As outreach goes, you can’t fault their effort. This week in Phoenix at the LPGA’s Bank of Hope Founders Cup, the presence of USGA staffers on the range, outside the locker room, in the media center, and in player dining could not be missed. No matter where you turned, it seemed, there was someone wearing a USGA logo. They weren’t part of the competition. They were, as we say in the South, visiting. Getting to know their neighbors a little better. Asking questions. Listening.
“If you liked that, you better buckle up,” John Bodenhamer, the senior director of championships for the USGA, told me on Friday. “This is just the beginning of our engagement.”
That engagement took another giant step with the announcement that past PGA Tour winner and U.S. Walker Cup team member Jason Gore will join the USGA as senior director of player relations.
According to a release from the USGA: “Gore’s primary role will be to interact with professional and elite amateur players across the game, particularly focusing on competitors in the USGA’s Open and Amateur championships. He will lead a team of full-time staff dedicated to player relations, including Liz Fradkin, who assumed her player relations role last fall. Previously the manager of the USGA’s Curtis Cup Team and a member of the U.S. Women’s Amateur staff, Fradkin has already been a fixture at several LPGA Tour events.
“They will be joined by Robert Zalzneck and Ali Kicklighter, who will manage USGA player services with an emphasis on onsite services at the USGA’s four Open championships.”
“Jason fits all those categories. … He can walk out on the range and have an immediate impact.” – John Bodenhamer
“We started thinking about this a couple of years ago and were looking at it through committees,” Bodenhamer said. “About six months ago we said, ‘What do we really want from somebody in this position?’ You think, obviously, about integrity and personality. But I felt very strongly that this person should be a player, someone who understood what it feels like to walk down the final fairway in a championship. We needed somebody who could communicate at that level with elite players.
“We also felt it was important that this person know us fairly well. So we thought about reaching out to some of our past champions and Walker Cup players.
“Jason fits all those categories. He’s a known guy. He can walk out on the range and have an immediate impact. Players know him, caddies know him. He knows their families. He knows what golf ball they play. But he also knows what it’s like to stand on the 18th tee with a lead.”
“I have the utmost respect for the USGA and proudly tell everyone that my experience in the 1997 Walker Cup was the highlight of my golf career,” Gore, 44, said. “I’m incredibly honored to have been invited to play this role and can’t wait to get started.”
Gore will lead a team that will be present at many PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, amateur and junior events. The goal is simple: Communicate, engage, and listen.
“We want the dialogue to continue,” Bodenhamer said. “And we want players at every level to be a part of that.”
Jason Gore, the USGA’s new senior director of player relations, plays from a bunker at the 10th hole during 2017 U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md. Photo: Joel Kowsky, Copyright USGA
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