Hyler Assumes Leadership Role

Jim Hyler begins delivering his first official speech as the USGA's 61st president Saturday.
(John Mummert/USGA)

By Ken Klavon, USGA

Pinehurst, N.C. – Whether he realized it at the moment, Jim Hyler’s ascension to the USGA presidency unofficially started a day early.

As outgoing president Jim Vernon tried to end his final closed-door meeting on a poignant high Friday, the words stuck in his throat as tears filled his eyes. Hyler, helping a friend in need, rose to the occasion, effortlessly taking the floor and articulating what Vernon had tried: thank and celebrate those on the Executive Committee who made the job easier.

Afterward Hyler didn’t quite see it as a sign of leadership – chuckling that he broke down, too. Yet the action was a subtle reminder that Hyler took the reins when needed.

It became a reality Saturday night at The Carolina Hotel, site of the USGA’s Annual Meeting, when Hyler was formally introduced as the Association’s 61st president. He’ll oversee some 1,600 committee volunteers and 300-plus staffers.  It’s been a pleasant surprise for the Raleigh, N.C., resident.

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“I had no idea,” he said Saturday when asked whether he envisioned himself as the USGA president from the time he first joined the Executive Committee in 2004.

After officially being introduced Saturday, Hyler delivered his first speech in a ballroom filled with about 400 attendees. He prefaced the crux of his communication by referencing Pinehurst’s Dick Tufts, who wrote about leaders of the game in his 1962 book, “The Scottish Invasion.” Hyler spoke about being honored as a steward of the game before setting his focus on USGA issues.

Speaking for a little more than 12 minutes, he said, “We improve the ways we serve the game when we focus our energies and attentions on these important activities: championships, rules, equipment standards, environment, handicapping and history.”

Hyler highlighted the “specialness” of the U.S. Open and its crucial importance to the Association. But he dug in and offered no confusion about what one of his core missions will be. Golf courses and the environment must be addressed, he said.

“With the recent economic downturn, our focus on these critical issues has sharpened. If we are not careful, high construction costs, soaring maintenance budgets and declining membership rosters will threaten the survival of many courses and clubs,” he said. “In my opinion, many of the standards by which we construct and maintain our courses have become, quite simply, unsustainable. While there may be short-term solutions, what we need to seek is a long-term strategy that confronts some of the deeper issues plaguing the game.

“When it comes to the issue that is perhaps of greatest concern to golf’s future – namely, water – we we must re-set the way that we look at golf courses.”

In conclusion, Hyler thanked Pinehurst and his family.

Prior to the speech, someone mentioned how calm and collected Hyler appeared; not just as a speaker but in most facets of his life. Hyler laughed, saying that on the outside it might appear that way, but internally he has his share of nervous spells.

As he begins navigating his presidency, the Association will be looking to him to be the rudder that guides it.

Ken Klavon is the Editor of Digital Media, Communications. E-mail him with questions or comments at kklavon@usga.org.

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