FARMINGTON HILLS – Mark McAlpine assumed there would be a learning curve when he took over earlier this month as president of the Golf Association of Michigan.
Dealing with the effects of a COVID-19 pandemic on a service and tournament association has been another matter.
“We’ve been running into the unknown,” he said. “I really haven’t had time to reflect yet. Almost daily I’ve been in communication with (GAM Executive Director) Chris Whitten and (2019 president) Chris Angott and the other officers about so many issues.
“It has been a fast-paced strange time, an awkward time. We are hoping to catch a break and get into our rhythm as a golf association relative to our season of tournaments and course ratings and all the other services we provide.”
McAlpine, 69 and a Highland Township resident and member of Prestwick Village Golf Club, becomes the 51st president of the GAM as it enters its 101st year of service to Michigan golf. He has embraced the GAM’s goal for 2020 of Moving Golf Forward.
“We’re certainly moving,” he said. “We have many challenges ahead in helping golf courses get open at some point, in starting our tournament schedule when appropriate with the great challenges of figuring out if and when and where we should have them while doing it safely for staff, volunteers, participants and the people who work at the golf courses and clubs. The crazy thing right now is that it is changing almost every day.”
McAlpine said having golf shut down in recent months will impact the industry financially to a great degree, and that includes the GAM.
“As an association we are blessed to have had some successful years and we have been able to put ourselves in a strong financial position,” he said. “The impact of this will not be easy to work with, but we have a great staff working very hard to mitigate the financial impact as much as possible. We’re not quite sure where this virus is going to lead us down the road, but we will be working hard to serve the game of golf and keep everyone who is involved safe.”
The GAM tentatively plans a start to the tournament schedule in June.
“We are walking through all of the best practices,” he said. “Our primary mission right now is doing this safely and wisely and still make it an enjoyable year for everybody.”
McAlpine, who remains a business entrepreneur and is an owner of Liberty Street Brewing Co. in Plymouth, has a work background of several years in automotive supply, sales and marketing. He was also a factory direct branch manager for Club Car Golf Carts for eight years and has consulted for small business owners for several years. He was consulting in 2008 when he fell in love with the business model for Liberty Street Brewing.
“I’m working with just the one business now and my wife (Cathy Catallo) and I like to travel, we both love golf and enjoy playing golf together,” he said. “We are trying to do as much of that as we can, and we enjoy living in Prestwick Village and playing golf there. We feel very fortunate for what life has brought us.”
He has been married to Cathy, a retired high school art teacher primarily at Lakeland High School, for 33 years. He got involved with the GAM in 2007 through past-president Paul Beaupre, was nominated as a GAM Governor and has been volunteering, working tournaments and serving on various committees since. He became part of the officer team a few years ago which led to his current position.
“For me, I’m involved because I love the game,” he said. “I’m not a tournament player. If you see my golf swing you will realize I’m not part of the GAM based on my handicap. I just have a great love of the game and enjoy it so much. I worked in the industry for eight years, too. I guess this is my way of giving back to a game that is still giving to me and Cathy.”
Whitten called McAlpine a great thinker with valuable business experience in and outside the golf industry that allows him to look at all the different areas and services of the GAM.
“We are trying to understand the broad rules for business across the state and all walks of life and then apply it to our particular golf business,” Whitten said. “The tools Mark has help him do that and communicate with us so that we can get to the bottom of things quickly. The structure of the GAM runs through the committee process. The officers are the head of that effort to take on questions and issues from across the state and from all perspectives. They have to be in touch and up to date and ready to contribute frequently. Mark has been valuable and versatile from the start.”