You may recall that I wondered what was taking so long to nominate a replacement for beleaguered outgoing USGA President Walter Driver. After all, Driver's nomination for 2006 was announced in July, 2005, effectively rendering his fellow Augusta National member and then-president Fred Ridley a lame duck with six months to go.
Now we may know what took so long to learn that Jim Vernon was the nominee.
Several sources within the USGA report that the 2008 nomination was held up due to Driver's attempts to secure the position for an unprecedented third term as USGA president.
Though I first heard the rumor at the U.S. Amateur this summer and shrugged it off as idle gossip involving a widely despised leader, I've since learned that Driver's intentions were well known throughout the organization. My sources also say that once Driver had failed to convince nominating committee chair Trey Holland that a third presidential year would keep the USGA on the right course, Driver reportedly turned his attention to nominating Jim Hyler over Vernon.
No source could explain why Driver pushed so hard for Hyler even though Vernon has served on the Executive Committee longer and seemed to be the most logical replacement. In a few years, Driver will chair the nominating committee and you have to wonder if he will nominate himself again when given the chance.
To put this into some historical context, not since the inaugural term of Theodore Havemeyer in 1894-96 has anyone served longer than three years, and Havemeyer died midway through year three. Furthermore, since 1936 every USGA president has served a pair of consecutive 1-year terms.
My sources also report that Executive Director David Fay has been neutralized by the current Executive Committee and Driver in particular. The longtime head staffer holds far less clout within the current USGA power structure and reportedly has been asked to leave several recent Executive Committee meetings while other staff members below him on the chain of command remained in the room.
This may explain one of the curious quotes in Vernon's nomination press release:
“I look forward to working closely with executive director David Fay and his talented staff to make sure that we continue to conduct the very best championships in golf and to fulfill our responsibilities to establish equipment rules that are based on informed science and facts.”
Good times in Far Hills!