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2013 USGA Annual Meeting And Dinner Menu Report

Glen Nager left little doubt about his commitment to pace of play when the second term USGA President finished his 4220 word speech in 28 minutes, well before the 6:00 p.m. projected finish. The resulting domino effect had USGA old-timers craving an extra half hour with the USGA's open bar, but left them shocked when the ringing dinner bells signaled a traditional 30 minutes with the hors d’ouerves--veggies, dips, Kobe sliders, jumbo shrimps, humus and pita. The revised USGA Annual Meeting Time Par meant the dinner--mixed greens and butternut squash soup, fish/pork ribs on a bed of veggies finished off ambitiously by out-of-season diced strawberries for dessert--wrapped up at the record early hour of 9:11 p.m. 

Granted, Nager was aided in part by a late WD from Bob Jones Award winner Davis Love (here's a tribute video narrated by Darius Rucker and hastily arranged video thank you can be viewed at

America’s best volunteer rules officials gathered at the legendary Hotel Del Coronado to discuss all things governing body. With the added tension of the PGA of America and PGA Tour questioning the wisdom of recent actions by the USGA to ban anchoring, the specter of looming fights over the future of the game did nothing to discourage Nager from delivering a strongly worded speech featuring pointed rebuttals toward USGA critics.

Before I get to the highlights of Nager’s speech, a word for you shareholders about the particulars of the meeting, where words like proxy are thrown about, seconds are asked for and departing committee members are giving parting gifts.

Treasurer Diana Murphy reported a USGA war chest of $274 million, with $22 million gained from 2012 investment income, a “realized net” of $6.3 million from operations, and a 4% rise in membership dues. The numbers all badly missed analyst projections, with some of Wall Street's finest suspender wearers predicting $5.4 in operating profit, $12.1 million realized from investment income, and no increase in membership due revenue. However, a projected operations margin fall from 3% to 2.5% in 2014 caused the USGA stock price to plummet 20% in Saturday evening trading.

Former president and nominating committee chair Walter "Presidents only travel by private jet" Driver announced the latest committee nominations and did his best Goldman man job of demonstrating complete indifference by mangling names and home clubs. Committee member Condoleeza Rice managed to get out of the annual meeting, making her two for two since going on the nominating committee. Driver also missed a nice opportunity to announce Rice’s home club as Augusta National. Maybe next year.

As for Nager’s impressive speech, you can read the key bifurcation highlights here as noted by Mike Stachura. (Wally Uihlein will be pleased because the "unification" word came up.)

I’ll try to highlight all of the many meaty portions that stood out to me and most likely to the audience of 250 or so. First off, there will be a surprising new role for the Green Section as part of Nager’s announced pace of play agenda.

We will expand its educational services to include specifically the various aspects of golf course management that impact pace of play. The Green Section will also offer a specialized on-site visit that can evaluate the playing quality of a golf course – of which pace of play is a central component.

Nager also said the slow play study currently overseen by the test center’s Matt Pringle will include a refinement of the USGA’s Time Par system, but unfortunately there was no commitment to introduce the effective system to the US Open because of the apparent shock to the system it would deliver to the PGA Tour’s extremely sensitive professionals.

Time Par – that it should take to complete each hole. With the insights gained from the Test Center’s modeling project, our Handicap Department will be working to refine and enhance the Pace Rating System. Ultimately, we intend to make the system more dynamic, allowing us to better customize the Pace Rating of individual courses.

My favorite part of the speech is next, though I would love to see these kinds of initiatives backed by some form of incentive to courses to offer financial perks or blocks of tee times for those who choose to play faster alternate formats:

We will also work to encourage alternate forms of play – such as match play, foursomes, and Stableford – that are popular in other parts of the golfing world and that are known to take less time to play than the standard American four-ball. We can also better educate recreational golfers on the benefits of equitable stroke control, so that they understand that their Handicap Index will not be adversely affected by picking up when appropriate

Maybe the PGA of America could chip in some of its millions for some green fee rebates?

