How Mike Van’s Changes US Golf

The United States Open returns this week to the Brooklyn Country Club, Massachusetts, one of the five founding clubs of the United States Golf Association. This will be the club’s fourth US Open. The first, in 1913, when the 20-year-old lover won, is still living in sports.

The club has also hosted United States Amateur and United States Amateur Tournaments and the Ryder Cup. Founded in the 19th century it has deep traditions.

But this time, the United States Golf Association, which selects clubs and organizes the US Open and 13 other national championships each year, is headed by a new CEO who has developed a traditional reputation of the opposite. The CEO, Mike One, is a substitute for the language of the corporate marketing world in which he appeared.

Eleven years before joining the USGA last year, One was an LPGA commissioner who took him from a U.S.-based unit to a thriving global tour with more events and more prizes.

“He revived the tour and then re-imagined its future, bringing in new events, new sponsors and a new value proposition about diversity and inclusion in the LPGA,” said Vicky Gotze-Ackermann, president of the LPGA Tour players when Vanny resigned. “He has the rare ability to admire people of all ages and backgrounds and to conform to his vision.”

While the USGA attracts criticism like any other governing body, it has created a highly lucrative event at the US Open, from which it sponsors the organization’s other championships and grassroots and water conservation initiatives.

Compared to the PGA tour, the USGA looks even better. The PGA Tour, whose gaming privileges have long been the goal of professional golfers, will prevent an attack on its status by the LIV Golf Invitational Series, backed by the new Saudi Arabia, which has attracted many players.

Add another factor: interest in golf from recreational players is still at the peak of the post-pandemic. If it is not spoiled, as they say, what should be fixed?

“Change is in the process,” Wan said in an interview with the Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania. “35-year-old Mike One changed everything. Mike One, 57, says, “Where do I need it?” I do not need to set up a championship. That was Mike Davis’ specialty. “

Davis was One’s predecessor, a 31-year-old USGA veteran who was its CEO and then CEO. He tried to make changes to the course set and tried new things like rough courses at different heights and public courses, including Erin Hills in Wisconsin and Chambers Bay in Washington, a chance to host the U.S. Open.

Davis has been credited with experimenting with different approaches to championships, some more successful than others, but also for investing in some less public research projects funded by the USGA. But Davis was also criticized for how he organized the courses (very difficult) and how the association regulated the equipment (not strictly enough).

“Their No. 1 job should be to control the equipment,” said Alex Mitchell, a longtime golf commentator who is debating how far a professional can hit the ball. “USGA has done a terrible job with that. This is what the Federal Reserve says: “Inflation will be transitional, inflation will be transitional, inflation will be transitional.” Well, it is not. ”

Wan said in an interview that he had no interest in engaging in a course setting debate. This is the domain of John Bodenhammer, Chief Officer of the Association Championships.

“When I entered the installation meeting, I told John, ‘I’m not needed here and I could be harmful,'” Wan said. “The only advice I have given is that if you have a plan or strategy, do not change it. Do not let the scores or the media change that. Athletes do not want this. I know this from the LPGA commissioner. “

Yet when Whan came on board after last year’s US Open, several senior executives at USGA left, the chief commercial officer left on the first day of the year, and the brand chief officer left about a month later.

Then he did what no association executive has done: he brought the title sponsor to one of the organization’s championships. The United States Women’s Open Championship, which dates back to 1946, is now the United States Women’s Open Championship, represented by ProMedica. The partnership with the healthcare company almost doubled the wallet to $ 10 million. When Australian golfer Miniji Lee won the championship this month, he received a record $ 1.8 million first place check.

Wan said in an interview that his focus was on improving important things done by the association that no one has seen before.

“On airplanes I get the question, ‘What is the USGA doing?'” He said, taking out a card with the word “USGA” written on the page. “I Invented Unify, Showcase, Govern and Advance.”

And is the last priority for him. “It was a prelude to what was lacking,” he said. “We do not want to save; We kept the croquet and that is not good. “

A large area of ​​investment is strategies to reduce water consumption and develop junior golf, as other countries do.

While Wan said he did not want to have fun at the US Open, he also has no plans to neglect the tournament, which brings in about 75 percent of the organization’s revenue.

“The main thing is not to take it for granted,” he said, comparing himself to the professional bowling that dominated weekend television when he was a child but fell sharply. “If we take this for granted, there is no reason why we should not finish bowling.”

He echoed the often-told story about Jason Gore, a former PGA Tour player who is the senior director of USGA player relations where players learn about US Opens issues, Gore said.

While the men’s side has been sewn to tough tests over the next decade, including Oakmont, Shinnecock Hills, Pebble Beach and Merion, Whan has launched equally prestigious places for the U.S. Women’s Open, Riviera, Marion, Pinehurst and Pebble. Beach on the list.

The protection of these sites was followed by USGA investments. The association is building a second headquarters in Pinehurst. At Pebble Beach he builds a permanent player pavilion that the course can use for other events. In the long run, the organization has made a major improvement to the host site; In the past he has built and demolished structures.

These initiatives are designed to facilitate the US Open, a huge logistics venture that connects courses over months and returns each year. But it is also that the sites will host other events and work towards its goal of promoting other initiatives.

“I do not need US Open partners,” One said. “I need partners in game development. We want to make sure these golf temples take on the responsibility of hosting not only the biggest and most financially lucrative events.

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