The USGA's official site promised hole flyovers starting June 11, but so far, no luck.
Golf is a funny game. It is also a tantalizing, frustrating, fascinating game. Tournament golf can be heroic or tragic, a play of forces in which players and spectators alike may experience drama equal to that on any stage. And in any kind of golf, pathetic and ludicrous situations may succeed one another with kaleidoscopic rapidity. BOBBY JONES
The USGA's official site promised hole flyovers starting June 11, but so far, no luck.
Bill Pennington in the New York Times looks at the production the U.S. Open has become and a couple of things jumped out:
“You learn quickly that the U.S.G.A. doesn’t mess around; they are a well-oiled machine,” said Ron Tola, Haverford College’s director of facilities management. “I was awe-struck by the advance planning. Then again, when you go to an Open, and you walk into one of those giant buildings that they call corporate tents, you realize what you’re dealing with.You know that black walnut can really seal the deal!
“There’s black walnut furniture in those tents and every other amenity. My wife would say, ‘Give me this for my living room, and I’ll be happy.’ They call it a corporate village; it’s really a city.”
Because of that, and other reasons like golf’s popularity in the Tiger Woods era, the Open has become a cash machine for the U.S.G.A. The association does not reveal its finances, but recent federal tax records show it reported about $40 million in annual profits from its 16 championships. (The U.S.G.A. also puts on men’s, women’s and junior amateur championships as well as the United States Women’s Open.) The bulk of that profit, perhaps as much as 75 percent, comes from the United States Open.You're telling us that the Senior and Women's Opens bring in 25% of the championship profit? Please.
Oh I know, the TV money, because you know NBC takes on the U.S. Open to get to that lucrative U.S. Senior Open!
By the way, according to the annual report, the USGA netted $24 million in 2006 on championships and $31 million in 2005.
Sheesh, I try to take a lunch break and the hits just keep on coming.
JUNE 11, 2007
ASIAN TOUR STATEMENT
The Asian Tour is appalled with the European Tour's plans to stage a tournament in India without the sanction of the Asian Tour next February. This move is clearly unethical and against the protocol that exists within the framework of the International Federation of PGA Tours, of which both the Tours are full members.
Despite media reports and quotes attributed to the European Tour, there has been no approach or communication to inform the Asian Tour about the event or its intentions.
Since the Asian Tour became a member of the International Federation of PGA Tours, all new events that the European Tour has been involved within Asia have been co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour.
Over the past decade, the Asian Tour has provided a strong platform for the success of India 's current crop of top players and the Asian Tour is fully committed to the growth of golf in India and Asia.
The Asian Tour fully respects and cooperates with the Indian Golf Union and was happy to step in to ensure the continuance of one of Asia's longest standing national Opens, the Hero Honda Indian Open, in 2005
when support was required.
The Asian Tour was also fully supportive of the formation of the Professional Golf Tour of India and is actively cooperating in the development of playing opportunities for Indian and the Asian Tour players.
However, with the latest developments, the Asian Tour disagrees with the unethical actions of the European Tour which has avoided contact with the Asian Tour whilst announcing this new event in India.
This action reflects on the European Tour's aggressive direction without any concern for the protocol of the International Federation of PGA Tours and highlights an invasive position on Asia.
Kyi Hla Han
Well, not a lot of grey area in that statement!
Ed Sherman looks at Oakmont's tree removal and the efforts of courses in the Chicago era to undo years of green committee meddling.
Meanwhile Matthew Futterman in the New Jersey Star-Ledger also takes on the issue with a New Jersey focus and gets some epic quotes out of Rees Jones.
From Winged Foot to Wykagyl, Oak Hill to Oakmont, the trees are coming down, and the results are courses with open parkland-style views, where it is far easier to grow thick, healthy rough, and the tracks more closely resemble the original designs that made them classic more than a century ago.Would those be at the courses undoing your dad's work?