Coolifying nine holes is also a priority:

So we must work to promote the nine-hole round as a complete and enjoyable golf experience. Contrary to some beliefs, a nine-hole round is fully compatible with having fun and with both the Rules of Golf and the USGA Handicap System. If there are any stigmas associated with a nine-hole round or a nine-hole course, we must identify them and work to overcome them. We must also help golf facilities understand better the benefits of offering a nine-hole option to their customers.

And in the important-but-concise statement department:

Lack of time is a real challenge for the game. We all need to join together to address these issues, and the USGA is firmly committed to leading the charge.

Nager pivoted at this point and delivered 1500 words pointed squarely at bifurcators and in particular the PGA of America, who honored him the day before as an honorary life member.

The argument that “easier is better” is premised on concerns about recent economics – and that fact alone should cause us to pause. There certainly are important issues for the golf industry to address, including economic issues, but revenue concerns arising during a broad economic slowdown should not lead us fundamentally to alter our approach to writing the Rules and defining the game. It is our obligation as a governing body to keep our eye on the long-term good of the game and to hold firm to what we know to be true about the essence of golf.

The underlying logic of “easier is better” is inexorably contrary to the game’s very nature. Golf is a unique game of skill and challenge. The need for skill and the elements of the challenge are what define golf; they are in fact what have caused us to love the game for the past 600 years. The game tests us, vexes us, humbles us, and thrills us – so that, when our rounds are finished, we can’t wait to tell our tales of triumph and woe; so that we search endlessly for the skills that will allow us to improve; so that we can’t wait for our next chance to play; and so that we stand in awe of those who can play better than we can. For centuries, golfers have fervently embraced and celebrated the challenge of the game.

I question how much this bifurcation argument resonates much with core golfers:

The analogies to rules in other sports also ignore a crucial difference that makes golf unique. In football, baseball, and similar sports, competition takes place in a contained league; players participating at one level generally do not play simultaneously at another level. Golf is wonderfully different: a single amateur golfer may simultaneously participate at virtually every level of the game. He or she may play in a national open alongside leading professionals; in elite national, regional or state amateur events; in school leagues or events; in club or inter-club championships; and in casual competition with players of the same or entirely different levels of ability. To create multiple sets of Rules for all these various levels of play would create confusion for competition organizers, players and officials alike, and would serve no purpose. Golf is a single game; that is part both of its unique appeal and its ability to grow as a global sport.

 This, on the other hand, does probably resonate with a lot of people:

In the end, some advocates of an easier set of Rules for amateurs seem to believe that recreational golfers do not care about whether they are playing the same great game that they watch on television and are merely looking to have a generalized form of casual “fun” that is unconnected to the game’s great traditions. Well, I am a recreational golfer, and I could not disagree more. Like many recreational golfers, I strive to master the skills of an elite golfer, which is why I take so many lessons, pound so many golf balls on the range, read every golf magazine and instructional manual I can find, buy the latest equipment and golf balls promoted by professional players, and savor the well-struck shot and occasional birdie so much more than my total score. I want to play the great courses that the legendary champions have played, in order to compare my performance with theirs – treasuring the fact that, on any given stroke, using the same equipment and following the same Rules, I may play as good a shot as the most elite player.

And if the ball was rolled back or a limit placed on PGA Tour driver size as part of a one-ball condition type clause, the core golfer would still follow the professional's lead and the Rules would live, no?

Now, this last part is where it gets complicated because as you hear this part, it’s easy to agree and also easy to say, “uh, the USGA helped inspire a lot of these bad habits with their course setups!”

…the game of golf is facing real and complex challenges. But the answer is not to change the game. We should instead vigorously address the factors that we already know discourage golfers from enjoying or taking up the game – such as long golf courses that are unduly expensive to maintain; rough heights that make it difficult to find golf balls and slow down play; putting greens that are set up at speeds that are expensive to maintain and that slow down play; and indeed slow play itself.

That lone awkwardness aside, it was exciting to hear an urgency to take action from the USGA and at least for me, that supersedes any quibbles or double standards that may arise in such a powerful speech.

