The Break: The USGA will have a new public face after Mike Davis' departure
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The Break: The USGA will have a new public face after Mike Davis’ departure



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Each day, I’ll be sharing some thoughts on topics in the game, links to Golf News Net content and what else I’m reading, as well other stats and information to frame the day in golf.

Today, I wonder what the future of the USGA will be after Mike Davis leaves the CEO role next year.
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Mike Davis is moving on from the USGA

Mike Davis is one of the most powerful, most influential people in golf as the CEO of the USGA. He transitioned from lead setup man to the executive director, which transformed into the title of CEO. He tried to balance out his US Open duties with his executive role, and that ultimately proved untenable. He stepped back, bringing John Bodenhamer into the lead setup role for the US Open, so far to much acclaim.

Now, Mike Davis is walking away from the CEO position at the end of 2021. This was a shocking development to a lot of people, myself included. Davis is leaving his powerful, lucrative job to get into the golf-course design business, forming a firm with Tom Fazio’s son, Tom Fazio II. He’s going to try his hand at more than just setting up existing courses but designing, renovating and restoring them.

This isn’t a decision Mike Davis came to yesterday. He’s a thoughtful man, and there’s no doubt this has been lingering in his mind for a while now. Maybe years, especially considering the job he’s taking next.

Davis has a powerful job, but with that power comes a lot of headache. He has been spearheading the USGA’s distance insights project for years now, signaling he has been intent on further equipment regulation while not further fragmenting the difference between the pro game and the amateur game. He had to have realized that goal was impossible. Now, it would seem this project is in limbo. Can the outgoing USGA CEO have a signature moment — achievement, in my eyes — by rolling back equipment (for pros and high-level ams) on his way out the door, or will this task fall to the next CEO?

Speaking of which, who will be the next CEO of the USGA?

The USGA has an opportunity here to become the first governing body to install a woman in a permanent chief executive capacity. Women have been presidents of the USGA and PGA of America, and the LPGA has been led by women. Women have come back to the game during the pandemic, and frankly growing female, junior and non-white participation is absolutely essential for the future health of the game. Setting that tone with a woman leading the way at the USGA could be a powerful statement.

Whoever gets the job, though, has to be willing and able to make tough decisions about the future of the organization as a governing body, act as a voice for sustainable development and maintenance, collaborate with a lot of stakeholders on equipment regulation and use the USGA’s platform as a welcoming voice and partner for millions who are taking up the game in the years to come.

Keep the exhibitions coming

We had a delightful, meaningless exhibition yesterday at Big Cedar Lodge in Ridgedale, Mo. — where I’ll be next week! — for the Payne’s Valley Cup. Tiger and JT took on Rory and Rose in an exhibition to christen Payne’s Valley, Tiger’s first public golf course design and named in honor of Payne Stewart. The course looked great, with a crowd bigger than either of the two majors combined, and the golf was good. The boys were mic’d up for the event, and Rory let it out of the bag that he’s a big Domino’s pizza guy right now. As disappointing as that is, Irish food isn’t exactly the pinnacle of cuisine, so he can be forgiven.

I love this kind of stuff. I’m a nihilist at heart about golf. Nothing really matters that much in the grand scheme, even the majors, but especially not the week-to-week events. They’re not must-see, even if they’re important to the players and caddies in the competition playing for their livelihoods. So, in a world with very few life-changing moments, why not show golf with a little levity, some access to the competitors and play with different formats?

The PGA Tour nailed this with the Wednesday exhibitions they’ve been televising in lieu of pro-ams, and I’d love to see those continue. If they don’t want to do it, let the LPGA take the reins because having a free-and-clear Wednesday to showcase their players is a potential gold mine.

You gotta check out…

The Irish Open: Ireland’s food scene might not be great, but its golf scene is off the charts. The Irish Open is this week, played in Northern Ireland after having to move from Mount Juliet to Galgorm Castle. It’ll be a good time to watch some golf in Ireland this week.

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About the author

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Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for over a decade, working for NBC Sports, Golf Channel, Yahoo Sports and SB Nation. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He used to be a good golfer.

Ballengee can be reached by email at ryan[at]thegolfnewsnet.com

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