News & Opinion

PGA’s hiring of Waugh would be bold step

Seth Waugh could be a game-changer for the PGA of America. Sources close to the PGA’s search for a chief executive officer tell Morning Read that Waugh’s hiring could be a “done deal” soon, with an announcement possible before next month’s Ryder Cup.

Seth Waugh

Phone messages left by Morning Read with Waugh were not returned. A PGA spokesman would confirm only that the hiring process was “ongoing.”

Waugh, the former CEO of Deutsche Bank Americas, could be just the man to lead the PGA’s 28,000 members and apprentices. He would bring a wealth of business and golf experience to one of the most unique and challenging leadership positions in golf.

Pete Bevacqua resigned as the PGA’s CEO, effective Aug. 13, to become the president of NBC Sports.Waugh already knows the inner workings of the PGA, via his role as an independent director since 2015. He also has served on an advisory committee to the PGA’s CEO. He holds a deep understanding of the PGA’s eclectic membership and the association’s governance model. In short, there would be no learning curve for Waugh.  

Perhaps his greatest attribute is his business experience. Waugh, a former Wall Street bond executive, worked from 2000 to 2013 at Deutsche Bank. He operated the German company’s sales and trading businesses in the U.S. before being promoted to CEO of the Americas region. In 2003, Waugh created the PGA Tour’s Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston. The tournament, known today as the Dell Technologies Championship, has been part of the FedEx Cup playoffs since 2007. Waugh is no stranger to big-time golf events.

Waugh holds a proven record of hiring top talent, as evidenced by his having lured Jay Monahan away from baseball’s Boston Red Sox to run the Deutsche Bank Championship. Waugh later was instrumental in helping Monahan land at the PGA Tour as head of the Players Championship, telling then-commissioner Tim Finchem, “The best guy I’ve seen is Jay Monahan. If you hire him, he’ll be your replacement.”

When Finchem retired in late 2016, Monahan became the Tour’s fourth commissioner.

Waugh holds a close personal relationship with Monahan, and that would prove to be highly beneficial to the PGA and the Tour. It also might help explain some of the recent rumors involving a potential merger between the two organizations, 50 years after they split when touring pros demanded more autonomy (“PGA of America should merge with Tour,” Aug. 15).

But, here’s the million-dollar-plus question: Why would Seth Waugh, who according to Net Worth Times has an estimated net worth of $80 million, want to be the CEO of the PGA of America? Is he willing to move to Frisco, Texas, which reportedly is negotiating to lure the PGA from its headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.?

In 2015, when Waugh was appointed to a three-year term on the PGA’s board of directors, he said: “The game of golf has become a large and important part of my life in many ways. I respect all of the wonderful traditions and quality that it adds to life, which make it the most interesting game on earth. The PGA has always been such a vital contributor to all that is good about the game… The PGA and all its members are in a unique position to contribute to the vision and growth of the game, which is why it is so exciting to me.”

At age 60, Waugh could be primed for one of the biggest and most enjoyable challenges of his professional life. What could  Waugh as CEO do for rank-and-file PGA members?

The PGA needs its next CEO to be creative, innovative and aggressive in bringing more tangible benefits to PGA members. This can happen by expanding business-development deals that produce partnerships with corporations that offer goods and services to PGA members, not just the association. Additionally, Waugh would need to figure out how the massive PGA membership can have its own health-insurance plan.  

Some PGA members will say that appointing Waugh as CEO merely means that the PGA will become more corporate and less member-focused. The same critics will say that a PGA member should be hired for the CEO position. In all due respect, the PGA of America has outgrown that notion. It’s a $200 million-a-year business, and it needs a businessman to run the organization.

Waugh would succeed the likes of Jim Awtrey, Joe Steranka and Bevacqua, men who made their own marks on the PGA. He represents a talent never before positioned in the top leadership job at the PGA of America.

And about that rumored move to Frisco, which seems to have been hanging out there for months: It’s hard to see Waugh wearing a cowboy hat and chaps.

Ted Bishop, who owns and operates The Legends Golf Club in Franklin, Ind., and is the author of “Unfriended,” was president of the PGA of America in 2013-14. Email:; Twitter: @tedbishop38pga