Thursday, April 12, 2012

Leadership Change at the PGA

This week saw more big news in the golf industry as Joe Steranka, CEO of the PGA of America, announced that he is retiring at the end of 2012 following 25 years with the PGA and 7 as its Chief Executive.

I met Joe once to discuss a potential partnership with TGA Premier Junior Golf.  He was cordial (and is generally well-regarded throughout the industry as a nice guy and universally respected) but we didn't agree philosophically.  He said: "I don't believe in privatizing or profiteering from junior golf."  My stance was (and still is) that this mentality is why we've seen a 34% decline in youth golf since 2005 (when he became CEO) while other sports with different philosophies have grown.

It will be interesting to see how Mr. Steranka's legacy unfolds.  Based on the state of the industry, it won't be positive.  Golf has contracted significantly since 2005 and that is why I think this is a positive and necessary change.  Whether or not the contraction has been the result of his policies, or bad luck with the economy - or even if he's done an incredible job at minimizing the bleeding - we'll probably never know.  Like any administration presiding over tough times, the causes don't matter as much as the results.  However, ultimately I believe his legacy will be handcuffed to the success of Golf 2.0, which is good news as I believe it has a great chance of success if executed properly.

I look forward to seeing a change at the top of the PGA and hope that Mr. Steranka's successor is collaborative, embraces innovation and supports entrepreneurship.  I encourage his successor to study the inclusive and open-minded culture of the United States Tennis Association, which has led to a 13% growth in tennis participation since 2005 while golf has seen a 13% decline in that same time.

I wish Mr. Steranka all the best in the next step of his career and thank him for his service to the golf industry.  He was dealt a tough hand and had mixed results, but from I've seen and heard, he deserves gratitude and applause from everyone in the industry for his commitment to the game. 

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