After serving the Pacific Northwest Golf Association for more than two decades – including three years as president – Peter Fibiger uses the word “serendipity” to describe much of what has happened in his life and its connection to the PNGA.
“That’s the sense I get when thinking back on the summers as a kid spent caddying and playing at Victoria Golf Club,” he says. “While considering being now about to receive the Distinguished Service Award at the same club, which also happens to be one of the PNGA’s founding clubs. Serendipity.”
He also says that when he first became involved with the PNGA, he had no idea where it would lead. “I certainly didn’t plan anything along those lines. I was lucky in that I’ve found myself to be in the right place at the right time, and with the right people.”
Peter Fibiger – Victoria, B.C.
- PNGA President – 2018-2020
- PNGA Director – 2003-2020
- PNGA Club Representative – 1995-2020
- Chair of the PNGA Communications and Marketing Committee – 2007-2020
- Led the development of the new PNGA governance structure in 2020
- Western Golf Association Director for Evans Scholarship Fundraisers
- Volunteered at PNGA Championships when held in British Columbia
Born in Denmark, Peter’s family moved to Victoria, B.C. when he was just six months old. He grew up overlooking the 12th tee at Victoria Golf Club and not only does he live every day of his life to the fullest, he makes sure anyone spending any time with him also lives that day to the fullest.
He was the right man for the job when the PNGA needed to overhaul its bylaws to remain relevant and continue in the role it had held for over a century of being a leader of golf in the region.
“That’s what we wanted to do, bring the PNGA back to a far more relevant position,” said the 75-year-old Fibiger, who served as PNGA president from 2018-2020. “The dynamic under which the organization had been functioning for a long time was starting to change.”
The dynamic since the association began in 1899 was to bring together the golf world in Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho, and offer competition for golfers as well as working together to grow the game. For most of its existence, there were few other well-established associations of amateur golfers.
In more recent decades, that has all changed. The state and provincial golf associations have grown and are conducting championships closer to home for everyone, and getting more and more golfers involved in either serious competition, or more social competition.
“The upshot of all that was that we wanted to get out of the way of the allied associations, get the profile of the organization back up to where it had been before,” Fibiger said.
It had gotten to a point where the PNGA almost was in competition with the state and provincial associations, not only for players, but also for golf courses as well as dates for championships on a busy golf calendar. Maybe the PNGA should instead concentrate on getting the very best golfers of the region into the high-level competitions that could be steppingstones to key national events.
“The full discussion ultimately evolved into just making the PNGA an ‘association of associations’ rather than individual clubs,” Fibiger says.
A committee was formed, structure was examined, bylaws were re-written and the essence of the association, particularly the Board of Directors, was all changed.
“We basically took the old bylaws and tore them apart,” Peter says. “There was no part of it that we didn’t look at or review.”
Cliff Shahbaz of Portland, a past PNGA president and a member of the Board during this transformation, said, “Even though there was a committee, Peter was doing the yeoman work on this project. He did it because it was the right thing to do, and it was the relevant thing to do.”
And with the transformation, there wasn’t a place for someone like Fibiger, who wasn’t a representative of the provincial golf association.
From Shahbaz’ viewpoint, this was the vision Fibiger put forth: “We’re going to change the whole organization, and basically I’m going to take myself out of the position.”
Someone with an ego wouldn’t have done that, nor someone wanting to build kingdoms.
“My biggest concern through all that was a fear of messing things up,” Peter recalls. “Did we do the right thing? Are we messing with over of century of tradition? Are we unnecessarily destroying the PNGA’s structure? We were taking a huge risk, and I really worried on that.”
But Peter’s strategy had been simple: bring the best minds to the table. “I got really lucky by being surrounded by great people during my presidency,” he said. “We did some hand-selecting of people who could help walk the association through the process.”
Since leaving his role as PNGA president, Peter says he would periodically check in with Board members and friends to ask how things were going. “It is very satisfying to hear things have gone smoothly (since the transition),” he says. “The feedback has been positive, and it’s been really rewarding to see that.”
Prior to being elected PNGA president in 2018, Peter had already spent several years involved with the Association. In the mid-1990s, he was approached by Dr. Jim Allison (who would receive the 2002 PNGA Distinguished Service Award) about donating stay-and-play packages to the annual Evans Cup auction fundraisers, raising money for the Evans Caddie Scholarship program.
Peter, as ever, jumped in full-force, helping to raise thousands of dollars for the program over the years, gathering teams to play in many of the Evans Cup fundraisers, and even becoming a Director for the Western Golf Association, which administers the scholarship program.
“I enjoyed all that,” Peter says. “Jim (Allison) would take me to go play Broadmoor Golf Club, and I’d be pinching myself, ‘How did I get here?’”
In 2003, Allison, along with then-PNGA Executive Director John Bodenhamer, approached Fibiger about being on the PNGA Board of Directors. “I was really excited about that,” Peter says. “I had an affinity for all things American, and the whole concept of the PNGA crossing the border, being international, was really appealing to me.”
Once on the Board, Fibiger would be elected to the PNGA Executive Committee in 2008, serving several years as vice president before ascending to the presidency.
“I grew up right above the 12th tee at Victoria Golf Club,” Fibiger said. “I spent the first 17 years of my life basically living on the golf course. When I wasn’t going to school I was caddying and shagging balls, and I was a junior member, and I was sweeping greens.”
The golf bug didn’t take hold, however. From age 17 to 42, he didn’t pick up a golf club, instead building a career in sales and marketing in the tourism industry. One part of that is he developed a sport fishing online magazine long before online magazines became commonplace.
With his extensive background in publications, while serving on the PNGA Executive Committee he spent more than a decade as the chairman of the Communications Committee, overseeing the Pacific Northwest Golfer magazine and the Association’s ever-widening spectrum of communication assets.
“I just remember some meetings when the magazine was losing some money for those few years (during the Recession of 2008-2009) and Peter took it personally,” Shahbaz said. “He agonized over it.”
It was during Peter’s tenure as chairman of the Communications Committee that the PNGA launched its revenue-share marketing alliance with the other associations of the PNGA. “That really set the table for the later restructuring of the bylaws,” he says. “With that marketing alliance, the PNGA’s relationship with the other associations became a real concrete thing, rather than a vague philosophical feeling. Everyone became invested in everyone’s success, with the PNGA helping to lead it.”
The right man at the right time, to the benefit of everyone around him, and enjoying the journey. Yes, it’s all been serendipity. Fortunately for the golf community.