Galesburg native on top of PGA

 

By John Ring

 

Roger Warren has come a long way since he attended Galesburg Senior High School.

He picked up a part time job during that time at a golf course driving range at the old Holiday Inn on Route 150 in the summer of 1967.  “Morris Chapman hired me ,” said Warren. “It was a summer job. He allowed me to pick up golf balls and work out there.”

And now, in 2005, Roger Warren— native of Galesburg and former Silver Streak, is the President of the Professional Golfers Association.,

That’s quite a leap.

“I always credit Mr. Chapman,” said Warren, from his office at Kiawah Island (South Carolina) where he directs a golf resort.  “He’s the one that got me involved in golf.”

Roger Warren was elected President by the PGA members last year and will serve a two-year term. He’s the 34th President in their history.

After graduating from GHS in1968, Warren attended and graduated from Western Illinois University with a degree in education. He then got a Master’s degree at Northern Illinois University.  From 1973-1986, he taught and coached golf at Dundee High School (now Dundee-Crown). It was then that Warren got involved with the PGA. “It was a total change of career for me,” said Warren, about quitting his teaching position.

He rose through the ranks.  Roger was elected as the Illinois Section Secretary in 1992, Vice President in 1995 and President in 1997. Also during that time, he served as a member of the Golf Professional Training Program for three years and in1996, he served on a task force that developed CareerLinks. Warren also was the General Manager of the Seven Bridges Golf Club in Woodridge.

Nationally, he was then elected to two-year terms as Secretary of the PGA (2000), Vice President (2002) and President in 2004.

“My goal as President is the same as any past President that has served since 1916 and that’s to insure that golf grows and that the standards are raised,” said Warren. “We established a program last year called Play Golf America and that was pretty successful. It’s something that we can use to try and bring adults, who have played in the past, back into the game and to get adults into the game who’ve never played before. We’ve tried to establish more programs to get younger people involved and we’ve done a lot of research to find out why adults don’t play the game.”

One of Warren’s biggest responsibilities is to bring new players into the game itself, as well as retaining the ones who already play. Golf is struggling to grow— mostly because players are leaving the game as fast as others come in.

“From surveys we’ve taken, people see the time it takes to play as a major barrier to taking up golf. Another barrier is that golf is a hard game and they want to have fun with it, so we need to make sure we help them, through instruction, to get better at what they do.”

“I think we’re on the right track. We’re starting to see a turn. I think the game will continue to grow, it’s a great game that people love to play. I see nothing but bright spots on the horizon for us.”

To that end, Warren would advise golfers not to worry about fancy equipment but just learn the basics of the game. “Most average players would be better off spending their extra money on lessons rather than going out and buying the most recent rage in a driver or a new set of irons. “

Roger still gets back to Galesburg frequently. “I get home three or four times a year. I love to play Bunker Links. I love it most for the challenge. There’s nothing easy about that course.”

“Todd Hamilton and I had a good time recently talking about Galesburg and Oquawka, reminiscing about people we know there and the courses in the area. We compared notes on it. We both have golfed with some of the same people there. I was excited to see Todd go to the National level and win the British Open last year.  Todd’s earned his way. He’s a quality golfer. For him to win the Open last year while I was President, I thought was a great thing for golf, especially since we’re both from the same are in Illinois.”

Asked if he knew about the success of both the Silver Streak boys and girl golf programs and their repeated trips to the State Tournament, Warren replied, “I didn’t know that but I’m not surprised at all. Galesburg has always been a competitive place for golf. It’s always produced good players, like Dave Lundstrom and Barry Cheesman and Dusty Watson. It speaks of the quality of golf players that come from Galesburg.  So for the Streaks to make State and have quality golf programs, I’m not surprised by that.”

“We always focus on young people,” added Warren. “We’d like to get them involved with golf and obviously, adults in the 25-55 age bracket. Right now, there are 34 million people playing golf in this country.”

Like most golf fans, Roger was excited about the recently played Masters that Tiger Woods won in dramatic fashion over Chris DiMarko. “I think that The Masters demonstrated Tigers Woods is still one of the most dominant players in golf. It also demonstrated the depth we have on the circuit. Chris DiMarko is a great player. No one should be surprised at the way he played. Anytime you get a final like that, it’s exciting. Tiger showed the creativity that he has when he chipped in that shot on16. It was a great game of golf.”

And so, the question had to be asked— What is Tiger Woods really like?

“Tiger is the same in person as what you see on television. He’s a great golfer and a great individual as a person. “

Warren had a mini-controversy on his hands early in his tenure when he appointed Tom Lehman as the Captain for the American Ryder Cup team in 2006. But he smoothed things out quickly. “Lehman has Ryder Cup ability. Some comments were made about who wasn’t chosen but they were made out of passion. It was a short term thing. I think that the process for selecting the Ryder Cup Captain is something that’s been established a long time and we’re very proud of our past captains and Tom fits that same mold. “

“With Tom, he was a person who really had the passion for the Ryder Cup and he understands the challenges of being successful in a Ryder Cup and has shown the leadership in his participation in the Ryder Cup in the past. We think that those characteristics are really going to serve him well as we go to Ireland and try to win the Ryder Cup back in 2006.”

Roger Warren looks and sounds Presidential. The fact that he’s a former teacher brings a rare perspective to the office he holds and, in the end, would seem to immeasurably help the PGA sustain the growth that it seeks.