At Winged Foot in Westchester, site of last year's U.S. Open, nearly 2,000 trees are gone. Oak Hill near Rochester, N.Y., site of the 1995 Ryder Cup, took out more than 1,000, including one planted in honor of former Ryder Cup player Miller Barber. The Jack Nicklaus tree survived.
Wykagyl, the New Rochelle, N.Y., club hosting this year's HSBC Women's World Match Play, took out 1,200. Pauley doesn't have an exact number for Plainfield, but he has taken out 250 during his two-year tenure there, and hundreds more came out before he arrived.
The tree-cutting debate enters the spotlight this week as the U.S. Open returns for the eighth time to Oakmont Country Club near Pittsburgh -- a course where thousands of trees have been removed in the past two decades.
Advocates say the classic courses are once again becoming the places they are meant to be.
"There are no trees on the golf courses in Ireland and Scotland," said noted golf course architect Stephen Kay, who designed courses at Blue Heron Pines near Atlantic City and Architects Golf Club in Lopatcong and is an advocate of the tree-clearing movement. "They could plant them. Why don't they?"
Not everyone is a fan of the tree-chopping movement, though. Montclair's Rees Jones, the so-called "Open Doctor" for his work renovating Bethpage Black and other top courses, called it a "huge mistake" except in the case of a few select courses.
"Trees are a part of golf, as we saw last year on the final hole of the Open, where Phil Mickelson lost because he hit his last drive into the trees," Jones said. "This is a very dangerous trend."
Dangerous? No, dangerous is a member of the Jones family meddling with a classic course!
David Fay, executive director of the United States Golf Association, said he favors cutting back certain trees on certain courses, but not everywhere.
"It depends on the course," Fay said. "In the cases of both Plainfield and Oakmont, I am a big fan of what the two clubs have done. Ditto Winged Foot."
And this is beautiful...
Jones said Donald Ross, who designed Plainfield in 1921, intended for his courses to have trees. He worries that all the tree-cutting will render the wide-open courses too easy for the world's top golfers, who can now bomb drives 350 yards without worrying about hitting the so-called bunkers in the sky.
"At Augusta they are planting trees, just for this reason," Jones pointed out.
John Hopkins scores a rare one-on-one with Tim Finchem and asks him about...the Ryder Cup!?
JH Do you back the proposed change to four days and a later date?
TF I like the intensity and pressure of the Ryder Cup. It is pretty damn good. From that perspective I wouldn’t rush to change it. But the Ryder Cup is so big it isn’t going to hurt it to change it. If it created more presence in the marketplace it might be a good thing for golf. I wouldn’t chastise anybody for saying: “We’ve had it this way for a long time. Let’s leave it as it is.” It could go either way.
More presence in the marketplace. MBASpeak translation: starting the matches on Thursday.
This is fun...
JH Nick Faldo is alleged to have had a couple of his children induced so their birth would fit in with his schedule. Do you see Tiger doing the same to be able to play in the Open at Carnoustie from July 19 to 22?
TF I couldn’t speculate on that. If the baby is two weeks late it will be the week of the Open. That is not going to happen, so the baby will be born on July 11 to 12. It’s clear to me.
But he's not counting the days or really giving this childbirth much thought, is he?
Thanks to reader John for this Robert Frank-Wall Street Journal story on Jack Nicklaus, uh, expanding the brand for $145 million and just a tiny part of his sou...stake in the empire...
The golf icon is selling a substantial minority stake in his company to New York real-estate mogul Howard Milstein to expand the Nicklaus empire around the world, extending its reach in golf course-designs, clothing, equipment and real-estate.Loved this...
Under terms of the deal, expected to be announced today, Mr. Milstein will pay $145 million for the stake in the newly formed Nicklaus Cos. LLC -- which includes Mr. Nicklaus's business ventures, such as course design, licensing of his name, and golf clubs. Mr. Nicklaus will remain CEO and chairman, and the Nicklaus family will retain control.
