Q&A With Walter Driver

Now I know this is a no win situation for David Shefter of the USGA. Ask a remotely difficult question and find yourself covering swap meets for the New Jersey Pennysaver.

So in that light, this softball session with new USGA president Walter Driver has its moments. Compared to say, his inaugural address, which we'll get to later.

Driver: There are three main things. I want us to continue to conduct the very best championships in golf (U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open, U.S. Senior Open, U.S. Amateur, etc.). I want to communicate better with all of our constituencies where every golfer will become a true advocate for golf. And finally, we need to continue to monitor the technology and equipment issues in accordance with the 2002 Statement of Principles.

Hey, so far so good. In fact, darn good. Better setups. Better communication. And they remember the Statement of Principles!

Question: The 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills brought plenty of criticism to the USGA about course setup because of the conditions on the weekend, but the Association seemed to learn a lot from that adversity if you consider that the 2005 Open at Pinehurst was a huge success. As the chairman of the Championship Committee, what things did you personally learn from those two events?

Driver: Everybody learned a lot. The staff and all the volunteers had a renewed dedication at Pinehurst to have a flawless Open. And I think it was flawless.

Well, let's not forget that guys disregarded the fairway setups and flogged their way down the holes as far as they could because there was no clear benefit for positioning yourself in the fairways. And why was that? Perhaps because the landing areas were only 21-24 yards wide. Oh, and don't forget you had to water greens during play extensively. Flawless?

Question: I understand there’s an interesting icon that sits in the chief executive’s office at King and Spalding?

Driver: It’s an actual fire hydrant and it weighs about 200 pounds. There’s a plaque that says, “Being chairman of King and Spalding is like being the only hydrant on a block full of dogs.” You are running a large business with a lot of individual egos and it takes a lot of work to build a consensus.

Southern lawyer humor, I guess.

Question: It sounds like you are a golf history buff. Did you have a good grasp of the game’s traditions when you started playing?

Driver: Not really. The real exposure to the history of the game was significantly enhanced by living in Atlanta where the Bobby Jones legend began. I would say I am an interested historian. My [three] children learned years ago that whenever they couldn’t figure out what to get me for a gift, they could always get me a golf book. I now have a very nice collection of golf books in my library at home, and I have read all of them.

Question: How big a collection are we talking about? 

Driver: I would say I have over 100. It’s tough to find enough shelf space. My wife may quarantine it at some point.

Wow, a whole 100 books and you've read all of them?

At this point there's a bunch of frat house type talk about who has a bigger who has a better golf game, etc... 

Question: Obviously your relationship with Fred Ridley has evolved quite nicely since the 1989 Walker Cup.

Driver: Fred and I are very good friends and we talk all the time. Our wives are close friends. We agree on virtually every issue [facing the USGA].

And we have talked a lot about these issues flying together on the Citation