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Situations soon to be vacant

You’re a businessman or businesswoman and are running companies with the number of employees ranging from 50 to 500, perhaps 1,000. You might have been in the Army if you’re a man. You might have been a professional golfer if you are a man or a woman. You know the price of a loaf of bread. You watch the Footsie keenly. You will be a keen, though not necessarily outstanding, golfer, a member of several clubs probably, perhaps even the Royal & Ancient. Though you won’t appear anywhere near The Sunday Times’s Rich List, you are probably in your mid-40s and earning a decent salary, considered to be a hard worker, a high flier and good with people.

While retirement may not yet be on Peter Dawson’s mind, his position as Chief Executive of the R&A is one of several significant changes on golf’s horizon...You are, in short, a candidate for the job of Executive Director of the Ladies’ European Tour now that Alexandra Armas has announced she will step down at the end of 2012. You might even fancy a tilt at becoming the next Chief Executive of the European Tour when George O’Grady, who is shortly to celebrate his 63rd birthday, decides he has had enough after his successful stint in that job. Living in the US? Don’t want to return to Blighty? Then start paying attention to matters on the PGA Tour, where Tim Finchem currently reigns as Commissioner. Finchem, who turned 65 in April last year, has just been rewarded for his good work since he was appointed successor to Deane Beman in 1994 by being given an extension to his contract that will take him through to midsummmer 2016. But after that, who knows?

If you fancy heading up the PGA of America then you’re in with a chance. Joe Steranka, the genial, jazz-loving, former journalist who is chief executive of the organisation that is based in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, has just announced that he intends to retire from his position at the end of the year at the relatively early age of 53.

It is rare in golf that so many significant changes are going to be made in a relatively short space of time. Not only the ones mentioned above, either. Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of the R&A, who was born in May 1948, must be thinking about retirement, even if he is thinking that he does not want to yet. Sandy Jones has done a very good of steering the Professional Golfers’ Association through troubled times but he is 66 in December and in 2008 he did not enjoy very good health. “Is it worth carrying on much longer?” is a question he might be asking himself.

All in all, the only sizeable golf organisation that does not seem likely to have a change of leader in the next few years is the United States Golf Association, where Mike Davis, 47, became Executicve Director last year following the retirement of David Fay. Davis had been senior director of rules and competition at the USGA since 2005 and thus in charge of setting up the past five US Open courses. One of his greatest advantages was that he was considered to have done that job with flair and imagination and, not insignificantly, with the approval of the players.

The health of golf is not good. In Britain as many as 100,000 golfers have packed away their clubs in the past three years because the game has become either too expensive, too time-consuming, too outdated or all three. Phil Smith, Director of Sport for Sport England, puts it bluntly: “Just like any other business, golf has to look at what the punters really want.”

The ‘Tee it Forward’ campaign in the US has attracted a lot of attention but and has barely created a ripple on this side of the Atlantic. The imaginative 13-hole, par-three course that the brilliant design partnership of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore have designed at Bandon Dunes in Oregon may be a pacesetter among new courses. Not everyone wants or needs to play 18 holes. But as that only opened a matter of weeks ago it is too early to tell whether it will sprout copies around the world or whether it will remain as an adornment to a place that hardly needs any further adornment.

Don’t be put off by not having lengthy experience in golf. Peter Dawson was a businessman in cranes before he succeeded Sir Michael Bonallack in 1999. Tim Finchem graduated from the University of Virginia and went to law school and then into politics, working as a campaign operative for Walter Mondale, the Republican candidate, when Mondale challenged Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Ladies and gentlemen, get your curriculum vitaes out and start polishing them. Good luck and remember: if you’re not in it, you can’t win it.

June 2012

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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