In the design group, which accounts for at least half of the company's profits, the company plans to step up the growth overseas, where demand for golf courses is skyrocketing. While there are 31,000 courses in the world, 19,000 of them are in the U.S, with most of the new demand coming from abroad, according to Mr. Milstein and Mr. Nicklaus.
Mr. Nicklaus has courses under way or planned in India, Korea, China, Russia, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Greece, Croatia and Turkey. Mr. Nicklaus, who logged more than 600 hours on his Gulfstream jet last year, this summer will travel to Kazakhstan to plan a course.
"We're getting the lion's share of the work for golf courses getting built," he said.
Hey, at least he didn't say something like "we're getting the bear's share." Though he would have scored major brand enhancement points.
While most of Mr. Nicklaus's designs lack the high aesthetic reputation of courses created by likes of Tom Fazio, Tom Doak and the team of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, they are well-regarded and Mr. Nicklaus is deeply involved in about half of those his company produces. Those are known as Jack Nicklaus Signature courses and carry a premium design fee, typically between $2.5 and $5 million. Work on the other Nicklaus golf courses is carried out by veteran designers at Jack Nicklaus Design.
When do you think the first grandchild will debut his own signature design?
The Nicklaus name on any course significantly increases its worth to developers, because it allows them to sell the accompanying real estate or resort properties at a higher price. Under the traditional business model, Mr. Nicklaus got only the design fee and in some cases also a small cut of the developments' profits.
Working with the Mr. Milstein, however, the company expects to finance and develop more of its own real-estate. "We can help the Nicklaus companies capture more of those opportunities," Mr. Milstein says.
Didn't try this one before already, with not such great results?
That answers that.
Twice Mr. Nicklaus has suffered serious setbacks. In the mid-1980s, his company, Golden Bear Golf Inc., overextended itself into areas such as oil and insurance, forcing Mr. Nicklaus to negotiate personal loans with banks to bail out the business. Then, in 1998, after Golden Bear went public, two executives were fired after the division they headed misrepresented more than $20 million in losses. The company had to restate its prior-year earnings, its market value sank and it went private again.
All four of Mr. Nicklaus's sons and his son-in-law work for his company. Mr. Nicklaus says his goal is to scale back his involvement in the courses, and build a company and brand that will outlast him.
"You look at Bobby Jones and that brand is worth more now than when he was alive," Mr. Nicklaus says.
You know I was going through my favorite Bobby Jones quotes the other day and stumbled on this one:
On the golf course, a man be the dogged victim of inexorable fate, be struck down by an appalling stroke of tragedy, become the hero of unbelievable melodrama, or the clown in a sidesplitting comedy--any of these with in a few hours, and all without having to bury a corpse or repair a tangled personality, but always at the risk of burnishing equity in his brand.
Now posted is my Los Angeles Times story on the potential for slow play problems at Oakmont.
I'm curious what you all think of the USGA's new slow play policy (reportedly working wonders at its other 12 championships), and what it will take to get it in place at the U.S. Open?
The consensus within the USGA (at least with those I talked to) seems to be that they will have a hard time implementing this policy at the Open without the PGA Tour adopting a similar policy at its events.
“So the amount of revenue the city gets for the big golf tournament, the U.S. Open, will be $500,000?”
In the Millard Golf World piece on the USGA and Walter Driver, the Executive Committee's "hands-on" approach (euphemism for conflict of interest) is explored and yours truly weighed in with an "acerbic" remark. In light of Tod Leonard's San Diego Union-Tribune story Sunday, maybe I was not acerbic enough.
From the Millard piece:
Says one current staffer, "The last two administrations have been very hands-on. Personally, I'd say too much. I think they've gone too far."Oh but now we learn from Leonard that it's just so much worse.
One current example of this trend is the case of Cameron Jay Rains. Rains is the co-chairman of the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. He is also a member (since 2003) of the executive committee. This circumvents the time-honored practice in which local championship chairs report to USGA staff. When asked whether the arrangement presents a conflict, Driver says, "He was the chair of the '08 Open before he came on the executive committee, and we essentially screened him off from any potential conflict." Pressed to admit Rains' dual interests could at least raise some eyebrows, Driver is dismissive. "Doesn't work that way," he insists.
