The Loop

USGA volunteer blames Driver, Ridley


Since the U.S. Open in June, U.S. Golf Association president Walter Driver (and his controversial administration) has been the focus of a large amount of media coverage, some of it positive, most of it critical. Attorney and journalist Gary Galyean, as a longtime USGA volunteer on the rules committee (he officiates at most USGA championships), possesses  an insider's perspective on the workings of the USGA and its volunteer network. He also authors "Gary Galyean's Golf Letter," a bi-monthly newsletter about the golf industry, and in the July/August issue, he penned a no-holds-barred assessment of the present state of USGA affairs:

Media Center

Anyone who has spent time around the press, particularly when they are concentrated in one media center covering one event, knows that they are a tough crowd. That's their job. Attempting to control what they write or broadcast always backfires. GolfWorld's June 8th cover story -- Can the USGA survive Walter Driver? The tumultuous reign of the association's controversial president -- set the early tone in the U.S. Open Media Center. There was blood in the water. No matter how it was spun, Mr. Driver's standing with the press was built by him and his performance on and off stage during his years as vice president and president. Post-championship columns continue to reflect an assessment that refuses to be spun by glad-handing or verbal dexterity.

USGA Volunteers

The volunteer base serving in various capacities at the Open were nearly universal in their dissatisfaction with the direction the USGA has taken under the presidencies of Fred S. Ridley and Walter W. Driver Jr. Corporate jets, corporate partnering, an arrogance of power, an attempt to stifle open discussion, packing the Executive Committee, and the general turning away from the association's traditional values were topics continually at the center of whispered discussions during the Open. A fractured fissure grew wider between those who have served for years in order to extend and improve golf in America and those who are either new to the USGA culture, or, like the current and immediate past president, simply don't get it.

As distasteful as the past three and a half years have been, of greater concern is the impact both Mr. Ridley and Mr. Driver will have as rising, successive chairmen of the Nominating Committee. Mr. Ridley will serve two years as vice chairman (2008, '09) and two years as chairman (2010, '11). Mr. Driver will vice chair Mr. Ridley's chairmanship and follow with two years in the chair (2012, '13). For six years they will influence the selection of those offered positions as USGA officers, Executive Committee members and Nominating Committee members.

Their deplorable arrogance and stunning lack of judgment has left most of the senior volunteer base disappointed, disoriented, weighing the future donation of their time and expertise, and pondering how in the world the USGA got into such a situation.

Following the Nominating Committee debacle of 2004, the past presidents were blamed for exerting too much influence often without explanation or accountability. Executive Committee members with proven, effective records were sometimes dismissed without explanation, while weaker substitutes were elevated for, once again, unexplained reasons. For outsiders, it was like forecasting the political landscape of the Soviet Union based on who was sitting where at the annual Politburo banquet.

The public and press outcry in 2004 to what appeared to be yet another arbitrary and unwarrantable change to the Executive Committee precipitated a monumental change in the nominating procedure. The emotional goal was to eliminate vagarious, capricious, out-of-touch control by the powerful past presidents. The effect, however, in reality lessened the influence of those who, regardless of sometimes fickle or unexplained political maneuvering, understood the culture of the USGA.

The lessening of the influence of those who "get it" created a political vacuum into which strutted those who don't. And their influence will be felt until 2014 unless the nominating system is amended again.

Very truly yours,

Gary A. Galyean