2005 USGA Annual Meeting Speech
Nick Price Receives Bob Jones AwardFred
Ridley Re-Nominated As USGA President
February 5, 2005
By Fred Ridley, USGA President
It is a pleasure to be with all of you tonight, particularly those
of you who are among the more than 1,300 USGA volunteers. On
behalf of the Executive Committee, our Executive Director, David
Fay and the entire staff at Golf House, I thank each of you for all
your work throughout the year for the USGA and the game of golf.
I would like to pick up with you where we left off at last
year's annual meeting in Orlando when I spoke about the purpose
of the USGA. 2004 was a year in which we examined how to most
effectively communicate the USGA's endeavors to promote the
game's bests interests. We examined our priorities and
established clear objectives and benchmarks for the future.
The Executive Committee met in a special session during the
Mid-Amateur Championship in Sea Island, Georgia, to review our past
successes, examine areas where we can do better and collectively
agree on a series of key objectives for the USGA going forward.
I would like to share with you some of what we discussed, the
conclusions we reached and the goals we established for the next
First, our Sea Island meeting re-affirmed the thoughtful dedication
of each member of our Executive Committee and our general counsel
to our Association and its purposes. Like each of you, these
16 individuals have full lives and dedicate a significant amount of
time and expense to the USGA for which I thank them.
After two days of discussion about many topics, the Executive
Committee has established four clear goals.
- 1. We will take all necessary steps to assure that the U.S.
Open Championship continues to be recognized as one of the
world's premier national championships
- 2. We will continue our efforts to build our body of
knowledge about golf equipment and, in particular, the golf ball,
and communicate those findings with all interested parties on a
consistent and regular basis.
- 3. We will undertake an initiative to grow the USGA
membership to at least 1 million golfers by the end of 2007.
- 4. We will establish new and grow existing partnerships with
other stakeholders in the game of golf to communicate our mutual
interests in promoting the game.
Under the direction of Walter Driver, Jim Vernon, Craig Ammerman
and other Executive Committee members we are well under way in
pursuit of these objectives.
Let me elaborate on why the Executive Committee felt it was
critical to dedicate the time and resources of the USGA to
accomplish these goals.
U.S. Open Championship
The goal of the USGA staff and volunteers involved in our 13
national championships is to provide the best possible sporting
experience, bar none, to the competitors, spectators, media and all
others who play a role in these championships.
The U.S. Open is the engine that fuels everything we do.
Turfgrass research, conducting Amateur Championships, our grants
and fellowship program and the work the USGA is doing in the
equipment research area all are made possible by the success of the
U.S. Open Championship.
For the more than 8,000 competitors who enter the Championship, our
700,000 USGA members and golf enthusiasts around the world, the
U.S. Open is the face of the USGA. Media coverage of the U.S.
Open and our worldwide broadcast of the Championship by NBC and our
other television partners is, in many cases, the only exposure
golfers have to the USGA and what we do.
In short, it is imperative that we "get it right."
So, we are in the process of examining every aspect of our National
Championship to make it even better. You can expect to hear
more, and more often, about our championships and what we are doing
to make sure that we do in fact get it right.
Good decisions about equipment requires good data and a common body
of knowledge that everyone involved in the game can
Throughout the 110 plus years of the USGA's rule-making
activities, distance has been a constant source of debate. It
is not a new issue by any means, but, the last decade in
particular, has seen rapid deployment in new technology, player
athleticism and improvements to golf course maintenance, all of
which have contributed to the distance increases we have
We are committed to the program that Jim Vernon outlined, which is
designed to collect all relevant data about equipment and the ball
possible. We believe, in many aspects, we are on the
"cutting edge" in the research we are doing and we will
communicate our findings on a regular basis to the players,
manufacturers, our allied organizations and other interested
It is important to note that we are supported in this approach by
those same parties and our relationships with those parties are as
productive and solid as they have ever been.
The Members Program
I recently received a letter from one of our former Executive
Committee members, Elbert Jemison, who wrote about his experience
of attending a ceremony in the Oval Office when Arnold Palmer, the
National Chairman of what was then known as the USGA Associates
Program, inducted President Gerald Ford as our first member.
That Oval Office ceremony was the beginning of what has been a
great success story for the USGA. Now, almost 30 years later,
we are well on our way to developing a plan to grow the current
USGA membership to more than one million members by the end of
Why is this important? We believe a robust members'
program contributes in a positive way to everything we do. It
is important that we grow our membership in a way that effectively
communicates our priorities, what we are doing and why, and does so
consistently and on a regular basis.
Our Members Program also provides a vital link between the USGA and
golfers around the country. It is a resource for opinions and
ideas and a source of support in both good and hard times. We
need to increase its numbers and that is the goal of this
Our commitment to the Members Program will not be without cost.
But I cannot think of a better way to deploy our assets, and
we will do what is necessary to reach this goal.
There are many organizations that have a stake in the game and its
growth and have many goals in common with the USGA.
Introducing youngsters to the game through programs like our
"For the Good of the Game" initiative or the First Tee,
bringing more people back into the game with initiatives like the
PGA of America's Play Golf America, providing opportunities for
young girls to play the game through the LPGA/USGA Girls Golf
Program, providing handicaps to golfers throughout the country
through our state and regional golf associations and the activities
of organizations like the World Golf Foundation, National Golf
Course Owners Association, American Junior Golf Association, the
Golf Course Superintendents Association and the Club Managers
Association are all examples of golf's stakeholders working to
promote the game.
We have to take a leadership role in these efforts, but that does
not mean we have to go it alone. Everyone involved in the
game can benefit from collaboration and mutually beneficial
Craig Ammerman's work in 2004 to establish a broad partnership
with the PGA of America is a case study in what will become a broad
based effort. We will post details of this collaboration on
the USGA Web site and I would encourage you to read about what we
are doing together with the PGA. We intend to work to
continue to cultivate other mutually beneficial relationships with
key stakeholders in the game. I believe the game will be
stronger if we are successful doing that.
You have heard some of the how we are going to achieve these
objectives and I hope I have provided some context as to why we
think they are so important. Communication is a common thread
of all of this and we will look to the leadership of Marty Parkes,
working with his communications staff, to help achieve these
I would like to reiterate may thanks to our Executive Committee,
our General Counsel, Fred Nelson, and to our Executive Director,
David Fay, for the support they have provided to me over the past
year and I look forward to working with them and you over the
This should be an exciting year for the USGA and for golf, and I
hope all of us, together, can be a part of that.