Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Guests, Friends and Family,
Thank you for this wonderful honor. I am both delighted and humbled by the trust you have placed in me. As we recognize Tom for his exemplary leadership, I am mindful of just how much time and effort Tom, and in fact, all of our previous leaders, invested in the USGA, and how wisely they did their jobs. I look to them for guidance as I begin.
I am also very excited to continue working with a talented group of colleagues on the Executive Committee, with Mike Davis and his management team, and with all of you who represent this wonderful game either as loyal volunteers or dedicated industry professionals.
Let me share with you a personal anecdote that may explain why I am here. In my office there is an old, scarred, wooden MacGregor four-wood with a steel shaft and a slick, old-fashioned leather grip. Across the top is script that reads “Ben Hogan.”
That is one of the few artifacts I have from my father and I cherish it deeply. Although he died when I was an infant, I hold onto the image of a young man from England, coming to America as a coal miner and eventually an executive who spent all of his free time with this game that he had learned to love, across the Atlantic. Fortunately for me, my brother learned the game from Dad and made sure that I also came to know the joy of golf and so, that little four-wood is precious.
It symbolizes the allure and the joy of a game that has endured for six hundred years, spanning continents, while always evolving.
Nearly every person in this room has a story about golf and its wonderful impact on our lives, but more about that in a few minutes….
We have learned – through playing golf, watching it, or both – that a positive attitude is a greater asset than the most rock-solid swing. On the golf course, the notion that if we simply keep our spirits up, keep our faces toward the sun and keep our minds open, then something good will happen, is true, more often than not. Sure, we know the next shot may end up in the bottom of a barranca, (where nothing bigger than a jackrabbit has ventured for a very long time), or it may end up four inches from the hole! Again and again, a good attitude carries the day and no matter what the scorecard reads, we walk away remembering our best shots and looking forward to our next round.
And yet, in recent years, there seems to be more gloom hanging around golf than the sport deserves. A rapidly changing world has forced golf to confront changes in the way people spend their leisure time, and in how they get their information.
The balance seems tilted between the serious challenges of modern life and the pure pleasures of games, of fellowship, of competition, of fresh air and the joy of spending a few hours…unplugged.
Although golf will always face challenges, the great golfers; such as Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus; and my dear friend Louise Suggs had one trait in common: they were optimistic about their games and THE game. It is a time for all of us, together, to be positive about golf and act accordingly.
Our purpose, as defined in our mission statement, is to promote and conserve the true spirit of golf as embodied in its ancient and honorable traditions. We act in the best interests of golf for the continued enjoyment of those who love it and play it.
I would like to review what the USGA is doing to move that mission forward with the help of technology, while giving golf vigor and enthusiasm from the perspective of three key relationships:
· The USGA’s relationship with golfers
· Our relationship with the dedicated people who run golf facilities
· Our relationship with our friends in the game
To be sure, there are many more and varied relationships, but much of what we do is devoted to efforts on behalf of these three groups.