By: Clifford Cowley
- Robert Boulware
- Occupation: Seneca Resources-Manager of Stakeholder Relations /USGA-media operations volunteer
- Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Pro Status: PGA Member? “No, but I love to play golf!”
Robert Boulware grew up in a rural part of western Pennsylvania about thirty-five miles from Pittsburgh. Football and wrestling were the main sports in town. Golf was considered a luxury. “As healthcare professionals who were sports minded, my parents always encouraged my siblings and me to explore and try a variety of activities,” says Robert. “Although track and field was my main sport, when my uncle gave me some old wooden clubs with cut down shafts, I dabbled at hitting the ball. I would collect lost range balls and use our hay field as my personal driving range,” says Robert with a smile.
The local high school had a nine hole golf course and would allow restricted public play. Robert enrolled in one of the summer golf camps, put on by the local golf team, where he got his first “lesson” on how to hold and swing the club. “We actually had a pretty good high school golf team in my era. One of our leads was Arnie Cutrell, who still competes professionally today,” says Robert. “As for me,” he adds, “I am not a golf professional. Public Relations is my vocation. Fortunately, it is a career that provides opportunity and access to some of the best golf courses in my home region. I golf because I enjoy it. However, I have never been very good. To borrow a line from a dear friend, I consistently shoot under 90, because after 90 we quit keeping score!” he says with a grin.
Setting a Path
After high school, Robert majored in journalism at Penn State University. That’s where he met and first worked for Pete Kowalski, the current USGA Manager of Championship Communications. “Pete was the Assistant Sports Information Director and he assigned me to cover the men’s and women’s golf team for the SID’s office. The opportunity allowed me to learn more about golf and get tips from some incredible athletes. Also, working for the Penn State Sports Information office during college was a great proving ground. Penn State Football played for three national titles and won two during that stretch. I also worked for L. Budd Thalman – a legend in NFL/sports PR. Mr. Thalman was my intro to the NFL.”
After college, Robert landed a job in media relations with the San Diego Chargers, eventually moving to the Pittsburgh Steelers. “I also worked as a media volunteer for several Super Bowls. I loved working on the “inside” of the media relations for the events.”
Currently, Robert is a Manager of Stakeholder Relations for Seneca Resources, a natural gas and oil exploration/production company, and a volunteer on the USGA Championship Communications team.
Inside the Ropes
“My work with the USGA started quite by accident,” says Robert. “I went to visit Pete Kowalski at the 2007 event at Oakmont. He gave me a pass that allowed access to the course, but I was more intrigued by the media operations. I was willing to jump in and help and I was invited to do so again at the Women’s Open in 2010. The job I do now is due to course logistics, mostly. In 2010, USGA started the post-round media “flash area.” They began funneling players from the 18th green to where the reporters were and found it improved availability and flow.
Robert joined the U.S. Open team in 2011 and has worked each one since. The role of the flash area team is to help coordinate post-round media interviews between the players and the media. “My role is a lot like an air traffic controller rather than a PR guy,” sums up Robert. “I help the team get each golfer to the appropriate location.” On the job, Robert’s fun to watch. His ability to multi-task is phenomenal. At any given time, he is listening to someone talking in his earpiece, writing down information, looking at his watch to mark the time, and estimating the arrival of players coming off the 18th green so he can tell reporters when to be in which spot to intercept, or meet the player they want to interview. “We do get busy,” says Robert. “Especially in the early rounds when we have as many as six golfers exiting the course at the same time.” At Chambers Bay for example, there were nearly 1,000 credentialed, non-rights holding media from more than 300 outlets, representing 19 countries. The flash area handled 450 requests for 228 players over the four-day period. They sent 40 of those players to the main podium in the flash area or the media center, and a few to both.
The core flash team is staffed by a group of seasoned professionals, all of whom have day jobs and work every year as volunteers. The core group includes Bob Condron (Advisor, International Olympic Committee); Steve Merrill (Tennessee Golf Foundation & The First Tee of Nashville); and Skip Forman (veteran AP reporter from North Carolina). “We have worked together since 2011,” says Robert. “We also recruit local sports information directors or friends who are willing to lend a hand during an event.”
I really do it for the camaraderie,” injects Robert. “It is a yearly chance to reconnect with colleagues and reporters. It is also a great training experience. How many times do you get an opportunity to coordinate a one hundred-plus person media press conference, for good reasons?” he says with a laugh.
Robert Boulware is an integral part in the USGA’s multi-faceted information system that brings U.S. Open news to golf fans. Next year, when you see the players talking to the press after a round, know that Robert is one that helped make it happen.
Carry on, Robert.