The Annual Meeting: Walter Driver
February 4, 2006
This is the time and place where incoming USGA presidents
traditionally talk about the program of the organization for the
next two years. I want to see:
1) The USGA continue to conduct the very best championships in
2) Communicate better with
our constituencies so every golfer will be a true advocate for
amateur golf and for the USGA; and
3) Continue to monitor technology in equipment developments to
preserve the game and adhere to our charter -- "To promote and
conserve the best interests and true spirit of the game of
|Walter Driver Jr. touched on
three core components that may define his presidency. (USGA
That wonderful introduction from Arnie isn't the only
departure from our traditional format today. Instead of the
routine speech about what the USGA
, I want to focus on what the USGA
and what the USGA
to me and, I know, to you as well.
Instead of the 'normal' speech, I want to do that by
recognizing some people who have meant a great deal to me in my
life on and off the golf course. I hope as I tell these
personal stories, you'll find yourselves recalling similar
relationships and stories of the people who have been part of your
personal golf lives. Through these people, we'll see much
that we deeply value about the game and our lives.
Each of us
has seen the elements of:
our time and resources;
golf as a
Here are some of my personal recognitions to people who are here
tonight, in part because they are special to me but just as
importantly, because I believe, no -- I
-- that each of you have similar experiences related to your time
in golf, which make for each of us the great game and game for a
lifetime. Here we go:
I want to recognize my parents who are here tonight, not only for
every one of the things each of us would naturally want to thank
our parents for, but, in my case, for three specific aspects
related to golf:
First, for their own competing in sports to introduce me to keen
competition. My father was a wonderful tennis player -- on
the Junior Cup team ( story), winner of the NCAA doubles as a
junior at the , invited to play at , and on and on. My mother
took up golf when I was a teenager, and her golf trophies had their
own special place along the family tennis trophies. Without
their example, I might never have known all the challenges and
character-building elements of competition.
Second, they taught me how to behave while competing. In the
Driver family, you might win and you might lose, but you didn't
throw racquets or clubs or whine and you thanked everyone before
you went off to bash yourself for not winning.
Third, they taught me how to give back to a cherished sport.
My father was on the Executive Committee of the USLTA, now
USTA. He helped the tennis programs in the Southwest (where I
grew up), helped promote local tennis in , in many ways. I
saw how much this benefited the sport, the fun they had going to
for the meetings at (then) and all the close friends they made from
tennis -- friends from every walk of life.
I imagine each of you had someone show you the way in those three
elements of life. I hope they are still around so you can
I want to recognize Kay and Lanny Britton, who run a small
"Mom and Pop" club fitting shop here in . They are
devoted to the game and the people who come into their shop.
I have watched them help aspiring junior players to get just
the right 'fit' for their golf clubs to encourage
them. I have also watched them listen to middle aged golf
die-hards endlessly pontificate on equipment issues that, in fact,
probably make little real difference to
performance, but Kay and Lanny take care of their golf customers,
love the game and make a difference in the daily lives of
I want to recognize and for all they have done to restore Golf
Club, where grew up, and create a golf beacon, a beacon that really
works, in what was a tough neighborhood in . When I first
came to in 1970, I quickly joined 'old' -- I think for
$500. The chance to play where the immortal Bobby Jones
played, to look at his locker, to see the house of Alexa Sterling
(winner of three U.S. Women's Amateur Championships during the
same era) across the street, to play with the good players
(that's where I met Danny Yates) was a near religious
experience for me.
As the neighborhood continued to deteriorate and the
club's finances became more dire, I, following my parents'
example, became more involved until at its low point, I was the pro
bono lawyer for the club, the entire greens committee and, for a
while, the superintendent. They, unfortunately, got about
what they paid for. Then Tom Cousins had the vision and the
true commitment for both restoring East Lake to its golf glory and,
very importantly, using that restoration to serve as a mighty
catalyst for the neighborhood. Today, through the work of the
East Lake Community Foundation, run by my friend Ray Robinson,
crime is way down, schools are doing a great job, truancy is way
down, jobs are up, and property values are on the way back.
They take youngsters in and expose them to all the life
skills golf has to offer. My son taught there one
summer. I should add that this effort has received the
largest of our USGA Foundation's grants. What a story
about what dedication, focus, lots of resources and golf can
accomplish. Thank you both.
