Play gets underway this morning at the AT&T National golf tournament at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda. But befitting of a tournament near Washington, D.C., top golf officials spent the practice rounds yesterday lobbying members of Congress right on the course.
Congress does have a "golf caucus." It doesn't have anything to do with playing the sport, though most of its approximately 50 members do hit the greens from time to time. Their actual focus is on golf as a business — a business that contributes 2 million jobs to the U.S. economy, according to the World Golf Foundation.
The number of public courses has grown significantly in the past 20 years, according to Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.), who heads the caucus and attended the practice rounds Wednesday. That has allowed many more people to play the sport, he added.
"That helps promote not only the golf course but the business and the people that work there," Baca said. "The people who work at the restaurant, the people that work behind the desk, the landscapers, the marshals. It presents an opportunity for people to be exposed to the game."
Baca and the golf caucus members who toured the course Wednesday got their picture taken with tournament host Tiger Woods. But they also heard from people like World Golf Foundation CEO Steve Mona. He wants lawmakers to okay a bill that would allow golf courses to receive federal aid after natural disasters like flooding.
"It puts golf, which is a legitimate business, just like any other business in a local community, at a decided disadvantage," Mona said, "when other businesses in a community can apply for things like disaster relief and receive it, but a golf facility can't."
The World Golf Foundation is headquartered in Florida, where they're all too familiar with flooding, thanks to the numerous hurricanes that hit the state.