is just an opinion, because the loss of customer service, and the loss of golfers could potentially be disastrous for the city golf program.”
Bill stresses that the golf operation is not tax-payer funded; rather, it is considered an enterprise department within the city, and is a self sustaining organization. The PGA professional’s salary does not come from taxes, instead the money comes from the sales generated from the rentals and concessions. During peak season, the golf courses open fifteen hours a day, every day of the week. The PGA professionals are responsible for facilitate the daily functioning of their course, and for bringing in all of the revenue that comes into the golf courses. They also implement all tournaments and leagues, manage all of the golf lessons in the city, and also manage the concessions operations, for which they employee eighty people – none of which come from tax dollars. These employees are paid by the golf professionals from the money made from the carts and food and beverage operations. Now, after the golf professionals’ contracts end, the city of Madison will have to assume the responsibility of licensing and paying these employees. Bill explains that as a result of this, there is the possibility that the city will end up paying more because of the responsibilities it will be taking on.
Bill comments, “All that we’ve asked for in this process is that we’d be treated fairly in relationship to a comparable city employee managing a multimillion dollar operation that is currently. Some professionals are managing staffs of up to 35 – 40 people. I have from anywhere between 12-14 employees typically. The number of hours that are required to staff these golf courses…there’s a lot of hours there. I feel for the golfers of Madison because right now they are up in the air about how the customer service is going to be. And we, as independent contractors, have a lot of incentives to retain our customers, and I’m not so sure if the employees in the future, being city employees, if they are going to have as much incentives as managers to operate [the courses].”
Listen to the interview here: