USGA president wants to foster teamwork
Diana Murphy was re-elected to a second one-year term as USGA president at the group’s annual meeting in February. Murphy and Judy Bell (1996) are the only two women to achieve that title in the USGA’s 122 years of existence. The resident of St. Simons Island, Ga., sat with Southland Golf shortly after her re-election to discuss topics related to her role and the USGA’s goals in coming years.
Q: As president, what’s the charge to your group this year?
I think it’s being true to our mission in continuing to realize the evolution of our world and how we can keep up, so rules modernization is a great example of recognizing that this game is growing globally, it needs to continue to grow and we want our players to want to learn how to play by the rules. I think another area is technology in general and what we’re doing in our Research, Science and Innovation Center and coming up with tools that that will help golf facilities be smarter in how they provide golf courses for players. … I think our governing role is critical in partnership with the R&A; we take that very seriously whether it’s putting the game’s rules into simple and easily understood English or deciding that this thing called a handicap is a pretty cool thing.
Q: You said recently that you love the game more now than you ever have. How so?
I think that the game instills so many attributes that transcend playing the game. It’s the character, the integrity, the sportsmanship, the friendship, the beauty when you’re on the course and you’re cheering your fellow competitor on while you’re trying to play as good as you can. Then, off the course, after your round you’re talking about a professional that you admire or are trying to emulate or you’re watching the junior golf world growing as rapidly as it is, which I think is particularly impressive because that’s our future. This is a sport that instills so many personal attributes to the being of each person … so I am passionate about the game. It’s a great way to spend a couple hours or even one hour if you just want to hit balls on the range or practice green. The friendships and relationships and all the people that love the game and want to give back are special.
Q: What’s a good way to share that passion with non-golfers?
That’s what my Plus-1 initiative was last year, where you add one person to the game. But you don’t have to play the game to enjoy it. You can watch it and get pretty excited. You can read a book about the history of the game, or even look at Bob Jones and how he dealt with adversities and rose to become one of the best golfers in the world. Going through our museum and looking at our champions Hall of Fame and realizing that we’ve been running these championships since 1895 is pretty inspiring. I think reading, watching, observing, talking with people, volunteering … you don’t have to be a golfer. We have 13 and soon to be 14 championships a year. We are a volunteer organization and we couldn’t possibly run these national championships without the thousands of volunteers and the people that you meet. I know a lot of people that have become volunteers that have never picked up a golf club but they’re committed to volunteering for our championships.
Q: What’s your perspective on being a woman leader in a predominantly man’s game?
I would not agree that golf is predominantly a man’s game. Some of the greatest growth we’ve had is from our juniors program, with one in three juniors being girls. That was about one in 17 just a few years ago, so I think that girls’ golf is growing rapidly. We have a partner with the LPGA, USGA Girls Golf, that’s gone from 6,000 girls five or six years ago to over 50,000 this past year. About 128 of those girls this past year competed in a USGA championship, so it’s introducing the game and bringing them along to where they’re playing at an elite level. I think I was chosen to be president to help the organization go through a wonderful transformation in implementing these terrific initiatives, and it’s been a very rewarding and humbling experience. I’ve been touched by how many people think of me as their role model. I see young girls come up at Drive, Chip and Putt events and want to have their picture taken with me, and that’s a little embarrassing, but they do. They say, ‘I want to be just like you,’ and I say, ‘You’re going to be way better than me, you need to be you and you enjoy this game and love it.’ So to the extent that I’ve inspired some young girls or women to continue along the lines and enjoy their dreams and be successful in whatever they do, I’m proud of that, but probably more humbled than I am proud. I’m really looking forward to the rest of 2017.
Q: What’s the conversation been like with others in the country and world?