You can live or relive the evening with John Mummert's photo gallery here.

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Reader Comments (40)

"To create multiple sets of Rules for all these various levels of play would create confusion for competition organizers, players and officials alike, and would serve no purpose"
This is wrong.
Cricket has 3 (or more) forms (with different rules) and when there are international tours the teams play all 3 in succession.
Futsal was invented because football/soccer requires a big pitch 100 yards long and 11 players each side.
Beach volleyball is a form of volleyball, with more skin revealed.
Snooker & Billiards same table different rules and games.The list is endless. One problem is the people on these committees are too old and conservative.
I promise you that Mr. nager has rolled the ball or taken a gimmie/mulligan somewhere in his life on the course and off.
02.4.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmen Coroner
" the latest equipment and golf balls promoted by professional players..."

Nice little barb there to remind the pro game who is ultimately paying for their lavish lifestyle.

I certainly don't see anything wrong in producing a competition ball for the pro game provided it was also made available to the masochistic amateur.

The game is already too easy for the pros and boring to watch. The only time I ever get really excited watching professional golf these days is when they play the links game. Boy, did Lytham sort out the men from the boys. Shame it came down to two anchored putters at the end though.
Just had a quick thumb through the photo gallery. Didn't see either Curtis or Walker Cups on display.

Oh that's right ... we've got them, haven't we?
Tell me again why the guy from Taylor made is wrong? These usga guys are morons.
02.4.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjoe
I believe in the ROG...I play by the ROG...let the USGA & R&A enforce and revise the ROG to the best of their ability...if people want to fudge on their own let 'em...that score is just no good for hndcp. purposes. Turn the Handicap/GHIN over to some big bean counter company like don't need the USGA as a CPA...with $242 million in the war chest they ought to be able to come up with something more creative than the dinner menu at their next gala for themselves.
02.4.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBobby D
why was Davis Love a no-show? that's a huge honor to not show up for...was he sick?
02.4.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMedia maven
All of 'em digsouth. I was right there in spirit (take that anyway you like) with each of them every - step - of - the - way.
Colin- you cite games played on small fields with referees present. In some cases one putting green is bigger than the entire playing field.
02.4.2013 | Unregistered CommenterEd
His comments regarding bifurcation and why it is a bad idea - for the amateur and rec players - were spot on. I do think that they will be increasing diligent regarding advances in equipment, but for those that are advocating a "roll back", there is no chance of that happening. Cap or freeze - yes. Roll back, no way no how. The second that a "roll back" is implemented, you have created as "juiced ball" era in pro golf, that will place caveats to all future comparisons. You have already seen that happen in baseball with the steroid era. Not the same I know because steroids were illegal and the current balls were not, but the thought would be the same. Do you think that Augusta National and the Old Course would start playing the pros from forward tees because the ball had been "rolled back" ? No, they would not, so future players of a (theoretical) rolled back ball would most likely just score higher. Yes, since all players would be equal it would be a fair competition, but the comparability from one "era" to the next would be lost. Freeze, do it now, fine, but forget the "roll back".
02.4.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrianS
I don't play the same game pro's do, and that's ok. When I'm out playing with friends we pick-up, occasionally use a foot wedge or hit a mulligan, and you know why? because we're looking to have a good time. It is still golf. But I certainly don't hit the ball to far :P

Their are things that make sense for the pro game, that don't make as much sense for the amateur game, including a ball roll back, and easier and shorter courses. That being said if "easiness" was what would help the game grow, then we would have seen a spike in the last decade, with the advent or larger heads, graphite shafts etc rather than a drop-off.
02.4.2013 | Unregistered Commenterelf
BrianS: I don't care if Augusta National changes the tees it plays or not, but if a rolled-back golf ball helps eliminate driver/7-iron par 5s, then I'm all for it. That's nothing but making a mockery of the game.
02.4.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Smith
For those opposed to any roll back, can you firmly state that today's game is a thorough examination of multiple golfing skills and not one of power?
Watching them 9 irons yesterday on the 16th at Scottsdale wasn't exactly riveting stuff.
02.4.2013 | Unregistered CommenterLynn S.
What Lynn S said! 100%
02.4.2013 | Unregistered Commenterchico
They're not going to roll back the ball, they're going to roll back driver COR or trampoline effect currently frozen at 0.83. If they cut that number in half players with slower swing speeds won't notice much difference but guys that swing 120 mph sure will.
02.4.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim Douglas
A few details from the 2011 form-990...

