Carter Page recently took over as executive director of the Mississippi Golf Association. The Nashville native played golf at Lipscomb University before transferring to Middle Tennessee State University, where he received a degree in accounting. After college, Page worked as a golf professional at associations in Tennessee, West Virginia and Texas. He and his wife Ashley have one daughter, Reese. He recently spoke to Sun Senior Staff Writer Anthony Warren about his new position.
What interested you in the position with MGA?
“After college, I knew I wanted to be in the game. Luckily, I had some contacts through the state golf association, and was told, ‘We have an intern program.’ From my first full-time year with Tennessee Golf Association, I knew I wanted to become an executive director one day.
“In golf, jobs are few and far between, so to think you can stay planted in your hometown is not feasible. If I wanted to become an executive director, I had to move around, wherever it takes me in the country. In West Virginia, I was in a management position, had a staff I was in charge of and business responsibilities. It really prepared me for an opportunity. When this position opened up, I immediately jumped on it because I wanted to get back to the South. My wife is from Dallas, and Jackson put us right in the middle of Nashville and Dallas. It was a great opportunity and I jumped on it.”
You played golf at Lipscomb. Did you plan to play professionally?
“I did. It’s just one of those things, after college golf, you’re burnt out. I played in a handful of professional events but maintained my amateur status to test the waters. I found out where my game was, and it was not where it needed to be. I kind of put that on the backburner and thought the next best thing was to get in the administration of golf tournaments.”
What’s the largest tournament you’ve overseen?
“Working for a state golf association, you’ve got your premier amateur events that would field 144 players. Outside of that, because of positions I’ve been in, while in Texas, I got to be part of running and a rules official for the Spirit International, which brings in two boy and girl representatives from over 20 countries. In West Virginia, I had a larger role in working with the Greenbriar Classic PGA Tour event, which was a great opportunity. I’ve also served as a rules official for several USGA national championships.”
What are your plans for the MGA?
“I’ve been fortunate to meet Margo Coleman, the executive director for 19 years, and I know the trajectory she’s put the association is definitely trending upward. I want to continue that. I’ve been blessed through my 15 years of experience, to work with medium-size associations, like the one in Tennessee, to Texas, one of the largest, to spending time in West Virginia, which is a smaller association. Through those experiences, I’m able to bring some new views and new ideas to MGA. MGA is well known for its caliber of players. We have a strong core group of championship players in the state. We want to provide to them professional-level events to get them qualified for national tournaments. Particularly in junior golf, we want to provide competitive, professional events, so if they want to move on to collegiate or professional golfing, we’re preparing them for that.
“A major percentage of our members, though, are not championship players, but ‘day warriors,’ as we call them. We also want to provide experiences and opportunities for them as well.”
What is the biggest need for the golf association?
“I think the biggest need I’ve seen so far is membership. We’re only as strong as our membership numbers. We are working with our member clubs and the members we have to enhance membership and grow it. If the golf association grows membership, everything else grows along with it.”
How many members do you have now?
“It is around the 7,000 to 7,500 mark. With the population we have in Mississippi, there is definitely room for growth.”
You say everything else will grow along with membership. How so?
“The more members we have, the larger pot we have of players to plan events. As we all know, more members means more revenue coming in, which means we can elevate our championships and tournaments to a new standard. We can elevate all the programs we offer.”
How do you get people to join?
“Through one of our member clubs – one of our 130 clubs. If, for some reason, there is not a golf course they are a member of, they are able to contact us directly and register through our membership program. There are several different tiers. We’ve got memberships for players 19 to 29 only, then the master’s club. All of these provide USGA GHIN (Golf Handicap and Information Network) handicaps, so they can place scores and have an active handicap to play in MGA and club events.”
How does Mississippi compare to other states you’ve been in?
“Every state I’ve been in there are championship-caliber players. You have those who are in college looking to turn professional and chase that dream, and you have juniors competing at the national level, rather than the state level. More importantly, you have amateur players who have nine-to-five jobs, but who are just as good and could potentially make a living playing golf who play because they love the game. I’ve been talking to our board of directors and our clubs here, and there is a strong contingent of junior golfers in Mississippi now, which is setting us up for success moving forward. We know the larger junior golfer pool we have, the more will move up to mid-amateur and senior golf.”
What is MGA’s role in keeping junior golf strong in the state?
“First and foremost, providing championship-caliber events. When I was coming up, you had your state golf association, junior amateur and state championships. Regional and national championships were few and far between. That’s not the case now. There are so many events outside MGA, that is’ becoming difficult for juniors to maintain a somewhat feasible tournament schedule through the summer months, because there are so many to play in. For MGA to be successful, we have to make sure our events are the highest caliber we can make them.
“Continuing that, what kind of programs do we provide to younger players to get them competitive experience? In West Virginia, we worked with the First Tee Program. Those programs, while geared around teaching junior golfers core values and life skills, I think we can utilize the First Tee Program as a feeder system into our junior golf program.”
What is MGA’s annual budget?
How many tournaments does MGA sponsor each year?
“Eleven state championships, including men’s, women’s, seniors and mid-ams. We’ve got 13 junior championships. Then, we’ve 18 sanctioned MGA events, which means those are events run by our member clubs that we help administer.”
You talk about the importance of growing golf membership. How to expand golf to people who might not be able to afford it?
“One thing I’ve started at other associations has been club donations. As competitive golfers, clubs change and new ones come out almost every six months. With the promotion of that, we can provide any of the clubs that are donated for our youth programs. We can find people to cut down the shafts, so we can have a size for any age that needs it. It was a huge success in previous states and can be here as well.”