After being introduced as the seventh executive director of the USGA Wednesday, Mike Davis admitted he had some apprehension in taking the job. It likely would mean giving up several of the responsibilities he cherished in his previous role as senior director of rules and competitions, where he had a significant hand in overseeing the association's three marquee events: the U.S. Open, U.S. Women's Open and U.S. Senior Open.
Yet those concerns ultimately were offset by the excitement he felt in having the chance to oversee the association he's been part of for most of his adult life.
"I'm incredibly honored and humbled by this," said Davis of his new role. "It's a great organization and I really am excited and proud to be a part of it. Those areas I haven't been fully engaged in in the past, I'm anxious about learning and working with some of the people who do such a good job."
The 46-year-old Davis, a native of Chambersburg, Pa., has worked for the USGA since 1990. Since taking the job as senior director of rules and competitions in 2006, Davis has received almost universal praise, competitors included, for his handling of the setup at the three Open championships. He has also had a solid working relationship with the USGA executive committee, including USGA president Jim Hyler, who Davis would now report to.
Davis replaces David B. Fay, who retired from the executive director job at the start of the year after holding the post 21 years and with the USGA for 32 years.
While Davis will have to relinquish his previous duties overseeing the Women's and Senior Opens, he will continue to have a frontline role in the course setup each year at the U.S. Open.
"I've been public about this before, I love the golf course setup part of what I've done the past several years," Davis said. "In fact, I've said, and I almost mean it, I would actually pay the USGA money to allow me to do this. I love putting that puzzle together."
In meeting with the search committee, which Hyler chaired, Davis said that there were aspects of that job he genuinely believed he could continue doing. Specifically, he thought he could help the superintendent and his staff in its daily work setting up the golf course during the championship. "We would be idiots if we extracted Mike from U.S. Open activities," Hyler said. "Mike will continue to be involved in the U.S. Open from a site selection standpoint as well as golf course setup. He is the best in the world at that."
Davis will, however, forgo other activities connected with the conduct of the Open, such as being a rules official and overseeing the mechanics of the competition proper.
Of the six men that have held the executive director job, Davis has known five, including having a strong relationship with Fay. It was during a chance meeting with Fay last January, when Fay was picking up some last items at Golf House in Far Hills, N.J., that the two men talked about the job, with Fay encouraging Davis to apply.
Davis has had a passion for golf since his youth, having played the game competitively at the junior level (he won the 1982 Pennsylvania Junior) and in college at Georgia Southern. When he neared graduation from college in the mid-1980s, he sent a letter to the USGA's Mike Butz (the association's deputy executive director) who also grew up in Chambersburg, inquiring about working for the association. only to receive the standard "thanks-for-your-interest-but-there's-nothing-available" response. Thinking a career in golf was unlikely, he went on to work for Coldwell Banker in Atlanta after graduating with a business finance degree.
A few years later, however, Butz unearthed Davis' resume during a time when the challenges of running the U.S. Open were growing, and brought Davis aboard.