Some observers aren't so sure. "The person negotiating on behalf of the city of San Diego [Rains] is also on the USGA executive committee," says Shackelford. "He's on both sides of the table. So when San Diego [officials] want to know how many hats were sold and what their cut of the revenue is, this isn't a problem? Who is [Rains] looking out for? It's just astonishing."
It has been estimated that the '08 Open at Torrey Pines could produce as much as $100 million in gross revenues for the non-profit U.S. Golf Association, which uses its net proceeds from each U.S. Open to fund virtually all of its other championships and programs for the year.Oh just wait, that's the positive news!
By contrast, the city will receive $1.2 million from its contract with the Friends of Torrey Pines LLC, the organization formed to be the negotiating entity between the city and the USGA.
Only $250,000 of that will be in a cash payment, due in January of next year. Another $250,000 is going to the city from merchandise sales in the Torrey Pines pro shop, for total revenue of $500,000.
Beyond that, the Friends of Torrey Pines agreed to spend $350,000 on course work related to the Open and $350,000 for public safety services such as police and paramedics during the week of the tournament. It is spending an additional $100,000 on a practice facility for the Open.
Meantime, the city's golf enterprise fund will make no direct money from the U.S. Open, while about $3 million has been spent on projects related to the Open, according to Golf Manager Mark Woodward. That work includes the acquisition and installation of one million square feet of kikuyu turf, the moving of trees, repainting the clubhouse and restrooms, and the construction of new cart paths to minimize damage to the grass.
So the city is losing money on this deal. You say, big deal! The tax revenue will be worth it. The branding will be out of this world. And...uh, maybe not.
With part or all of the North Course to be shut down from April to August of next year because of corporate hospitality for the Open, the city will incur significant, as-yet untold losses in green-fee revenue. While Woodward estimated in a budget hearing on May 23 that the city's green-fee earnings will increase by $2.9 million in the 2008 fiscal year, he said last week that number will have to be lowered for the final budget.
Woodward said $3.5 million is being spent on the renovation of the main parking lot and the course's maintenance facilities, neither of which is being directly tied to the Open, though both projects will be complete when the tournament arrives.
“The percentage of compensation is unconscionable. I feel like there's a stinginess on the USGA's part in the face of this big bonanza,” said Paul Spiegelman, a founder of the San Diego Municipal Golfers Alliance, which gathered 1,400 signatures last year in opposition to the city's five-year golf business plan. “The golf enterprise fund should not take a beating because of this Open.”
Okay, and this before we get to the fun part...
Spiegelman spoke at the May 23 budget meeting of the city's Natural Resources and Culture Committee. At the meeting, Councilwoman Donna Frye, who was not on the City Council when the Open lease was approved, referred sarcastically on two occasions to the “wonderful” deal made by former Deputy City Manager Bruce Herring.
With a tone of incredulity in her voice, Frye asked Woodward, “So the amount of revenue the city gets for the big golf tournament, the U.S. Open, will be $500,000?”
Ah, here we go.
In San Diego, the Friends of Torrey Pines is the organizing body that will earn a percentage of corporate hospitality sales.
Jay Rains, a La Mesa attorney who led San Diego's Open bid and raised the $3.5 million from private entities to have the South Course reconstructed in 2001, is the local co-chairman of the tournament and also sits on the USGA 15-member executive committee.
Yes, and that appointment came after negotiating this deal on behalf of his hometown. Or was he really negotiating on their behalf?:
Rains said this week he believes the Friends of Torrey Pines will receive about $3.5 million from the Open – $2.5 million in corporate sales and the $950,000 the city reimbursed it for the South's reconstruction.Rains said none of that money will be kept by the nearly 30 individuals and businesses that compose the Friends of Torrey Pines.
“The money that comes back will be given to charity,” Rains said. “I don't want anybody to say we made money off a public golf course.”
