Golf Saskatchewan has a new president; optimistic courses will open

Golf Saskatchewan hosted their 2019 annual general meeting Saturday.

The governing body of amateur golf in Saskatchewan hosted their annual general meeting Saturday via web conference. Originally the meeting was going to be held at the Saskatoon Golf and Country Club, but due to COVID-19 Golf Saskatchewan resorted to a very successful online version with over 80 participants.

Outgoing treasurer, and nearly decade-long board member Todd Bergstresser presented the financial picture of the organization that was passed unanimously by the board of directors and voting delegates.

Following the audited report attendees heard from six candidates running for three available positions on the executive. At the time Vice-President Don Kunkel and Danny Klughart were seeking re-election, Dru Bolen, Elanne Krainyk, Clinton Schmaltz and Teddy Wiens were hoping to receive a position on the board. Both Kunkel and Klughart were voted back in, Krainyk is the elected newcomer. The board sits at nine members including outgoing President, Delbert Betnar. The Regina resident spoke about his two-year tenure leading the organization.

“It’s been a very enjoyable two years,” the Joanne Goulet Golf Course member said after the meeting. “We’ve had some ups and downs; we’ve had some great highs with the CP Women’s Open and some of our tournament events have gone off very well. The only bad part has been the last two months, this COVID-19 thing is going to be a lot of work. I think it’s going to be a tough year if not two, but I think we have the right mix with board members and team members at Golf Saskatchewan that we can ride this wave through and help our members out.”

Betnar stays on as past president. He will be joined by newly elected vice president, Larry Wagman (Regina), Jasmine Cameron (Moose Jaw), Kevin Duchscherer (Nipawin), Ben Findlay (Regina), and Diana Kerr (Regina) on the board. Klughart (Prince Albert) steps in for Bergstresser as the organization’s treasurer. Betnar’s tenure was calm and steady at the helm of the organization. He said he’s confident that will continue despite the current uncertainty of the season.

“With getting the team together that we have now has made everyone’s job easier. I have seen the group work very well over the past two years to make Golf Saskatchewan a positive organization,” Betner said.

Kunkel takes over president’s role

Yorkton’s Don Kunkel was voted in as the new president of the organization that includes over 200 member clubs. Kunkel joined the Golf Saskatchewan board seven years ago following a long tenure giving back to hockey in Saskatoon. He said golf has always had a special place in his life and the appointment is meaningful.

“It’s pretty humbling,” he said. “It’s good to give back, I am as passionate about golf, maybe more so than hockey. They got to me first in hockey, they got the first 25 years of my life after I quit playing,” he said.

Kunkel added that the start of his tenure is off to a demanding start.

“The next couple of years are going to be really challenging. This COVID-19 is going to be challenging for not only when do we get to golf, but golf courses themselves will be challenged with members, how to operate and what levels we operate at and things like that,” he said.

When Kunkel says “we operate at” he is referring to himself and his colleagues in the industry. Kunkel owns The Owl’s Nest at Deer Park Municipal Golf Course in Yorkton. Kunkel provided reassurance going forward that golf will continue to be strong in Saskatchewan.

“We have some quality people and we’ve had quality people my entire tenure. Todd did an outstanding job and I know Danny is up to the task. It’s always good to have people with a financial background. There is a lot of depth, not only on the board but also from the past president. I think we’re in a good spot,” Kunkel said.

During the meeting Golf Canada CEO Laurence Applebaum, Golf Canada President Charlie Beaulieu, and Golf Canada Regional Director of Membership for Western Canada Blair Armitage all spoke and took part providing greetings from across the nation.

Future of the season

Leading up to the meeting, the burning question for clubs, operators, and players is can courses open when the weather permits?

Kirk Westgard is the assistant deputy minister for economic development within the ministry of trade and export development. He’s now the head of the Government of Saskatchewan’s Business Response Team put in place on March 23. Westgard has been working with Golf Saskatchewan and the allied golf associations over the past couple weeks collaborating on a potential decision on golf after the sport was deemed non-essential in late March. Westgard also spoke at the meeting and took questions from attendees. He did provide an optimistic outlook as Saskatchewan has had success fighting COVID-19 over the past two weeks.

“As we continue to move forward and start looking at get back and how do we rebound out of this pandemic and this survival phase that we’re in into a recovery phase and start opening up business. For the time being landscaping and maintenance is allowed. We’re waiting on government to hopefully announce soon that golf will be allowed to be played in Saskatchewan. I have no doubt in the near future that golf will be back in operation in this province,” Westgard said before opening the meeting to questions.

Golf Saskatchewan will be posting the recorded version of the meeting on their YouTube page for anyone interested.