Governor Recognizes Golf as a Major Industry

At the Governor's Mansion in Tallahassee, Florida Governor Charlie Crist convened a panel of sports executives from across the state to provide insight and perspective into sport's economic impact on tourism and the Florida economy. The Governor recognized golf as a major industry in the Sunshine State.

Joe Steranka, CEO of the PGA of America, was among the 10 sports industry leaders invited to attend the panel. "Golf is a major economic driver in Florida, with approximately 1,300 golf courses employing 56,000 people and generating $1.4 billion in wage income," said Steranka. "Florida is the number one destination for golf travelers, attracting approximately 1 million tourists annually who spend an average of $1,700 while they are vacationing in the state."

Other statistics discussed during the meeting include the size of the sports industry in Florida, which has grown from $16 billion a year in 1999 to an estimated $36 billion a year today. More than 400,000 Floridians are employed in the sports industry.

"In challenging financial times like these, it is important to remember that [Florida's sports] teams and sporting traditions are a major part of the state economy, generating hundreds of thousands of jobs," said Governor Crist. "People love the Sunshine State for many reasons, and the variety of sporting events and teams we offer is a significant draw for residents and visitors. I look forward to working with Florida's many sports organizations to keep this industry strong for future generations."

Florida is home to the headquarters for the PGA of America, PGA Tour, LPGA, World Golf Hall of Fame and the World Golf Foundation. The state also has more golf facilities than any other state and annually hosts 18 professional men's and women's spectator events.

"We are fortunate to have the support of Governor Crist, Visit Florida and the Florida Sports Foundation, who help promote golf and tourism in our state," Steranka said. "Golf is a stable industry, as we saw last week in Orlando during the vibrant PGA Merchandise Show, which attracted more than 40,000 golf industry leaders."

Also joining Governor Crist were Larry Pendleton, President and CEO of the Florida Sports Foundation; and John Webb, President of Sports Development-Broward County, the largest sports council in Florida. Other sports industry leaders attending Tuesday's discussion included:

* Jeff Mielke of Ft. Myers, the Florida Sports Foundation designee for the Florida Sports Commission
* Randy Spetman of Tallahassee, Athletic Director for Florida State University
* Mike Sophia of Miami, executive director for the Miami-Dade Sports Commission
* Rob Southwick of Fernandina Beach, president of Southwick Associates Inc., and an expert on the economic impact of fishing, boating and hunting in Florida
* Kathy Milthorpe of Daytona Beach, Managing Director of Public Affairs for the International Speedway Corporation
* Mark Jackson of Polk County, president of the Grapefruit League
* Jack Swope of Orlando, executive vice president for the Orlando Magic.