Newell Pinch, who as executive director and then chief executive officer helped build the Southern California Golf Association into one of the nation’s largest and most progressive state/regional golf bodies, died of cancer on January 1 at the age of 82.
A native of Iowa and a graduate of the University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1950, Pinch worked in labor relations administration with General Motors’ Fisher Body Division and Lockheed Aircraft Co. before being named the SCGA’s executive director in 1965, the first person to hold that title. At that time, the association had less than 100 clubs, about 30,000 members and five staff members. His titled changed to chief executive officer in 1986.
In the 1960s, golf was just beginning a decades-long growth spurt but even Pinch could not foresee its extent. Early in the 1980s, he remarked, “I can’t imagine the Coachella Valley building even one more golf course.” In the ensuing quarter century, more than 100 additional courses have been opened in the desert.
By the time Pinch retired in 1993, the association had grown to more than 600 clubs with more than 135,000 members. Much of that growth came from a series of initiatives that began during Pinch’s tenure. Among the most important was the SCGA’s Affiliate Club program, which began in 1981 when the SCGA became the nation’s first golf association to allow clubs to be formed that weren’t connected with a golf course.
Other programs begun during Pinch’s tenure included computerized handicapping, FORE Magazine, the SCGA’s current headquarters, Course Rating, the SCGA Club Delegate Program, and an expansion of the tournament program.
During Pinch’s time with the SCGA, the association merged with the San Diego County Golf Association and the Santa Maria Golf Association, along with acquiring clubs in Baja California. Ironically, Pinch’s death came on the day that the SCGA completed its merger with the Public Links Golf Association of Southern California, fulfilling one of his long-held dreams.
Pinch also helped revive the Pacific Coast Golf Association, the growth of the California Golf Association, and helped found the International Association of Golf Administrators in 1968. He served terms as IAGA president in 1969 and 1972 and was honored with the IAGA’s Distinguished Service Award in 1993. He was also presented with the SCGA’s Lynn Smith Award for outstanding contributions, dedication and service to amateur golf in Southern California.
Pinch and his family lived in Canoga Park for 40 years; Newell and wife Lois relocated to Encinitas following his retirement and recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. In addition to his wife and three children, Pinch is survived by two grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family requests a contribution to Newell’s favorite charity, the Salvation Army.