Would that be we, the Friends of Torrey Pines, or we the USGA? Which side are you speaking on behalf of?
Though Rains said he will leave it up to the individual donors on how they donate their share, he intends to encourage funding a project that will enhance the experience for city golfers. He said he could not be more specific at this time.
Spiegelman said he is opposed to the Friends of Torrey Pines controlling the money earned from the Open.
“I wouldn't begrudge the Friends of Torrey Pines for creating money for charity if the city wasn't taking a beating on this,” Spiegelman said. “I don't think there should be any profits until the city and the golf enterprise fund are fully reimbursed.”
The Open windfall for the golf enterprise fund will come in the future, when in 2011, for example, residents will pay $73 and tourists $218 on weekends to walk one of a handful of public courses ever to hold the U.S. Open.
Actually, now I know who Rains is negotiating for. And it isn't his hometown.
Mike Dudurich in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on the fine line between a great U.S. Open and a disaster:
Shinnecocked is a word that's been heard inside the walls of Golf House, the corporate headquarters of the United States Golf Association. It reverberates -- a constant reminder of a Sunday round that went horribly wrong.
"I'm sorry to say I have heard it, and I wish I hadn't," said Mike Davis, the USGA's senior director of championships and the man who will set up the course at Oakmont Country Club for the 2007 Open. "It's such a fine line between setting up a course very difficult and fair and having it go over the top."
Of course, we wouldn't expect them to use the more appropriate word coined by Joe Ogilvie...
"If it doesn't get 'USGAed' too bad, it should be a great course. That is a verb. Take a wonderful golf course and ruin it. That's the definition."
David Steele of the Baltimore Sun talking to Gary Gilchrist, Michelle Wie's former instructor:
"She needs to re-evaluate the team around here ... [and] she needs to be more clear on what her goals are and the steps she needs to get to them," Gilchrist said. "And make sure everybody around her understands them. Right now with the way she's swinging, it's very difficult for her to play well. She has no control over the ball right now."
What credibility does he have? Oh, right, he teaches Suzann Pettersen who just won the LPGA Championship and nearly won the season's first major.
"Nothing would have given me more pleasure than inflicting a touch of pain and suffering on the US Tour's unworthy wealthy."
Vintage Frank Hannigan, writing in The Scotsman on Europe's U.S. Open winless drought:
I'll tell you a secret. I held high office at the USGA in those days and we wanted a European to win. It would have emphasised the worldliness of our event and victories by Europeans would have seemed a put-down for the US PGA Tour. Nothing would have given me more pleasure than inflicting a touch of pain and suffering on the US Tour's unworthy wealthy.And he slips this in...
But you let us down. And now your prospects are worse. In the world of golf gambling (illegal in the United States and therefore cited here only as hearsay) the lowest-priced Europeans are an uninviting 30-1, the numbers cited for Padraig Harrington, who comes close but always seems to make a six at least once during the final nine holes; Sergio Garcia, who has been "promising" for at least a decade and still misses three-foot putts; and the pretty swinging Luke Donald, who fancies himself as a genuine artist - on canvas at least. Trust me, Ben Hogan did not own a palette.
As for the Ryder Cup, a thought: it matters much more to your side than it does to ours. I don't think it means much at all to Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, who can tolerate, if barely, playing for nothing while big money is sucked in by the PGA of America. But what's intolerable is being forced to attend a string of the world's most boring dinner parties during the run-up to the event.
Indeed, it saddens me to think that not nearly enough of you are going to see this new version of Oakmont. The United States Golf Association, in its infinite greed, sold the television rights to Rupert Murdoch's Sky operation so as to diminish the audience in the UK. The BBC, thank goodness, continues to own the rights to the Masters.
"...the editors made a quadruple bogey by not including Tiger on its 100 Most Influential People in The World list."
I should cut Tim Rosaforte some slack for his touching tribute to Stu Schneider in this week's column, but I know deep down that Stu wouldn't want me to let these Larry King-esque musings go by without some sort of comment!
