The Swiss PGA have recently announced that after 11 years in the role, their longstanding General Secretary, Irene Oberländer, will stand down from her position at the end of the year.
Irene has been a pivotal player in the development of the Professional game in Switzerland, and with her departure, leaves a lasting legacy and a void in the golfing landscape that will be difficult to fill. CPG Communications & Event Manager, Tom Bentley, spoke to Irene to reflect on her time within this long-standing CPG Member Country.
TB: Reflect back on when you first started with the Swiss PGA and now, what has been the biggest changes you have seen during your time there?
IO: When I look back on my 11 years with the Swiss PGA, a lot has indeed happened in the economic, social and sports-political environment as well as within our association. With the ever-increasing challenges facing the Professional Golfer as a profession, the demands on Professional associations have also grown, and the Swiss PGA is no different. Strategically, we have developed steadily and sustainably, particularly in four areas:
Digitalisation and Professionalisation of our Member Services
One of our strategically most important projects was the complete rebuilding of an efficient, user-friendly extranet for members. The Swiss PGA Extranet is now our administrative backbone, enabling us to manage the administration of our association efficiently.
Other important expansion steps in our Members Services include the introduction of a pension fund solution for self-employed golf professionals, the establishment of a fund for members in social distress (Helping Hands) and the expansion of our fringe benefit program (car leasing, clothing, shoes, hardware etc.) for our members at numerous partner companies.
Strengthening the financial management of the association
Thanks to consistent financial planning, in particular with strict cost management, we have continuously succeeded in achieving a balanced or even positive annual financial result for the Swiss PGA. A major challenge in recent years has been to secure sufficient sponsor funds despite the difficult economic environment. More and more of our long-standing partners are focusing their advertising and sponsorship funds on individual events or the support of individual athletes. This has meant that direct support for associations is being pushed back or reduced, which was a challenge to overcome financially.
Continuous development of our training and further education
By constantly adapting our apprenticeship training in line with the EELs standards, we have succeeded in sustainably securing the highest level of the “Qualified Professional Education Program”. We have also been able to make our offer in the area of further training significantly more attractive by including internationally-renowned speakers.
Communication with Stakeholders
For me, regular and credible communication is an essential factor for the successful promotion of a professional and sports association. For this reason, we modernized and activated our entire Internet presence several years ago. With regular news articles we inform our partners and interested amateur golfers about the activities of the Swiss PGA and its members. In the last 3-4 years, we have placed particular emphasis on expanding our social media channels. Today, the Swiss PGA’s contributions across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube are attracting a lot of attention. With monthly newsletters we also inform our partner organizations as well as our members.
TB: What about Swiss Golf? It continues to grow and develop year-by-year, have you enjoyed playing your part in that? What’s been the most impactful part for you?
IO: It has always been exciting for me to be able to contribute to the development of golf in Switzerland – whether that was being Junior Captain in my club, member of the J+S commission of experts in Golf (Juniorgolf, Girls&Golf program) or in my current role as Secretary General of the Swiss PGA.
It has always been important for me to intensify the collaboration between the stakeholders of Swiss golf. In addition to Swiss Golf and the Public Golf Organisations, this has included the individual golf clubs. It was important for me to continuously promote understanding for the valuable work of golf professionals among these partner organisations.
As a result of these constant efforts, the Swiss PGA receives valuable financial support from these partners, especially Swiss Golf and the “Supporting Golf Together” fund. Among other things, this has enabled us to maintain our offering in the areas of Playing and Teaching opportunities.
TB: What has been the highlight of your time with the Swiss PGA?
IO: Fortunately, there are many of them. I especially remember the good and close cooperation with a total of three Swiss PGA presidents. In the implementation of our strategic projects, I was always able to count on the support of the Executive Board. It has also been an honour to be selected as the first female, Swiss PGA General Secretary.
TB: What will you miss the most?
IO: I will definitely miss the regular exchange with our PGA Members. It was always exciting and instructive to learn one-to-one about the challenges and needs of our members but I would certainly like to maintain contact with them in the future.
TB: Where next?
IO: The last 11 years at the Swiss PGA have been exciting and satisfying. Now, I would like to find more time for other activities and leisure time. Golf will of course continue to play an important role in my life but I am ready for the next chapter and the new exciting projects that this will take me into.