Golf participation may have slipped nationally, but it has remained a strong small business in Nebraska over the past few years.
Nebraska benefited from 62,000 visitors who came to the state to golf in 2011. Those golfers spent an average of 3.4 nights and more than $35 million, according to a study conducted by Texas A&M University.
"We found an added value for golf even though the economy has been off a few years," said Joe Steranka, CEO of the PGA of America. "Golf as a small business entity is good for Nebraska. The 200-plus golf courses and 228 PGA pros in Nebraska, and their surrounding communities, all benefit from the community involvement, tourism, philanthropy and employment that golf provides.
"We pay attention to those things like people staying 3 1/2 days in Nebraska to golf and spend about $500 each. The business production value of golf land in Iowa is $6,600 an acre and that compares to $513 an acre for corn, for instance."
Steranka was among a number of speakers at the third annual Nebraska Golf Day event Friday at Wilderness Ridge Golf Course.
"We have a lot to celebrate with Nebraska‘s golf industry," Gov. Dave Heineman said. Golf in Nebraska contributes more than $260 million to the state's economy, he said. "Nebraska is full of exciting adventures for tourists, and the partnership between golf and tourism will continue to attract new visitors and golfers to our great state."
Heineman, an avid golfer, joked: "Since I am the defending Nebraska Golf Day champion, I want to declare that every day between now and the first Husker (football) game as Golf Day."
Heineman mentioned how House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama were discussing Sandhills Golf Club near Mullen moments before Obama's State of the Union address this year.
"Word is getting out there that we have some very special golf here in Nebraska," the governor said.
He noted the economic impact of the Nationwide Golf Tour's Cox Classic held annually in Omaha, as well as the 2013 U.S. Senior Open set for the Omaha Country Club.
"Golf offers the core values of respect, responsibility, honesty, courtesy and sportsmanship, and it's fun and a lifetime sport," he said.
Steranka said the addition of the U.S. Senior Open in 2013 will bring Nebraska and its golf to the world stage and could open the door to more golf tournaments.