There are three rivers that famously meet in the heart of Pittsburgh, the sports-crazed city with three major professional teams.
Fittingly, Greg Fedor figured he had three options for a career in the sports industry. He had work experiences with the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates – the beloved teams he grew up watching as a native of Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania, about 45 minutes south of Pittsburgh – and sensed that his path would inevitably be within the operations staff for one of the franchises, or at least elsewhere within football, baseball or hockey. That’s why he went to nearby Point Park University, studying sports management and business management.
But like it has for so many, an opportunity within golf changed his way of thinking. Fedor, who played on the Point Park golf team for three years at the NAIA level, had never really thought of the sport in terms of a career until a couple of years ago when he met a school counselor in his junior year.
“The first thing I let her know is that I love golf,” Fedor said. “I didn’t know if it was possible because it feels like you don’t hear as much about working in the golf industry as the other sports, but two months after we talked she sent me the information for the Boatwright Internship Program.”
Fedor’s eyes were as wide as a Primanti Brothers sandwich. After applying with the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association and being accepted into the program, Fedor has spent the summers of 2020 and 2021 as a tournament operations member. It requires a little bit of everything – helping to choose how long each hole should play, rolling putts early in the morning so a hole location can be chosen, painting penalty area lines, charting pace-of-play numbers to see where logjams are occurring, etc. – and Fedor has fully embraced an avenue within golf he just recently discovered.
“Being a player, you never really thought what goes into course setup,” Fedor explained. “Going out a couple of days before the tournament, setting up the course, picking the hole locations, seeing what areas need to be painted, it’s an important part of the player experience … we have the ability to make the course as easy or as hard as we want to, and hearing the players say we did a great job setting it up and taking care of the players so they are having a great time, it’s all a part of providing a great experience for them.”
Fedor is one of 135 Boatwright interns across 59 Allied Golf Associations in 2021. The USGA program began in 1991, now celebrating its 30th anniversary, as a way to cultivate future leaders within the golf industry, providing them with a paying gig that offers hands-on experience. Lasting between three and 12 months at a time, the Boatwright interns gain valuable knowledge seeing how the game is managed. In Fedor’s case that is on the competition side, but some interns help in the management of junior golf programs or membership initiatives.
Someone who loves the game but was headed for a career in another sport has now had a taste of what it is like to operate a meaningful tournament, and now he doesn’t want to leave.
The Boatwright alumni base is now more than 3,000 strong and about 40 percent of current AGA staff comprises former Boatwrights. It’s a near certainty that your local golf association has a tie back to the program. There are 21 AGA executive directors and 16 USGA staff members who went through the internship, proof that it is the most transformative training experience within golf.
The financial value of the internship program is $1.7 million for this year, but that annual investment doesn’t fully explain the impact created.
“The P.J. Boatwright Internship program represents the most significant effort to cultivate the next generation of industry talent found anywhere in golf,” said Tony Greco, the USGA’s managing director of field services. “Annually providing a pathway for more than 130 men and women from across the country to gain hands-on paid experience is one of the most important investments the USGA makes in the long-term health of the game.”
The program includes a two-day summit where interns from across the country visit the USGA campus for a unique networking opportunity. That summit has been conducted virtually the last two years because of the pandemic with sessions being led by USGA staff members who help introduce key service functions like championships, rules, the museum, green section, handicapping and equipment standards.
The interns take that knowledge back to their local golf associations and put it to use. It’s important to note that the internship is far from ceremonial; many golf associations rely heavily on the program. Tim Manwaring, the director of communications and outreach with the WPGA, said the association normally has two Boatwrights during the summer but is just working with Fedor this summer.
“We definitely wouldn’t be able to do it without him,” Manwaring said. “We have 40-50 competition days per year and we have a couple course setups per week or sometimes multiple in a day even. We need the Boatwrights on that front. And on the day of the event, Greg is all over the place helping start, helping pace of play … we need bodies and he is certainly good at it.
“I think in this day and age, being a Boatwright is almost a necessity when you are looking to get hired. It’s the best way to get experience in the field and people who are hiring want to see that experience.”
Any mention of the Boatwright Internship Program would be incomplete without pointing out the namesake of the initiative. P.J. Boatwright, the USGA’s third executive director, was an accomplished amateur player who made the cut in the 1950 U.S. Open at Merion and went on to be regarded as the preeminent scholar of rules in the game and how championship competitions should be operated. He worked at the USGA for 32 years, from 1959 until his death in 1991.
Upon his passing, the USGA’s new internship program took on the name of one of golf’s most influential ambassadors.
Boatwright would surely be proud of Fedor, an excellent example of why the program exists in the first place. Someone who loves the game but was headed for a career in another sport has now had a taste of what it is like to operate a meaningful tournament, and now he doesn’t want to leave. Fedor recently helped run a local U.S. Amateur qualifier ahead of the big tournament taking place this week down the road at Oakmont Country Club, and he has also worked on events like the prestigious Sunnehanna Amateur.
Fedor graduated from Point Park this past April and the goal is to continue to work in the tournament operations side of a golf association. The dream? Maybe one day he will be rolling putts at Oakmont in preparation for a U.S. Open. Through the Boatwright internship, he’s been able to see the famous venue up close and can imagine what it would be like being a part of the setup crew for one of the game’s biggest championships.
“It’s really mesmerizing to see the difference between the little nine-hole course I grew up at and then stepping out onto Oakmont,” Fedor said. “It really solidified to me that I’m in the right place right now.”
He’s not the only Boatwright that feels that way. Every year, there are more young men and women changing their definition of a career dream.
Top: 2019 Boatwright interns