$60,000,000 in aggregate operating profitability in 2010 + 2011.

Fay = $1.7 million in comp.
Butz = $539,000
Davis = $490,000
Rugge = $611,000
Bevacqua = $413,000
Swigget = $410,000 (HR lady....head of HR always seems to be a woman, why is that?)

I know how you guys love (errr, hate?) the Masters of the Universe type, here's how a portion of the cash trove is invested:

(A) Equity fund partnership 7,782,615
(B) Absolute return hedge fund 10,599,781
(C) Absolute return hedge fund 4,456,418
(D) Absolute return hedge fund 8,383,501
(E) Long/short hedge fund of funds 23,463,944 (is shorting stocks un-American? ;0)
(F) Multi-strategy hedge fund 4,222,954
(G) Infrastructure hedge fund 8,329,451
(H) Private equity fund of funds 5,656,199
Total. 72,894,863

"In addition to the activities listed, the USGA owns investments in the Cayman Islands and in the British Virgin Islands Federal Form TD F 90-22 1 has been filed to report balances in these investment accounts."

Interesting that Diana Murphy highlighted the $22,000,000 of investment income because in 2011 the portfolio showed $17.3 million of net unrealized losses, the hedge funds must have had a big year in 2012!

"Olympic Bid - travel and other expenses associated with request to include golf in the 2016 Olympics = $367,055"

"(1 )The USGA has a written policy regarding use of corporate jet shares Such use is strictly limited to USGA business travel, as per USGA policy, and is subject to Audit Committee review and approval. No other first class travel or charter travel is permitted or provided."

"(2 ) The USGA's expense reimbursement policy excludes reimbursements for health club dues and social club dues However, one special exception to the social club dues restriction was specifically approved by the Executive Committee and/or the Compensation Committee This exception is for a senior staff member and is based on the specific USGA business needs associated with the position held."
02.4.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
What's the point of a non-profit hanging onto all that cash?
02.4.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Litigation is expensive.
02.4.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Smith
not really sure what to do with all that Del. $22 mm of gains isnt much when you have $271 mm of investments. and $367,000 to go back and forth to lausanne? not surprising to me. 25 people going twice would do it. and didnt you WANT golf in the olympics? or did you just want golf's inclusion to come for free.

an organization of golf clubs is picking up the cost of a membership at one of its members (and only one). whats surprising about that?
02.4.2013 | Unregistered CommenterEd
Ed, you are correct that $22 million on $270 million isn't all that big a deal but if in fact that's a good number it implies a $40 million swing in a year. That's a decent level of volatility in a portfolio that seems like it should be a very conservative...what with all the blue blazers and grey slacks ya know.

25 people? I hadn't really given the Olympic Bid expenses much thought but do you think the USGA really sent a flotilla of this magnitude back and forth, and twice? Why?

To answer your question, I'd prefer golf not be in the Olympics -- think it's a joke.

As for the country club membership, yes, I think it's ridiculous that a non-profit is paying country club dues for a guy that collected $4,805,000 in compensation over a 5 year period -- he should pay those dues himself. (note: Fay's 5 year average was well below the $1.7 million number in the original post)

All joking aside, why are they sitting on this mountain of cash? Seems crazy.
02.4.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
well del, my first guess is your numbers are wrong, since the USGA's income statement marks to market the investment portfolio. but lets assume you're right and the investment income did show a 39.2 mm swing. thats a 16.7% increase, or about 1.4 pct points more than the S&P 500 (thats large cap stocks,FYI). not an especially large return for 2012. And Yale invests similar stuff to the investments you list, so i for one am not worried about the "decent level of volatility", to use your suze orman type lingo.