Time is by far my favorite news magazine, but the editors made a quadruple bogey by not including Tiger on its 100 Most Influential People in The World list. And I'm not just talking about what he does on the golf course. Woods may be having a hard time attracting a Memorial-like field to his new tournament, but seeing how the tough Washington crowd is laying down the red carpet for him is an indication of his influence and power.
Sure, right behind a couple of interns at Powell-Tate who can probably influence on the workings of our fine government than our golfing hero.
Tod Leonard looks at Torrey Pines, 368 days out from hosting the U.S. Open.
Torrey South is currently a wildly stitched quilt of many shades of green, brown, yellow and white. The rough is burned out from a chemical, applied intentionally, that killed all but the kikuyu grass. A few Torrey pines stand in huge crates, ready for transplantation. Tractor tracks are imbedded in mud near a few holes.And they might as well order the rye grass seed now, because kikuyu rough isn't going to fly...
There hasn't been this much construction on the South since the course was completely redesigned by architect Rees Jones in 2001 to attract the Open. But it has to look worse before it gets better.
The biggest concern, Davis said, is whether the kikuyu rough will be healthy enough by the end of the summer that he can commit to it for the Open. Otherwise, they will have to overseed the rough with rye before the tournament to enhance the thickness.
“The reason I can sleep at night is knowing that we have that rye as an option,” Woodward said.
Newsday's Mark Herrmann looks at Shinnecock Hills' slim hopes of grabbing a U.S. Open hosting bid anytime soon, with this from the Club's GM Gregg Deger:
Deger acknowledged what USGA executive director David Fay said last year, that his group and the club are discussing another Open. But, Deger added, "It's not too intently. It hasn't been active."
Marty Parkes, senior director of media relations and communications for the USGA, said, "Conversations are still going on, but I don't know of anything imminent."
Time's a-wasting. The USGA has booked the Open for the next six years, including 2009 at Bethpage Black. Already, Shinnecock has missed its once-every-nine-years call (after 1986, 1995, 2004) because Merion has been awarded the 2013 event.
Fay probably will announce the 2014 site this week, with speculation leaning toward Pinehurst No. 2. The Journal-News of Westchester reported that Winged Foot, which was lauded for being tough but fair with a 5-over par winning score last year, has asked to host in 2015.
Reader Gary notes that there was a 2-hour weather delay on the European Tour today, meaning Golf Channel's broadcast window "ran out" with the leaders having 6 or so holes to play, and the programming switched to the dreaded infomercials.
Anyone out there know precisely why they don't see the tournament to its conclusion? I'm sure our buddy Stu would have gotten to the bottom of this.
Ron Whitten presents a detailed and fascinating account of Oakmont's design evolution and he attempts to figure who was most responsible for course's character. It may surprise you.
Much less inspiring or interesting is Tom Marzolf's description of the work he and Tom Fazio have done there in recent years.
JH: Ironically, the US Open isn't the one of the four your game would seem most suited to.
GO: No. I have thought a lot about that. I would have expected, for someone like me who is a little wayward off the tee even when playing well, that Augusta or the Open would be the best bet. But US Opens are so narrow that straight hitters almost lose their advantage. Everyone is in the rough. And I'm used to that and they are not.
You can hit great, straight drives in the US Open and still miss the fairway. So it almost works against those guys. I mean, I'm quite happy hitting seven shots out of the rough. I do that every day. They don't.
I'm not alone, though. Take a look at the leader board at Winged Foot.
Phil was up there and he isn't the straightest hitter. Everyone talks about how you have to hit it straight at the US Open. And I thought that too. But in hindsight I'm not so sure. No-one can hit it straight enough to hit every fairway in the US Open. It's so difficult, almost impossible really. You can be a great driver of the ball and still miss six fairways in a day. And you can drive badly and do that.
JH: What do you think of all the rough around the greens?
GO: I think some of the holes at Winged Foot would have been better served if balls were allowed to run away from the greens, rather than get stopped within a few feet.
