United States Golf Association chief executive Mike Davis is to step down next year after a 30-year career at America’s golfing governing body.
Davis, 55, is to leave his post at the end of 2021, and begin a new career in golf course design, having announced plans to set up a business with Tom Fazio II in Florida.
“I’ve absolutely loved the USGA, and I hate the idea of leaving,” said Davis, who was the USGA’s seventh executive director in 2011, succeeding David Fay, a role that led to him being made CEO in 2016. “I’ve grown up around here. It will have been 32 years by the time I leave.”
He added: “I have always loved golf course design. I loved learning, seeing, playing, studying golf courses. I’m closer to 60 than I am 50, and there was almost a sense that if I don’t do this, I’m going to regret it. For the last three decades this job has afforded me a chance to see most of the world’s great golf courses. And I’ve played them, studied them, and I’ve got to meet a lot of great architects during this time, too. Having said that, I might be studied and well-read, but there’s a lot I don’t know, and I am looking forward to getting out there and getting my hands dirty.”
Under Davis, the USGA made significant strides in several areas, including the modernisation of the Rules of Golf, the launch of the World Handicap System, the creation of the USGA Foundation, expansion of the USGA footprint with a second Golf House location set for Pinehurst – and starting four new championships—the US Senior Women’s Open, the men’s and women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championships (which replaced the Amateur Public Links championships), and, probably starting in 2022 or 2023, an event for golfers with disabilities.
Also during Davis’s tenure, the USGA, along with the R&A, adopted a rule change that prohibits anchoring a club while making a stroke. And, more recently, again in partnership with the R&A, the USGA initiated the Distance Insights Project, a comprehensive study on the impact of distance in golf that was released earlier this year. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the governing bodies have delayed the next phase of the project—specific topics of further research, which may mean that the results are not published until after davis’s departure.
Before taking over as executive director, Davis served as the head of course setup for the US Open, starting in 2006. He was praised for his introduction of graduated rough, drivable par fours and use of multiple teeing grounds to challenge players to take a more conceptual approach with how to play holes.
“Mike has done a great job for the USGA on so many fronts,” said Stu Francis, USGA president. “What first comes to mind is that he set it up to succeed without him, but that’s just because it shows how good a job he’s done in organizing the priorities and the leadership team. He’s always had the USGA’s best interests at heart in everything he does. And so from the standpoint of just interacting with a CEO, leading a major non-profit organisation, he just couldn’t be a better guy to work with.”