i DONT think 25 people went twice. did 12 people go four times, did 6 people go 8, i dont care. the amt of money in question is a pittance compared to the cost of an olympic bid by one losing host city. getting a sport in for this is really cheap.

and we dont know whether Fay got the club membership or somebody else, and we really dont know what fay made in comp in those four years, and what he collected pursuant to retirement schemes, etc.

getting a guy to run an organization that does the revenues the USGA does for under $1 mm/yr is a bargain. We're not talking about the Morristown NJ Lung Association.

if you cant understand , after cigarettes, why $274 mm is a fire extingusher for litigation i really cant help you.
02.4.2013 | Unregistered Commentered
I get it, the USGA/R&A have boatloads of money to do what they want and they make the rules of the game. But don't they want more people posting scores for handicap? That would be growing the game right? If they truly wanted that they would provide more alternatives instead of avoiding bifurcation. Oh yeah, the pros also play by the one ball rule and have to play with the newer grooves, so not really one set of rules is it? Correct me if I'm wrong but don't more people play golf who don't post for handicap than who do? So the ruling bodies are only relevant to those who post for handicap then. Maybe the CEO of Taylor Made is on to something?
02.4.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBR
ed, I'm fully aware of the market-to-market nature of the accounting which further perplexes me as to why Ms. Murphy would highlight that number given its snapshot nature. As far as I can tell none of the investment income is being used for USGA operations or programs so why even mention it at an annual meeting?

2010 - 896,199
2009 - 733,599
2008 - 736,000
2007 - 717,000

Those last 2 are rounded to the nearest thousand but I can get them to the penny if it makes a difference. You are correct that we don't know for sure it was Fay getting his club bills paid but I'd take him and give you the rest of the field if you wanted to make a bet on it ;0)

I agree with you that the Olympic bid money isn't a big deal, just thought there might be interest in the figure. Personally I think it was a waste of money and would prefer the sport wasn't "in".

"fire extinguisher for litigation"...I like that! Could you expound on that a little bit? What kind of litigation are they fearing/anticipating?
02.4.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
JFTR ed, in 2011 at the time the books were closed the net unrealized gains (losses) in the investment portfolio were exactly -17,343,685.

Page 23, Part XI, line 4 if you want to check up on me.
02.4.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Took a break from the scholarship here and checked. The USGA did indeed make $22 mm from investments last year. Since the number is over 4x what they made from operations, it seems like a number to call to people's attention. Its an 8.7% return. further dampening your "volatility" smoking gun.

since you clearly don't know what "mark to market" means, i have little use for the four numbers you list next to years 2007-2010--perhaps you should label (libel?) them so we know what you want them to mean, and then we'll proceed to figure out why you're wrong.
02.4.2013 | Unregistered Commentered
Not sure what the PGA of America's war chest is, but they routinely net 60-70 million a year in revenue according to their annual report. I'm guessing they are in the 500 million- 1 billion range in assets. Of course is helps when you own mulitple resorts and a number of golf courses. That is a lot of money for another "non-profit" golf organization. Luckily the PGA isn't involved in to many things that would lead to not sure what their rainyday fund is for?
02.4.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve
they own resorts? ever heard of Llwyd Eccelstone? did they buy him out? or did they license him their initials and get a fee. same with PGA West. $500 mm is really high.
02.4.2013 | Unregistered Commentered
You got me on a typo there ed, chalk it up in the win column.

ed said - "...we really dont know what fay made in comp in those four years..."

Figured you were sharp enough to realize I was providing you with the numbers for "those four years".
02.4.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
So david Fay made 800,000 for running an institution with $150 mm in revenues, that he worked at for 20 years. no stock options. He's underpaid.

Looked at the PGA's annual report, and they did in fact make $39 mm in 2011. $7.9 mm in 2010 though. So that big war chest they have to deal with suits from members prob isnt as big as it seems....
02.4.2013 | Unregistered Commentered
My only comments regarding Fay's compensation were that he could afford to pay his own country club bills.

