In Memory of John Semander
It is with deep sadness that the TGA announces the passing of John Semander. Semander gave selflessly of his time, energy and resources to promote golf in Texas for many years. His contributions to the game of golf are immeasurable and have impacted the state’s entire golfing community. The longtime TGA volunteer and Past Director passed away on July 27. He was 89 years old.
Semander was a gentle spirit who didn’t know a stranger. He seemed to be friends with everyone and had a warm-hearted story to share about each one to back it up. The Houston native was recognized numerous times for his steadfast dedication and efforts in helping the TGA.
He was the recipient of the 2005 South Texas Volunteer of the Year Award and the 2009 Bob Wells Distinguished Service Award, the TGA’s highest honor for individuals who’ve contributed to the growth of the game through their volunteerism and meritorious service.
In addition to duties as a TGA Director, Semander also served as a member of the TGA Rules Committee, as well as the USGA Junior Amateur Committee.
In 2010, Semander captained the South Texas team to victory in the Texas Shootout held at The Club at Carlton Woods in The Woodlands.
The longtime Shell employee was also very active with the Houston Golf Association among other pursuits.
In 2017, the TGA established the John Semander Family Scholarship to financially assist golfers who are seeking higher education. Semander’s dedication, character and lifelong connection to golf were attributes that the scholarship program endeavored to honor and encourage in the next generation of golfers.
The TGA mourns the loss of John Semander and sends its condolences to his family and friends.
The Spirit Golf Association Announces Appointment of Charlie Epps, PGA, as Interim President
HOUSTON, Texas (August 20, 2020) – The Spirit Golf Association (SGA) announced today that long-time PGA Professional Charlie Epps will serve as interim president. Epps has served on the SGA Board of Directors since January 2020.
The Spirit Golf Association, a 501 (c) (3) charity dedicated to the promotion of amateur golf for the benefit of health-related causes, was formed in 1999 by Houston philanthropist Corby J. Robertson, Jr. Corby established the SGA and Whispering Pines Golf Club, rated by Golf Digest as the #1 course in Texas, as a mission for philanthropically minded people to support charitable causes, enjoy membership privileges at a world-class golf property and to conduct The Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship.
“We are so fortunate to have Charlie step into this role after being an invaluable member of our Board of Directors and take the reins as we continue our charitable missions and promoting the international goodwill of amateur golf,” said Robertson. “Right now we’re focusing heavily on our recently created Spirit Food Fund, and Charlie has been instrumental in helping us raise more than $1.35 million for the food insecure. He brings years of unmatched experience and expertise in the golf industry and will continue to be a great asset to our organization.”
As interim president, Epps will be responsible for executing the mission and vision of the SGA, in addition to recruiting members to Whispering Pines and sponsors for SGA events while achieving the financial and managerial objectives of the association.
“I’ve been involved in a volunteer capacity with the Spirit Golf Association since the beginning,” said Epps. “I share Corby’s passion for golf in addition to giving back through the game. I look forward to continuing to grow our organization and coordinating events that have a positive impact on our Texas communities.”
Epps, a member of the teaching staff at Golf Club of Houston, has always been committed to giving back to the game of golf, especially in the development of young players. He spent 15 years as the Head Professional at Houston Country Club and six years Pine Forest Country Club.
In his service to the PGA of America and the game, he has held positions of prominence on local, state and national leadership boards and committees gaining him recognition as the recipient of numerous PGA and Southern Texas PGA awards and honors. He was inducted into the Texas Golf Hall of Fame in 2012 for his work as a club professional and golf instructor.
He and his friend, the late Dick Harmon, partnered to provide opportunities for young players to develop their game. He founded the Yellowstone Academy Foundation Golf Tournament to raise funds to help Houston’s inner-city kids gain access to golf. He also helps organize the Dick Harmon Memorial Invitational along with numerous other charity events.
On the PGA Tour, Epps coached two-time Major Championship winner Angel Cabrera and five-time Tour winner Blaine McCallister. Epps is currently featured weekly on the Charlie Epps Golf Hour which airs nationally on the SportsMap Nation Radio Network Saturdays 8-9 a.m. CT (97.5 FM in Houston).
