Frank Shipman as President – Labor of Love
Golf’s ability to serve as a medium to conduct business has not been lost on Frank Shipman. Not only did golf serve as a conduit to the printing business he owned in Niagara Falls, N.Y., but it led to his involvement in a career of volunteerism that is approaching 40 years and, in 2009, reaches a pinnacle with Shipman serving as president of the Arizona Golf Association.
In the area of golf history, Niagara Falls pales in comparison to many other cities around the country, but it is home to the Porter Cup, one of the country’s top annual summer amateur events that celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2008. Its list of champions includes many outstanding names, including former PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman, Ben Crenshaw, Jay Sigel, Phil Mickelson and Robert Gamez. Shipman’s company was chosen to print the Porter Cup’s tournament program, but further involvement landed him a position on the tournament committee. Shipman eventually served as the tournament chairman in 1984 and tournament director in 1989. “I was a 12 month-a-year volunteer,” Shipman says. “When we decided to come out here to Arizona, quite honestly that was the toughest thing to leave behind because it was a true labor of love.” Shipman and his wife, Jeanne, relocated to Prescott in March 2001. At first, Shipman’s days were filled with golf — maybe too much golf. “In 2002 and 2003, I was on the golf course approximately 180 days, either playing or officiating,” he recalls. “That told me I needed to put a little structure back in my life. I needed to be a little bit more diversified.” Shipman became a Realtor but still maintained his interest in golf administration. He joined the United States Golf Association’s Mid-Amateur Championship Committee and began volunteering with the tournament committee of the AGA as a rules official. One of his first assignments demonstrated the stark contrast from Western New York. On his way to the golf course at 6 a.m. one day in Phoenix, he glanced at the outside temperature gauge of his car and noticed that it already was 97 degrees. He remembered thinking to himself, “What have you gotten yourself into?”
In 2007, Shipman received a telephone call from Tom Beach, a past AGA president from Tucson. "He said, ‘Frank, we’d like to see you step up and becom a little more involved,’ ” Shipman recalls. “ ‘We’d like you to be treasurer.’ “I replied that it was nice of him to ask and I’d be happy to do that. Then he called back two or two and a half weeks later and said, ‘Frank, we changed our mind. We want you to be vice president.’ “I said, ‘Tommy, that one I have to think about. I’ll call you back. . . . I talked to my wife about it and eventually decided that, yes, that would be a very nice honor, and I also thought I could do a good job.’ ” As president of the AGA, Shipman would like to expand some of the association’s programs and services. “We want to provide resources to our members so they can get added value,” he explains. “We’re in the process of putting together an individual member program for, let’s say, $50, and they’re going to get a gift card to a retailer as well as discounts at various golf courses that otherwise they might not have. It’s an absolute no-brainer from my perspective that if it costs $50, there will be $100 or $200 worth of value.
The challenge will be to market that product and make sure everybody understands there’s a true value in it. "Secondly, I want the association to be perceived as more than handicaps, course ratings and running tournaments. If you look at the tournaments we run, you see they’re more for the very competitive, low-handicap golfer. I want to make certain we’re able to run events that will fit a much larger scope of our membership.
"Lastly, with the reopening of Papago Golf Course, that’s something we’re really excited about. The guys have done a wonderful job with the rehab of that facility. We’ve got a lot of work to do in the area of fund-raising so we can build a clubhouse. There’s a lot of things going on there that will challenge us to make sure it happens and bring it around to become a crown jewel of golf in Arizona."
If that sounds like a busy agenda Shipman has crafted, it certainly helps that he possesses a lifetime of experience to call on.