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USGA introduces "While We're Young" initiative

By Brendan Mohler

ARDMORE, Pa. -- In response to golf's pace of play epidemic, the USGA has announced a unique, lighthearted initiative designed to raise awareness and inspire action toward speeding up play. Named appropriately after the famous line uttered by Rodney Dangerfield's character in Caddyshack, "While We're Young" was conceived to combat the four fundamental causes of slow play: player behavior, course design, course setup and player/group management.

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"When we do our research to see what's causing slow play at the recreational level, it's not because people are imitating professionals," said USGA President Glen Nager in an exclusive interview with GolfDigest.com. "It's because they're playing from the wrong set of tees, or the greens at their course are too fast, or the hole locations are bad, or the rough is so high that they can't find their ball."

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Central to the USGA's plan is the recognition that, despite having shouldered the blame for slow play for decades, the golfer himself is not solely at fault.

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"For the last three to four decades we've told course architects and superintendents to create long, difficult, well-manicured, lush courses," said Nager. "People have been complaining about slow play for decades but when we look at the behavior of the industry, we've been reinforcing at least three of the four factors that create slow play."

The initiative will be introduced in five different 30-second PSA spots starring Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Annika Sorenstam, Paula Creamer and Clint Eastwood. Each spot reinforces the playfulness of "While We're Young" and pinpoints aspects of the game that contribute to slow play, while also inviting golfers to make a personal pledge to combat slow play at www.usga.org/whilewereyoung.

"The whole concept of the campaign if that we're in this together," added Nager, who is in his second year as USGA president. "It's not just your own behavior you're accountable for, it's the behavior of the people you're playing with. So we've tried to give people a fun, non-threatening vehicle to say to fellow players, 'You need to pick it up,' and to say to their course managers and club professionals, 'We want to play this game faster. Set [the course] up so we can do so.' "

Though cursory on the surface, the campaign is based on extensive research of mathematical and scientific principles that have helped the USGA to better understand the flow of players across a golf course.

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"We can look at the physics of highway traffic flow or the way products move on factory assembly lines," said Rand Jerris, the USGA's Senior Managing Director of Public Services. "Those exact same principles and concepts apply to slow play."

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The initiative also reflects the USGA's desire to take a more proactive role in addressing issues that impact the majority of golfers and not just some.

"We're trying to take the USGA's resources and focus them on the problems of the game, as opposed to just continuing to do what we've been doing, hoping someone finds out about it and decides to use it," said Nager. "We're not trying to show leadership for leadership's sake."

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