MAY 2019 | GOLF IDAHO 5 Russ Peterson (far right) served as captain of the IGA Team at the 2018 PNGA Cup, held last year at Seattle Golf Club. He will continue as captain each year during his tenure as IGA president. Russ Peterson brings years of volunteer service into his new role as IGA President RUSS PETERSON HAS BEEN AROUND the game of golf as an avid amateur player, high school coach, multi-talented volunteer, and even served a brief stint as the Idaho Golf Association’s executive director. That’s why his new role as President of the IGA’s Executive Board of Directors seems only fitting. He was elected at the Board’s annual spring meeting in April and succeeds outgoing president Jennifer Swindell. “I’ve got some big shoes to fill,” Peterson said, “and I hope to do as well as she has done.” Peterson had known about his new responsibilities ahead of time, while serving as the Board’s vice-president. “I knew Jennifer was going to nominate me and I told her I’d be happy to serve if she did,” he recalled. Peterson was introduced to the game by his aunt and uncle when he was a freshman in high school. “I played some in high school and college and during my career in the Air Force,” he said. In 1983 Russ was re-introduced to the game, “and I’ve been playing regularly ever since.” Russ was a pilot in the Air Force, and then flew commercially for many years. Since his retirement, Peterson says he usually plays five or six times a week, many of those rounds on his home course, The Club at SpurWing in Meridian. In addition to his new duties as IGA President, Peterson is also an assistant golf coach at Cole Valley Christian in Meridian. “It’s a small A-2 school and we’re two-time state champions for both boys and girls,” he proudly noted. “We have some really good young golfers.” Last year’s alumnus Jack Curran won a golf scholarship at Colorado Christian University. Cole Valley plays its home matches at nearby River Birch Golf Course and divides practice time between there and SpurWing, which really pleases Peterson. “SpurWing’s probably got the best short-game practice area in the state,” he says. “It’s just excellent.” One of Peterson’s pet projects in recent years has been to improve Idaho’s course rating system. “When I started 10 years ago we only had three raters; now we’ve got between 20 and 25,” he says. “We’ve made tremendous strides.” Then he continued: “Golf associations have three core functions: conduct championships, issue handicaps, and rate courses.” Peterson firmly believes that accurate course ratings are essential. “They are the foundation upon which the other two functions are based,” he said. Peterson went on to explain that while the USGA requires updated course ratings only every 10 years, “we do them on a six or seven-year cycle to keep them up to speed.’’ This is doable thanks in part to Idaho having fewer courses than in some states. Remodeling or renovation of golf courses is also a factor in rating. “If a course has undergone a major remodel like Crane Creek in the Boise area did a couple of years ago, we re-rate it,” he explained. Contrary to some of the more pessimistic views held nationally, Peterson believes the game of golf is very healthy, especially in Idaho. “We’re in a pretty good position here in Idaho and the IGA is re-vitalizing our youth program.” He explained that the IGA is now part of the Youth on Course program. Initiated in 2006, Youth on Course was designed to increase the accessibility and affordability of golf for Northern California youth. Now the program has expanded to 29 regions and includes internships and scholarships in addition to very modest green fees. Peterson is enthused about this new opportunity for younger golfers in Idaho. “After paying an initial membership fee, youths (ages 6-18) can play on member courses for just five dollars,” he says. “I think that’s a tremendous thing. I wish I could play for just five dollars!” In addition to working closely with Executive Director Adam McCormick, Peterson is also pleased with two other significant changes the IGA recently made. “We’ve changed our 54-hole championships to a Thursday, Friday, Saturday schedule,” he says. “We think that will give us the opportunity to get better venues because courses won’t be asked to give up an entire weekend.” Another change was a new addition to the IGA staff. “We’ve hired a director of media and communications,” Peterson said. Sarah Beardsley was hired just a couple of months ago. “She’ll help improve our presence on social media and update our website,” he says. “That will keep members updated and informed while promoting the IGA.” About those “big shoes” to fill? Russ Peterson seems to be just about the right size. — Rob Lundgren