Blog 100, 3/2/11 - Mike Davis Named USGA Executive Director

Mike Davis
There can really be only two responses to the fact Mike Davis was named the new executive director of the USGA earlier today - 1) So what? 2) Hurrah!
Plenty of golfers will say 'so what'? because there are plenty of golfers in America who pay no attention to what the USGA is or does if, indeed, they've ever heard of it. They simply play the game for the exercise, fresh air, and conviviality and aren't in the least bit concerned about Tiger Woods's new swing plane, how many dimples their ball has, or who's in charge at the USGA. The politics of the game at the national level are no more a concern to them than cholesterol is to Joey 'Jaws' Chestnut who ate 54 hot dogs in ten minutes at last year's International Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island, winning his fourth Mustard Belt in a row.
However, for those that do take an interest in the direction of the organization that decides which clubs and balls they can and can't play, what the ruling is when they step on their ball by accident, and where the country's most prestigious tournament should be played and how that course should be set up in order to challenge the best players in the world without making them look foolish, then today's announcement will be most welcome.
Mike Davis, who held the position of senior director of rules and competitions from 2005, really is the best person for what is a very important job, and probably the only man capable of filling the shoes left by his predecessor David Fay who did a fine job for 21 years without ever really connecting with the top professionals or the public.
Davis, unlike many of his colleagues at Golf House, is not a blue-blooded blue-blazer type with a dangerous ego. He is a hard-working guy who talks quietly but carries a big stick, a stick that grew a few inches today.
Davis is the man who in just a few short years has helped eliminate negative talk from the US Open. No more do players ridicule the venue saying how absurdly long and thick the rough is, or how ludicrously firm the greens are. Instead, they say how thoughtfully the course is prepared, and how it gives players the opportunity to make a few birdies as well as the inevitable bogeys and double-bogeys, like Phil Mickelson did at Pebble Beach last year. Davis introduced graduated rough, meaning wayward drives are punished far more than drives running a few inches off the fairway. He also waters greens just enough to keep them firm but avoid the horrible scenario we saw at Shinnecock Hills in 2004 when, no matter how good a shot they hit, the world's best players were unable to hold the 7th green which had to be irrigated between groups.
Because of the excellent reputation Davis has forged with top professionals, the press and, as a result, the public, the Executive Committee at the USGA made absolutely the right choice. According to Geoff Shackelford, the other candidates were Fred Ridley, Mike Butz, Pete Bevacqua and Rand Jerris. Former USGA President Ridley is so blue-blazered, he probably wears his Holland & Sherry single-breasted, two-buttoned jacket to bed, and instead of bridging the gap between Far Hills, players, press and public he might well have made it considerably wider. Jerris, the Director of the USGA Museum and the organization's communications department, has a Ph.D. from Princeton and, brilliant though he is in his current role, probably isn't the man of the people the USGA needed right now to avoid sinking further into 'them and us' territory which is a bad place to be when your policies affect so many golfers. Butz, the deputy executive director, and Bevacqua, the chief business officer, I know very little about besides their job titles. And it may be that their anonymity worked against them.
Because he loved setting up championship venues so much, Davis had stated he wouldn't be interested in taking on the executive directorship and all the paperwork and corporate stuff that came with it. That he was able to work the course set up part of his old job into his new job description (he will continue to be involved with preparing the US Open course but not the US Women's Open or US Amateur venues) suggests Davis could basically have named his price.
"Sounds like he held all the cards, huh?" said Lee Westwood practicing at the Honda Open in Palm Beach Gardens, FL., today. "He does a great job at the U.S. Open. He's a straight man. What he says is what he does. Glad to hear it."
So, it's probably fair to say, is the rest of Planet Golf.

Don't forget the equipment auction is still going on at Lake Padden. There are still a few TaylorMade and Callaway clubs left and you have until 5pm on Saturday to make your bid. Call Greg in the pro shop on 360-738-7400 or 360-224-2237 or email him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to find out the lowest bid on each item. Then make your bid. You'll find out if it was the highest at the end of each day.

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