There’s nothing like a coming-home story. Steve Bartkowski is a WNYer, born and bred, which makes him not the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback. He loves golf and he loves the Buffalo-Niagara area. He is the new director of the western New York PGA, which makes him in some way responsible for the many PGA professionals who work for clubs, courses and facilities from Buffalo to Rochester. He answered our questions on the state of the PGA in western New York, and the direction it might take. Have a read.

1. Tell us your name and how you came to be involved in the game of golf.

-My name is Steve Bartkowski and I was introduced to the game of golf through my dad, Jim Bartkowski. Jim spent many summers teaching junior golf camps at the Town of Tonawanda driving range and I was fortunate enough to tag along beginning around the age of 8. During the next few summers I would spend a majority of my time on the range, with my dad, learning the game of golf and hitting hundreds and hundreds of golf balls. This fueled my love for this great game of golf!

2. You worked as a USGA P.J. Boatwright intern for the Buffalo District Golf Association for two years. What did that experience teach you?

-In my opinion, the Boatwright Internship is still to this day one of the best opportunities for young men and women to get involved on the administrative side of the golf industry. I owe a great deal to the USGA, the Buffalo District Golf Association and Fred Hartrick (Former BDGA ED) who hired me on board during the summers of my undergraduate studies. The internship afforded me my first glimpse at all the hard work that goes into administering a golf association. More importantly, however, the time spent with the BDGA allowed me to form some great relationships with area golfers, PGA Professionals, Golf Facilities and Allied Associations. These relationships formed back then are still going strong today!

3. After that, you had a role for nearly three years as tournament director for the WNY PGA. What did you learn from that opportunity?

-Once again I was very fortunate to get an opportunity to work for the WNYPGA beginning in 2011. I was still finishing up my undergraduate studies when I was hired on as the Junior Golf/Tournament Director. This was my first real taste of working on the Professional side of the business compared to the Amateur association in the BDGA. Over these three years I gained great respect for PGA Professionals who work so hard at their own clubs, as well as growing the game of golf around the community. This three year stint certainly helped make my mind up of what I aspired to do during moving forward in my career.

4. You moved on to direct tournaments and championships for the New Jersey PGA section. Same question, different answer hopefully: what did you take away from that, 3-year stint?

-My time with the New Jersey PGA and NJ Golf Foundation will forever be considered as a period of growth both professionally and personally. In order to continue to learn it is crucial to explore different markets and ideas so that one does not become stagnant. Being able to witness first-hand the successes, and forthcomings, of the New Jersey PGA I now hope to provided new ideas to the Western New York PGA Section which will in turn help to make our PGA Professionals even more successful. I will be forever indebted to the New Jersey PGA Section, Board of Directors and Executive Director, Chris Bauer, for giving me that opportunity.

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5. You take over for Joe Bertino, a man who gave great effort to the WNY PGA section. What did you learn from the work that Joe did in Buffalo-Rochester?

-Over the last ten years Joe Bertino has worked extremely hard to get the WNYPGA to the level of professionalism that it is on today. Through hard work and dedication, I hope that I can continue to build on his successful tenure.

6. Tell us a bit about the WNY section of the PGA, and what it’s big-picture responsibilities are, please.

-The Western New York PGA Section and it’s 275 PGA Professionals and Apprentices have a mission to grow the game of golf throughout Buffalo, Rochester and Northwestern PA. Day in and day out this is being accomplished through programs at their respective clubs as well as programming through the WNYPGA Foundation.

7. What are your goals as the executive director of this PGA section?

-The goal of the Executive Director of the Western New York PGA Section is to help tell the story of these hard-working PGA Professionals. My team and I in the section office will try our hardest to serve these 275 PGA Professionals in all matters pertaining to membership, education, employment, tournaments and player development.

8. What is the most important responsibility that PGA Professionals have, on a daily basis, that gets missed by the majority of golfers?

-As mentioned before, PGA Professionals in the WNYPGA, and on a national scale, have a great responsibility to grow the game of golf. It is extremely inspiring to see these said Professionals giving so much to the community around them. For example, we have a group of PGA Professionals who teach golf to Veterans from the VA Hospital in Buffalo, Rochester and Erie. This time they give is all volunteer and just further exemplifies the level dedication and love they have for this great game of golf, and those community members around them.

9. What question haven’t we asked, that you would like to answer? Ask it and answer it, please, and thank you for your time.

-I think everything has been asked that should have been. The only thing I ask is that if any individual is looking to get involved in the game of golf we encourage you to find your local PGA Professional or call our office at 716-626-7095. There are numerous opportunities to get involved in this great game through the PGA such as Get Golf Ready Programs, Drive Chip & Putt, Junior League Golf, the WNYPGA Junior Tour, PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) Program and much more. We hope to see many of you on the golf course in 2017!