Whispering Pines Golf Club is currently undergoing construction and is on track to reopen in fall 2020. Just 80 miles north of Houston along the shores of Lake Livingston sits Whispering Pines Golf Club, one of the best private golf clubs in the country. The club was founded not only to offer its discerning members a superior golf experience on an exceptional course, but it also was created to promote amateur golf and to benefit charitable causes on a local, national and international level. Whispering Pines is ranked #1 in Texas and was recently ranked #21 in the top 200 modern courses in the country by Golfweek.
TGA Foundation Finding New Ways to Grow the Game
The Texas Golf Association Foundation strives to grow the game through new initiatives every year. In 2020, the TGA Foundation launched Youth on Course in the San Antonio area. The program gives juniors access to play golf for $5 or less at eight courses in San Antonio.
“We love this program because it gives junior golfers a chance to take their skills from The First Tee, LPGA*USGA Girls Golf and more junior programs to the course and continue to learn the game,” TGA Foundation Managing Director Kelly Kilgo said. “Youth on Course helps to make golf a big part of their lives because now they can go play fantastic courses for no more than a $5 green fee.”
The eight courses in San Antonio participating in this year’s Youth of Course program are Mission Del Lago, Riverside, Willow Springs, Brackenridge Park, Olmos Basin, Northern Hills Golf Club, Cedar Creek and San Pedro Driving Range.
Founded in 2006 by the Northern California Golf Association, Youth on Course began as way to increase the accessibility and affordability of golf for the area’s youth. Within five years, the program was thriving and expanded as a nationwide initiative. Today, the 501(c)3 organization partners with state and regional golf associations across the country. Youth on Course is currently offered in 34 regions and has subsidized more than 900,000 rounds of golf.
“Investing in the future and health of the game is exactly what the TGA is built for and Youth on Course allows us to accomplish this with juniors, families and golf facilities,” TGA Executive Director Stacy Dennis said. “Youth on Course provides juniors with an opportunity to take the next step from skill development programs to access on a golf course. It creates relationships between juniors, their parents and local golf facilities. This program creates a pipeline of juniors that can continue to build confidence on the golf course and become lifelong players.”
Youth on Course memberships are $20 a year. The membership gives access to the eight courses in San Antonio as well as internships, caddie program and scholarships. The program is designed for youth ages 6-18 and there are zero restrictions on when to join.
To learn more about Youth on Course, click here.
The TGA Foundation started its own initiative in 2016. The TGA Works Program gives high schoolers who are interested in working in the golf industry opportunities to intern at various Member Clubs across the state. TGA Works is a paid summer internship and offers invaluable lessons on and off the golf course.
“Throughout the TGA Works internship, I learned the ins and outs of the golf business,” said Cade Cook, who worked at Indian Creek Golf Club in Carrollton last summer. “The internship opened my mind to so many new things and persuaded me toward a career in the golf business even more.”
The program strives to introduce motivated youth to respected careers in the golf industry. It helps clubs invest in their local communities and grow the game. Member Clubs, who offer internships, will receive up to $3,000 in grant funding to offset intern wages.
Along with Indian Creek Golf Club, Quail Valley Golf Course in Missouri City and Mira Vista Country Club in Fort Worth had TGA Works interns last summer. Responsibilities ranged from tournament operations, golf course agronomy, merchandise management, outside services and golf instruction.
To apply for a TGA Works internship, click here. Application deadline is May 15.
ABOUT THE TGA FOUNDATION: The charitable arm of the TGA, is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization that was established to make certain that golf in Texas continues to grow and prosper. It achieves this mission through the financial and administrative support of existing grass-roots junior golf development programs, and in creating new avenues for deserving and underserved youth to learn some of life’s most important lessons through their exposure to the game of golf. By ensuring that deserving young people from every walk-of-life have the opportunity to be exposed to this great game and the accompanying valuable life lessons to be learned, as well as discovering the many possible career opportunities surrounding the sport, the TGA Foundation expects that golf in the Lone Star State will be in good hands for generations to come. To learn more about the TGA Foundation, click here.