Field Notes: Of polls and amateur championships

Golfers across the United States, do you ever feel like your voice on the sport is lost in the wilderness, or at least out-of-bounds? Well, fear no longer as Power Poll Golf is here to save the day for all of us who wish to voice our thoughts on various golfing subjects. 

Expected this May, for example, is a question from Power Poll that will ask: What is your favorite golf destination and why? 

Power Poll was founded in 2019 as a civic engagement platform, bringing together influential leaders across business, civic, media and political industries. The platform surveys, hold conversations with and engages members to understand their collective positions, opinions and thought leadership on issues. 

Power Poll is billed as a non-partisan site, and publishes what America’s leadership is thinking to create solutions and bring action to these problems, challenges and opportunities.

Golf was not part of the original plan, but after an NFL piece was successful, the company’s leadership believed the sport of golf could have a presence and that section of Power Poll launched in March 2023. 

A golf oriented question is asked once a month by veteran journalist Scott Michaux, the Power Poll golf correspondent, in which members can respond and also see what some of golf’s biggest influencers think on various subjects. 

“We ended up having a lot of kind of serious issues going on in golf for the last year, obviously with LIV Golf, so that’s been a very productive and fruitful source of a topic because people have a lot of opinions about it, pro or con,” Michaux says. “Some of the questions are very topical and issue oriented and then some months we just have fun, like asking who your favorite golf announcers are.” 

Michaux says Power Poll’s golf section has been allowed to grow organically for the first 12 months via invitations from fellow golf journalists and golf leaders to each other, but the hope is that golfers across the country will begin to now join and engage in monthly responses. 

When signing up as a new member, the site asks that a “golf reference” is made, something as simple as “I’m a 15-handicap …”

Power Poll started as a Southeast-geared business based in Tennessee, and how has polling response data from members in 11 cities, including Chicago, New Orleans and Palm Beach, Florida, along with the NFL and golf polling sites. 

Golf Digest runs Michaux’s monthly polling data recap story, and he says there could be some sort of sponsorship piece down the line with the magazine.

“The idea of Power Poll was to get a taste of what the flavor was for whatever issues were going on in those specific cities and get people reading and talking about it,” Michaux says. 

Could other sports besides golf and pro football be on the horizon? “I think it all depends on the success of each one,” Michaux says. 

The Swilcan Bridge, foreground, with the Royal and Ancient clubhouse in the back left.


Those who have ever met Randy Tantlinger know the sun rises in the East, it sets in the West and somewhere in between golf and the nearest 19th hole are topics of discussion.

The former University of Pittsburgh reserve linebacker in the early 1980s, and veteran sports talk show host, is arguably one of the most enthusiastic figures in golf. He is fortunate enough to have Arnold Palmer befriend him early in his sports career and has traveled the world as a golf writer. 

If you have a minute or two — The Tank — as he is affectionately called, will gladly bend your ear for 15 about his latest golf venture. 

In 2022, Tantlinger hatched an idea in which regional qualifying sites across the United States would produce a final 120-player field to compete in five flights for a trip to St. Andrews to battle an amateur team from Europe. 

Heading into its third year, the Team USA National Amateur Championships will take place Aug. 10-11 at Carroll Valley Golf Club at Liberty Mountain Resort in the rolling hills south of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. There will be no regional qualifying this year, so Tantlinger can spend time planning on an expanded version in 2025 that could mean up to 30-40 locations prior to the championship. 

“Every amateur golfer either wants to play Augusta — which will never happen — or they want their picture taken on the Swilcan Bridge in front of the Royal and Ancient clubhouse,” Tantlinger says. “We make that dream happen for amateur golfers. 

“Our first year we took a golfer who had just gotten out of the Air Force after 25 years and last year a coal miner from West Virginia was one of the winners. These are average working guys that may have never been afforded the opportunity to go to St. Andrews. And that’s what our Team USA events do. It allows the average golfer to play competitive tournament golf for what I call the greatest prize in amateur golf, a trip to the Home of Golf.”

Tantlinger says amateur golfers have come from as far away as Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, Mississippi and Vermont to compete for one of the five coveted spots each year in Pennsylvania. 

Golfers can sign up in five traditional flights, but no USGA handicap is required. Tantlinger has a three-tiered format that prevents the ability to cheat or “sandbag.”  

“Interestingly, the first two years the most golfers who signed up were the higher handicaps,” he says. “We didn’t have a lot of golfers in the lowest handicap group. That told me what we created was on the right track.”

Entry fee for the amateurs is $225.

Tantlinger, who estimates the winning amateur spots are worth about $3,500 each, has also launched an Ireland version of the amateur championship. 

“Exact same concept with the exception that the golfers win a trip to Ireland,” he says. “And if Scotland is the Home of Golf, then I call Ireland the greatest collection of links courses on the planet.” Also, Tantlinger’s tournaments help raise money for the Green Beret Charitable Trust, the Jack Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and the United Way. 

Crow River Golf Club in Hutchinson, Minnesota.


A majority of golfers are not members of private clubs and don’t have the luxury of having their local pro pick up the phone and get them tee times at some high-end club. So, accessibility becomes a key factor when picking a golf vacation destination. 

Many might be surprised by the state with the top public golf access. 

That would be Minnesota, where a whopping 90% of the Gopher State’s 477 golf courses are open to public play, higher than the 73% national average, according to the National Golf Foundation.  Neighboring Wisconsin is close behind with 88% of its 528 courses being public — whether daily fee, municipal or resort.  

Tom Parsons, who has been the general manager/head pro for the past seven years at Crow River Golf Club in southwestern Minnesota, has a unique perspective on the subject since he also grew up in Wisconsin and has worked for decades previously in warm-weather states Florida, Texas and North Carolina.  

For starters, the 61-year-old Parsons believes the topography of those two Midwest states don’t require a lot of dirt movement when designing courses, meaning layouts can be developed on a reasonable budget. 

In addition, a short golf season because of frigid winters doesn’t necessarily translate into profits for private clubs. 

“You have the Haves and the Haves Nots, and the Haves are always going to be at a private facility,” Parsons says. “But yes, it can be hard to justify. Those at private clubs do pay dues 12 months out of the year. Are they getting 12 months (value) out of the year? Absolutely not. So, yeah, there’s more opportunity for public facilities and municipalities to thrive even though we’re playing just six or seven months out of the year. They still can do 40,000-50,000 rounds because it stays light until 9:15 p.m.” 

And third, and maybe the most important reason, the attitude of golf in the Midwest is slightly different than other sections of the country. 

“Minnesota is more inclusive and social when it comes to golf,” Parsons says. “There seems to be more league play in the Midwest. Companies like 3M (located in St. Paul. Minnesota) provide league golf as a type of benefit to their employees so they can enjoy camaraderie with their fellow teammates. It gets people outside and since they are cooped up all winter they don’t mind staying out till nine o’clock.” . 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the state with the lowest proportion of public golf is also the nation’s most densely populated state — New Jersey — where 47% of courses are private. No state has more golfers per public course than New Jersey, creating competition for coveted weekend tee times, the NGF says.