Not just any architect eligible for American Society of Golf Course Architects
Paul Fullmer has been going to the same office building for 42 years, 30 of those as the Executive Director of the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA). In the late 1960s, "my father-in-law, Percy Clifford, a golf course architect who lived in Mexico City at the time, indicated that the organization really needed stability and a consistent leadership to go forward," Fullmer said. "He suggested that I become the executive director and make that happen. At the time I was part of a public relations firm and was just beginning my own career. I was not in the golf business, but my wife, who was recently elected to the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame, was heavily involved in the game. I should also point out that my father-in-law was a very persuasive man. I finally decided to take the position and it was a great decision."
Under the leadership of Fullmer, the ASGCA has grown from a membership of 30 in 1970 to the current 150. One might think that with so many golf courses being built that membership would be higher. "The membership process to join the association is very demanding," said Fullmer. "You need to have designed five courses on your own and then go through a very thorough two-year nomination and selection procedure."
That rigorous procedure is obvious considering that there are currently only three members of the ASGCA residing in Michigan: Jerry Matthews, Bruce Matthews III and Ray Hearn. Yet Michigan has led the nation in new-course construction for the past decade. Michigan has a number of architects who should be eligible under the five-course criteria: William Newcomb, Warner Bowen, Jeff Gorney and Harley Hodges. Other Michigan golf architects such as Mike Husby, Kevin Alderidge, Harry Bowers, Ron Otto and Rick Smith are close to the membership criteria.
Fullmer noted that members come from a variety of backgrounds with more recent members coming up through the landscape architecture field. Very few of the members are or were professional golfers. "Jack Nicklaus and Mark McComber are two members who have joined the group," said Fullmer. "Many of the golf professionals have people on their staff who do much of the architectural work. Arnold Palmer, for example, really looks to Ed Seay for his firm's architectural expertise."
The buzz in the industry right now is the association's highly successful "Remodeling University" which was piloted last year. Basically, the association felt there was an "information gap" that existed for those involved with 25-50 year-old golf courses. The changes brought to the game by new clubs and balls have made many of the course designs obsolete. The distance difference has really penalized the high-handicap golfer instead of the low-handicap golfer as originally intended. The ASGCA workshop was well attended last year and has been expanded this year. Information can be obtained at www.remodelinguniversity.org.
Fullmer is no stranger to Michigan having visited the Gaylord area to golf The Natural and Elk Ridge. He also spent some time on Mackinac Island when he attended the marriage of Jerry Matthews. The Matthews family holds a special place in the organization, as they represent the only three-generation association membership. Bruce Matthews was honored as an ASGCA Fellow in 1981. His son, Jerry Matthews, one of Michigan's most prolific designers, was president of the association a number of years ago. W. Bruce Matthews' grandson, W. Bruce Matthews III, is an active architect who will open up his latest course, The Jackal, this year. W. Bruce Matthews joined the ASGCA the same year that Paul Fullmer took the reins. Of the late W. Bruce Matthews, Fullmer said he was, in every sense of the word, " a real gentleman."
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