By Mike Stachura
Though he was often seen as the man whose main responsibility was to say, "No," to the equipment manufacturing community, U.S. Golf Association Senior Technical Director Dick Rugge, who announced his retirement from the USGA on Monday, received words of praise from leaders at several companies.
Rugge, who according to a letter from USGA Executive Director Mike Davis that was circulated to USGA staff on Monday has ruled on more than 27,000 clubs and 20,000 balls in his nearly 13 years at the helm of the USGA's Research and Test Center, saw his job from the beginning as an opportunity to bridge a developing gap between the USGA and equipment manufacturers.
"When I arrived at the USGA, it was considered a given that the manufacturers were technically superior to the USGA's technical staff," Rugge told Golf Digest. "I immediately found that not to be the case. This staff, which is the same technical staff that was here when I joined, is second to none in my experience. By more interaction between our staff and manufacturers' staffs, the industry has come to know and respect our abilities. Along with that came a new level of respect from journalists as well. Today, no one with any knowledge on the subject thinks that the USGA is technically outgunned by anyone."
Several manufacturers agreed that he had accomplished the goal of making the USGA's equipment evaluation process fair, open and perhaps even more enlightened than it had ever been. Here are some thoughts from three leaders in the industry.
John Solheim, Chairman and CEO of Ping Golf: "I'm sorry to see Dick leave the USGA. As the primary liaison between the industry and the USGA equipment committees, he had a challenging job. During his tenure, he built a strong team that has led to better communications. While we didn't always agree with certain decisions, he acted in a professional and respectful way which led to productive dialogue."
Chip Brewer, President and CEO of Callaway Golf: "I am a huge fan of Dick Rugge and have a ton of respect for the job he did at the USGA. He and his team simultaneously made quantum leaps in the USGA's technical knowledge, tackled some controversial topics that they believed were important for protecting the game and improved the working relationship with multiple constituent groups, including but not limited to equipment manufacturers. Congratulations to him and the USGA for a difficult job well done. He will be missed, but I am also sure he will also leave the team in good hands."
Benoit Vincent, Chief Technical Officer, TaylorMade-adidas Golf: "Dick has always been open to discussion, dialogue and the exploration and investigation of new ideas. He's always been very accessible--if you dial Dick's number he nearly always picks up, because he believes in human interaction over email and voicemail. Most important, from our perspective, is that Dick allowed the industry to go places it hadn't before, for example with golf club adjustability, which opened up many new possibilities for equipment developers and golfers. Dick created a modern, reactive environment to help meet the needs of manufacturers like us when we began developing products at a faster and faster pace in recent years."