Securing the game’s health is indeed a critical role that the USGA plays within the golf community. The golf industry is vast and multifaceted, and it comprises countless dedicated individuals… who possess the skills, experience and drive to grow the number of golfers participating in the game. Growing the game is not our primary responsibility; rather, it is to ensure that the game they are marketing and selling to consumers is consistent with the very spirit and principles of equity upon which the game was founded. If we fulfill our mission to provide a strong nucleus for the game, by being concerned with the game’s health, we optimize the chance for the golf industry that surrounds it to grow.
Longtime USGA types have always been leery of the organization wanting to get in the growth business, as it suggests they are overly worried about the profit needs of corporations. There is also the potential of taking their eye off the ball of what they do best: championships, handicapping and initiatives like their current pace of play or water usage research. O'Toole seemed to be aware of this while trying to appease the business side of golf.
There is, however, the problem of mostly older, of-significant means folks with no shortage of middle initials and suffixes and club members, talking about what is real golf or not while also wanting to bring more people into the game.
I was in the room for his press conference earlier in the day and didn't catch O'Toole's last remark about alternative forms of golf. However, Bob Carney saw those remarks and one line after that I left out and seized on O'Toole's assertion that, "We're not going to call that golf."
I'm very happy that the USGA is broadening its horizons. And O'Toole's new attitude is welcome. But I mean, what other sport does this to itself? What other sport promotes itself and then sets standards about whether you can say you're really playing it?
Which is why the USGA getting in the grow the game business could prove to be tough sledding.