Now about the -17,343,685 of losses in the investment portfolio in think they mentioned that number at the 2012 meeting? Or is this an issue that's only discussed in good years? ;-)

Hey, I'm interested in hearing more about what you think on the "litigation fire extinguisher".....what are they running scared of?
02.4.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
How can they say on the one hand "no bifurcation" and on the other "start playing a different game, and pick up after X number of strokes"?

Aren't they really advocating a different game?
02.4.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMattS
That comment referred to non competition cards submitted for handicap. Matchplay rules of course permit picking up your ball.
As said many times on this site, there is bifurcation already:
Pros play perfect courses with spotters (spectators) for lost balls, line of sight relief from signs, stones in bunkers are obstructions, when the course is a bit damp they clean and place (and TV conceals this from viewers) and can drop embedded balls through the green.
Bifurcation is a controversial word. Permanent local rules are bifurcation but invoke no strong words. The introduction a "pro ball" which would prevent some par 5's being a drive and a 7 iron would be just another "local rule". Many amateurs would play the ball, it would just be obligatory for pros in pro tournaments. The ball manufacturers could probably make one tomorrow.
USGA MADE 17 mm in 2011 in its investment portfolio. you cant read a financial statement. assn had 232 mm of inv at mkt at 2010, 250 at 12/31/2011
02.4.2013 | Unregistered Commentered
(4) Net unrealized gains (losses) on investments -17,343,685

990s (dot) foundationcenter (dot) org/990_pdf_archive/131/131427105/131427105_201111_990 (dot) pdf

Page 23, Part XI, line 4. Fiscal year ends 11-30-2011 for USGA.
02.4.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
The U.S.G.A. is many things, “anachronism” comes to my mind first, perhaps “arrogant”, “pompus”, “self absorbed’ follow in a more gentile conversation. I’m afraid that the words that should really be used contain only four letters. Remember the golf powers that be from the movie “The Best Game Ever Played”? These are the descendents, they share the same DNA. I feel like I could write a thousand word rebuttal to every phrase uttered from Mr. Nager’s mouth, but, inevitably my head ends up in my hands as my eyes look to the heavens asking “wtf is wrong with these people”.
I’d suggest that if the PGA told the USGA to go smoke a rope the USGA would fold its very expensive tent overnight, in terms of a “governing body”. I wish they would.
02.5.2013 | Unregistered CommenterNospin
I guess that should have been "Greatest Game Ever Played"....
02.5.2013 | Unregistered CommenterNospin
USGA financial report, dummy--investments at fair value. $235mm in 2010. $252mm in 2011.

if i put the number 6 in a federal tax filing will you show me how to cure cancer with it?

Unrealized losses are a BALANCE SHEET entry. they were recognized in the financial statements in prior years.
02.5.2013 | Unregistered Commentered
Ed- I'm late to this discussion, and my apologies if I'm misundestanding you, but you seem to be claiming that the USGA "made 17 mm in its investment portfolio", by citing the FMV difference from 2010 to 2011. You're forgetting about the fact that the USGA could have purchased more investments during the year, which would cause some of that increase. So you cannot assume that the 17mm swing was caused 100% by a gain, it was most likely a combination of both. Furthermore you state in a prior post that the "USGA's income statement marks to market the investment portfolio". That is incorrect the FMV adjustment is purely a Balance Sheet entry, it has nothing to do with the income statement.
02.5.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKC
serves me right for not looking at the income statement-- they made 9 mm from investments in 2011, rest is from an increas in the port folio.

but no, KC. the usga uses mark to market accounting--the change in investment value, realized and unrealized, flows through the income statement every year.

but thanks for jumping in.
02.5.2013 | Unregistered Commentered
For the record - The USGA did not ever pay Country Club dues or Golf Club dues for David Fay. There is a story to that 990 footnote, but it has nothing to do with a benefit for David Fay. Rather, it was another XC game, where a former USGA President gets personal benefit. Brought to you by the same folks who demanded the USGA provide them with a corporate jet.
01.13.2014 | Unregistered CommenterUSGA 990

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