I want to recognize my longtime golf friend , who gets the award
for distance traveled to be here tonight from with his wife Joan.
We have played golf together for more than 20 years whenever
we got together, which has not been but every other year or so
because Bob is a citizen of the world. Bob grew up in St.
Andrews and, of course, became a dedicated golfer as a boy.
He has lived all over the world in an extraordinary business
career with Shell Oil and the as head of British Rail. He has
taught all of his children about the game. But, in addition to this
friendship, I thank Bob for keeping up his golf after he lost his
right arm in a childhood butcher shop accident in . He shows
me every round what it means to appreciate this game, and I am also
happy to report that he took the U.S. victory in the 2005 Walker
Cup with admirable good grace.
We each have friends who come to us through golf and form great
bonds. I know every one of you has many examples. I
will share two with you.
My friend Hank See and I go back 30 years when we met at
'old' in the early 1970s. In, we think but it's
so long ago we are each a little hazy, 1973, he invited me to .
I was so smitten with this golf that I brought back a case of
soap to use for the coming months just to keep the experience alive
every day. My wife was convinced that I had truly gone over
the edge, but golf does that to people. Hank and I have
played countless rounds together since then. He has
introduced me to many other interesting, dedicated golfers.
He is still arranging those games despite two artificial
knees and battling Parkinson's. I still keep a supply of the
soap that I use every day.
I also want to recognize , whom I only know because of his love of
the game. Allen runs the car wash in the bottom of my office
building. On Mondays when he has played well, I get a full
report. If he gets a new driver, I am among the early
beneficiaries of the news. Golf has given us a bond, which we
gladly share. He now has a new baby, which is cramping his
golf a bit. How many people have we each met where the bond
of golf gives us instant and continuing camaraderie?
I want to recognize Peachtree Golf Club for being a golf club
dedicated to the game, born through the efforts of and the place
where my children learned the game. As a part of the 1989
matches at Peachtree, I saw the impact that the USGA can have on
golfers who are asked to volunteer. I met then when he served
as captain of our team. I met the people who later encouraged
me to volunteer for the USGA. Peachtree Golf Club is a small
place dedicated to pure golf and has had six -- that's right
six -- Walker Cup Captains, eight members of the USGA Executive
Committee and two -actually now three with me- Presidents of the
USGA. Without Peachtree Golf Club, the experience and seeing
the dedication to the game and to the USGA, I certainly would not
be standing here tonight.
I want to recognize the Golf Association -- my first volunteer job
in golf. Through the efforts of and now , the GSGA is one of
the standout state and regional associations working with the USGA
and is out in force today.
I want to thank each of my daughters for many things but in this
context, thanks for marrying golfing son-in-laws. A
non-golfer son-in-law might survive in the Driver clan, but I'm
not sure how. My son and I will continue to hope that we can
someday luck into winning a father-son event but we're going to
have to play better. We've been trying since he was
12. My wife, Bettie is the representative for all non-golfers
afflicted with marrying golfers. By this stage, though, she
has no hesitation in pointing out flaws in my swing, particularly
those flaws exaggerated by advancing age and lack of flexibility.
In "North to the Links of Dornoch," Herbert
Warren Wind was traveling with Margaret and Kenny Cameron, who
lived in Nairn, Scotland, and great friends of the Atlanta golfing
legend Yates clan, and this wonderful golf writer and observer of
the game described Margaret as "a non-golfer but a sound and
sensitive woman nonetheless." Bettie has heard
this often through the years.
My final recognition tonight is to every person in this room --
thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you give to the
game, what you give to each other and everything you do for the
USGA. You honor us by your presence. Please take the
time to thank the person next to you for their commitment to the
I hope this trip through some personal recognitions has struck home
with each of you -- thinking about people who got you started in
the game, the impact of golf on your families, long time dear
friends through golf, people you have helped or want to help in
golf, what volunteering means to you. Please thank them for me,
Each of us has a passion and a commitment to this game.
It's why we play. It's why we volunteer.
It's why we're here. I want each of you to be an
advocate for the game and for the USGA and let people see your
passion for the game. Help us conduct the best championships
in golf. Help us communicate with all golfers and the USGA
constituencies. Help us promote and conserve the true spirit
of the game.
And my commitment to you tonight is that in my two years as
president of the USGA, I will do everything I can to bring out that
passion in all the members of our organization and to the members
still to join.