JH: Which is what happened with your approach to the last green came up short.
GO: Exactly. That created quite an interesting shot.
Winged Foot is a stellar course though. I can't say anything bad about it because I won! I loved the fact that they had trimmed the trees so that you can see a lot of the course under the branches. That has been lost in a lot of places, but Winged Foot had that look about it.
It also has some of the coolest greens I have ever seen.
Chris Millard's story on the USGA under Walter Driver marks the first time a publication of any kind has addressed the USGA presidential jet. Millard considers it in the context of USGA staff outrage over benefit cuts and Driver's "change agent" style:
...in February USGA staff was notified of significant cuts to their medical plan. Further, the Educational Assistance Program, a prized USGA benefit, which since 1997 has assisted Golf House employees with the cost of a child's college tuition, would be phased out.
Compounding the issue--and confounding staffers--were the following: First, only weeks prior to the revelation that benefits would be cut, the USGA had signed two new deep-pocketed corporate sponsors. Second, less than a year before rumors of the cuts reached Golf House staff, news media had revealed that the USGA had acquired time on a private jet for use by the president and the executive committee.
Uh guys, it was here. Quibbling, I know. Continue...
On Feb. 6 USGA staffers were advised of the benefit cuts via memo (a copy of which was obtained by Golf World). The cuts, their timing and the manner in which they were presented stunned and angered employees. "The way it was couched to us, they were basically taking something away without really telling [us] what was going to happen," says one USGA veteran with college-aged children. "A lot of people here felt that wasn't fair."
In an unusual move, Driver flew to Far Hills to quell concerns. "The staff had not been given what I call the ‘three-legged stool,' and I wanted to explain to them the process," says Driver.Please, would some inkslinger at Oakmont please ask Driver to flesh out that metaphor.
Outside observers were flabbergasted. "Walter Driver [saying] in his address we've made changes to help us improve our potential for getting quality staffers in the future--when in fact they were cutting benefits--was the ultimate corporate act: Say one thing and do another," says Shackelford, who frequently posts provocative and acerbic comment on his blog. "For me that was the all-time low, really."
Oh, sorry. Believe it or not, I am building to a point here...
Before Driver took over, longstanding USGA tradition called for executive committee members to pay their own travel expenses for association business. Once disclosed, the idea of a USGA-funded private jet for executive committee use sent shockwaves through a century-old volunteer ethos. One former president who asked not to be identified says, "I have been away from the institution for a long time. Priorities and demands change. For example, a jet for executive-committee use would have been unheard of in my time."
Driver has been demonized as the procurer and chief beneficiary of the plane when, in fact, he inherited the lease from Fred Ridley's presidency. The deal with Citation Shares was made, ironically, at the suggestion of the past presidents. Driver is unruffled by the controversy. He considers the plane a tool, one that has allowed him to expand his USGA schedule. "If people don't think it's appropriate," he says, "either I or the next president simply won't do those things."
Those things? Would those be boring speeches that really do nothing to impact any lives? Okay, sometimes I am acerbic.
Anyway, here's my question. If the past president's pushed this jet on Ridley and Driver (joined at the hip, something Millard left out), and Driver truly cared about the future health (no pun) of the USGA and its staff, wouldn't he have said "no thanks, save the hundreds of thousands of dollars you'll lavish on me with this jet for a better cause."
Now, I know it's from page 291 of the CEO playbook to blame the board for those excessive stock options and perks while your workers are taking pay and benefit cuts, but just an FYI for Walter Driver, there are still some CEO's who actually commit acts of charity for the good of the team:
[Gerald] Grinstein, who has led the USA's No. 3 airline since January 2004, said he wants Delta instead to invest what he would have gotten in post-bankruptcy bonuses, to be used for scholarships and emergency hardship assistance for Delta employees, families and retirees. Under a post-bankruptcy compensation plan unveiled Monday, Grinstein could have been expected to net about $10 million, including such bonuses, over about three years.
Now that's my kind of "change agent."