Former USGA President and 2007 Nominating Committee Chairman Dr. Trey Holland wrote to take issue with my post of last week on current president Walter Driver purportedly seeking a third term. I reprint his comments here with his permission:
Geoff:I followed up with Dr. Holland, asking him if he was in fact aware of the widespread rumor that Mr. Driver was interested in serving a third term, or, if the Nominating Committee did anything to dispel the rumor within USGA circles. From Dr. Holland:
Like numerous other USGA volunteers and staff, I have now read the November 19 posting on your Web site entitled, "Driver Sought Unprecedented Third Term As USGA President." On behalf of the USGA Nominating Committee, I would like to offer the following facts:
• At no time during the committee's deliberations in 2007 did either Walter Driver seek or the Nominating Committee consider his serving a third term.
• At no time did Walter Driver turn "his attention to nominating Jim Hyler over Vernon." The obvious reason why none of the sources could explain this is because it simply did not occur.
• As you know, the USGA's nominating process was amended in 2004 and utilized for the first time in 2005. You are correct that Walter Driver and the remainder of the Executive Committee were notified of their status for 2006 in late June and early July, 2005. This procedure was consistent with the notification timeline set forth in the new process. Upon reflection, the Nominating Committee, after face-to-face interviews with every member of the Executive Committee, later concluded that it would be in everyone's best interest if the decisions of the Nominating Committee remained confidential until sometime after the conclusion of the U. S. Amateur Championship. That procedure has been followed in each of the last two years. That is the sole explanation of why it "took so long to learn that Jim Vernon was the nominee."
While the deliberations of the USGA's Nominating Committee are largely confidential, you can rest assured that, within the framework of that confidentiality, the president, the senior staff and the Communications Committee will make a concerted effort to work with the Nominating Committee and provide you with factual information regarding this process if you should have questions in the future.
With best personal regards,
My initial exposure to this baseless rumor came at the U. S. Amateur championship. No action was necessary because anyone who understands our nominating process would immediately recognize that this proposition is so irrational that it couldn't be true. (And anyone who knows Walter knows he would never consider it.) As you said in your blog, no one since Theodore A. Havemeyer -- 111 years ago -- has served a third term as USGA president.
Now, there are a few things I'd like to point out.
First of all, with all due respect to Dr. Holland, no one outside of a tiny group of insiders understands the nomination process.
Second, anyone who has seen Walter Driver at a championship over the last two years, knows that he is not discreet in breaking a sacred rule banning the use of cell phones and Blackberry's. He has even broken this rule when working as an official observer.
So again, with all due respect to Dr. Holland, I can't agree that this is someone who has shown himself to be a rule or tradition abiding USGA volunteer who would never think to flaunt the rules and seek a third term. In fact, he's been quite sure of his mission as a change agent, with little apparent dissension among Executive Committee members and volunteers who are intimidated by the man, so it's perfectly reasonable to believe he was capable of seeking an unprecedented third term.
That said, after initially hearing of Driver's purported interest in continuing on from volunteers and later from staffers, I did not immediately follow up since I'm far more interested in focusing on the rosier future the USGA has under newly nominated president Jim Vernon. However, the sheer number of sources that continued to mention this, particularly among the volunteer base, along with the quality of their information and level of detail, drove my decision to make the post. I have trouble imagining that there was any kind of volunteer or staff conspiracy to embarrass Driver, but instead, widespread disdain with the direction of the USGA under his tenure and a fear of another year under his guidance.
It should also be noted that another writer mentioned this "baseless" rumor and he has confirmed that his story was not the result of my blog post.
This would normally be the point when I share some more details from my sources to justify why I wasted precious bandwidth on this matter, however, the level of Executive Committee vindictiveness displayed this summer in the highly suspect removal of Communications Director Marty Parkes, combined with the disturbing amount of energy spent by some behind-the-scenes folks on this post, makes me very uncomfortable sharing any details at this point for fear of costing someone their position on a committee. There are too many great volunteers and staffers who need to stay with the USGA, so that when the organization does move in a more positive direction, I want to be able to say I did not eliminate their chance to serve the game they love by sharing details that would aid those who will pursue a witch hunt at the behest of the Executive Committee.
However, let's assume that Dr. Holland's statements are true (and he's definitely a devoted servant of the game and widely respected past president), this affair says a couple of very telling things about the USGA.
Walter Driver's presidency has so poisoned the waters in Far Hills and across the country, that a significant number of volunteers and staff were actually convinced this rumor was true. And we're not exactly talking about folks still trying to get their high school equivalency degree, but honest, hard working, conservative and very bright people who are not prone to rumor mongering or otherworldly conspiracy theories.
Furthermore, it's fascinating to me that a rumor like this was allowed to fester for so many months, and no one addressed it internally to staff or devoted volunteers.
It makes one wonder where the leadership has gone.