What does the USGA president having access and control of a private jet an issue for the game?
For the moment, let's set aside the cost, even though the USGA is reportedly clamping down on basic expenses that relate to the organization's mission.
Let's ignore the elitist stereotype boost that the jet program provides.
And definitely look past the notion that the organization's officers have used a liberalized reimbursement policy that was meant to attract a more diverse volunteer base and turned it into a perk-for-the-elite program.
Instead, consider what the private jet travel says about the current USGA Executive Committee culture.
I spoke to an array of past USGA presidents last week in hopes of understanding the institution's history and how the private jet use might be justified.
These calls were made before a directive went out from Far Hills telling past presidents to refer my calls to communications director Marty Parkes (yes, someone actually asked these past presidents--grown men of great wisdom, titans of industry and law--not to speak to little old me!).
One past president refused to talk about USGA business. A few expressed great concern but wanted to hear more facts. Others did not know about the private jet and were fascinated by the notion of it. (I thought this said a lot about the secrecy of the jet chartering, because these were not exactly inactive past presidents).
And one past president likened the USGA president to a CEO and the executive director David Fay to a COO.
Last I checked, the USGA was a non-profit 501(c)(3) entity and therefore receiving tax-exempt benefits to help it carry out its higher calling: to protect the integrity and nurture the great sport of golf.
The USGA is not a corporation, yet it wants to act like one.
However, if it were a corporation, USGA shareholders and those affected by its policies would be able to get answers to basic questions, and more importantly, require top "executives" to communicate what they are doing on behalf of the organization. And we're not just talking about communications related to executive perks, but answers to basic questions related its mission of protecting the game.
Poor communication clouded by some peculiar sense of Executive Committee entitlement to secrecy will make it nearly impossible for the USGA to be the effective 501(c)(3) that it can be.
It is difficult to envision a scenario where the game benefits from a secretive, self-interested USGA Executive Committee.
Frank Hannigan ably laid out many reasons why the jet program is indicative of the USGA's current direction.
But for me the strangest thing about the lack of communication continues to be the lack of opportunity for member clubs, courses and golfers to understand and therefore support the organization in the face of strong opposition.
In other words, its hard to jump on the bandwagon when you don't even know what the band is playing.