A Q&A with Richard P. Meehan, Jr. named the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s 30th president - The Golf Association of Philadelphia

Nov 18, 2008

A Q&A with Richard P. Meehan, Jr. named the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s 30th president

By Fred Behringer
  Richard P. Meehan, Jr., became the 30th president of the Golf Association of Philadelphia at the organization’s Annual Meeting on Oct. 22 at Philmont Country Club.

  Meehan’s election caps a rise through the Association’s ranks, starting as a course rater in 1996, followed by service as junior chairman, finance chairman, awards chairman, treasurer and vice president. He is a lifetime member of the J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust and he has been a member of the GAP Executive Committee since 2002.

  A CPA by trade, Meehan is managing partner of Meehan & Associates in his hometown of Moorestown, N.J. He is a graduate of Lehigh University.

  Meehan is a member of Huntingdon Valley Country Club, where he serves on the golf committee and Lynnewood Hall committee; Moorestown Field Club, where he founded the junior golf program and chaired it from 1998 to 2005; and Ballybunion Golf Club in Ireland.

  Off of the golf course, Meehan has served on the boards of professional and civic organizations including, Cornerstone Bank; N.J. Society of CPAs Sports & Entertainment Group; Irish American Business Chamber & Network; Perkins Center for the Arts; Moorestown Community House; Lehigh Alumni Club of South Jersey and the Burlington County Boy Scouts of America.

  The new GAP president met his wife of 30 years, Sue Thompson Meehan, at Lehigh. She is also a CPA and his business partner. They have a daughter, Mary Kate, who is employed by PricewaterhouseCoopers; and two sons, Jack, a junior at Lehigh, and Mike, a junior at Moorestown High School.

  “Golf has been a family affair at our house,” said Meehan. “Golf has given my dad and me one of the ways to spend quality time with my kids. Our family trips are not all about golf, but our trips to Ireland almost always include playing golf after dinner at some of the most beautiful par-3 courses in the world.”

  He counts as a special memory “forming and running the junior golf program at the Moorestown Field Club, especially our junior program trips to the U. S. Amateur and President’s Cup with my children.”

  Meehan first played golf at Moorestown High School, then spent a few years away from the game. His USGA Handicap Index is 8.8, and his most memorable round was a 75 in the wind and rain at Ballybunion.

  He became involved with the Association as a course rater on the encouragement of Craig Ammerman, a Riverton member and a past president of GAP. “I have met many new friends through the GAP and even uncovered some old relationships,” he noted. “Fred Ruttenberg, my first [course rating] captain, taught me how to rate a golf course 20 years after his mother taught me accounting in high school.”

  “I really got hooked on the GAP and its rich history of promoting golf in 1997 when I played in the Founders Cup and attended the Gala celebrating our 100th anniversary.”

  Richard Meehan offered thoughts about GAP’s services and the challenges facing golf clubs in an interview with Fred Behringer of the GAP Communications Committee.

What services does GAP provide to its Member Clubs and their Members?

  There’s a real team effort at GAP. We strive to deliver the best services to our member clubs, and, of course, our success really starts in house with our staff, led by Mark Peterson and his directors, Kirby Martin and Martin Emeno, and supported by the rest of the staff. The Executive Committee serves as a resource for the staff helping to provide guidance and support.

  One of the services that is most recognizable, the GAP Team Matches, kicks off our golf season. We have over 300 teams. It’s the largest amateur match-play tournament in the country, and it gives our members a chance to have friendly competition and build friendships. Teams enjoy getting to play all of the other good courses that we have in the GAP.

  We have a busy year. We conduct 58 tournaments, and our member clubs are really supportive in hosting these events. The tournaments are for all skills and all ages. At the end of the golf season, our annual Player’s Dinner gives us the opportunity to honor all of our champions.

  Behind the scenes we offer a lot of services, including our handicapping and course rating, that really lets us host tournaments on a level playing field.

  When the day is done, our most rewarding program is the J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust in which we award need-based grants for college assistance to deserving caddies.

How does GAP communicate with its Member Clubs and Members?

  The most visible part of what the GAP offers is probably our Web site (www.gapgolf.org). It is really the cornerstone of how we communicate with our members. Complimenting the Web site are several other ways in which we communicate, including our electronic handicap GAP Revision newsletters and Golf Association of Philadelphia Magazine. We also have our President’s Council, in which we invite the leaders of our Member Clubs to come and hear national speakers on issues that are important to the clubs. The GAP also conducts an annual comprehensive survey that covers every aspect of the club operation, not just golf operation. The results are reported to clubs participating in the survey.

How have GAP’s services been changing to reflect the constant changes in the golf business?

  Managing the clubs is not getting any easier and our club leaders seem to need information faster. In response to that need in particular, we’re going to expand our capability to enable club leaders to pose questions to the GAP. In turn, the GAP will survey our members electronically to give them quick feedback. We’re going to communicate those results in our new GAP Boardroom News, which is going to be geared to the boards of our clubs for timely issues that they need some help with.

What further help can the Association provide to help clubs meet the management challenge?

  Every club president I talk to says the most important issue facing clubs, of course, is attracting new members. Families are busier and member clubs are competing for their recreation time and dollars. It seems that the families are more interested now in not just looking for golf, but they’re looking for multiple activities that they can have the whole family participate in, whether that’s paddle tennis or tennis or fitness or trapshooting like some clubs have. But they’re looking for a second reason to join the club.

  So our member clubs are trying to improve their infrastructure and trying to bring other amenities to the club. Huntingdon Valley, for instance, just formed a relationship with the Union League to provide our members access to the Union League facilities.

  As clubs strive to maintain their courses while keeping pace with many regulations and increasing costs for the use of chemicals and water, GAP recently held an Environmental Conference to help our clubs address these issues.

  What GAP is hoping to do is share the best practices that we hear or the new amenities that a club might offer so that our clubs can try to improve their operations.

What advice might you have for helping GAP’s Member Clubs to cope with the challenges they face?

  As far as attracting new members, it really has to be an all-hands-on effort. It has to be the board, the membership and the staff. Everyone has to work toward improving the club and attracting new members. Many of the clubs have actually hired a membership services coordinator who updates the club’s Web site and promotes activities. Probably the biggest improvement I see clubs making is that they’re recognizing that they need that internal assistance.

What opportunities are available for Members of GAP Clubs to volunteer and advance the game of golf?

  Volunteering for the GAP is very rewarding. The volunteers can start like I did with the GAP in rating courses, raising dollars for our J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship, and in terms of conducting tournaments, we have starters, rules officials and tournament officials so there are loads of opportunities. We have well over 100 volunteers in GAP right now.

To become a course rater, do you have to be a low-handicap golfer?

  Absolutely not. One of the thoughts out there is that everybody who rates golf courses has a low handicap, but, no, you can be any handicap as long as you devote time to learning the process and can read charts that only a CPA could love. The process gives you great insight into slope and course ratings and usually includes a round of golf.

How do you see the outlook for golf clubs at this testing time?

  I think the clubs have a lot of hard work ahead of them to attract new members. Our most successful clubs are those that have a combination of value for the member and offer the members a sense of pride and camaraderie. For families, it’s a great time to join a club. Almost all the clubs are looking to improve their facilities and make their clubs more family friendly. I would just suggest that people find a club with the amenities that they’re looking for where the whole family can participate.

Fred Behringer is a golf magazine editor, public relations consultant and member of the GAP Communications Committee. He is the former editor of Philadelphia Golf Magazine and Philadelphia Golf and has covered golf in the Philadelphia area for more than 40 years.

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