USGA presidential nominee popular, visible
Tom O’Toole Jr., nominated to become the next president of the U.S. Golf Association, is widely regarded as one of the popular administrators in golf.
A six-year member of the USGA executive committee and a USGA vice-president for the last two years, the 56-year-old O’Toole has gone out of his way to make friends and increase the transparency as well as the effectiveness of golf’s governing body in the United States.
It has become customary for the USGA president to serve two consecutive one-year terms, so the O’Toole presidency should last through 2014 and 2015.
Glen Nager, who will hand over the presidential duties to O’Toole at the USGA’s annual meeting Feb. 8 in Pinehurst, N.C., has called O’Toole “a leader, a scholar and someone who is dedicated to improving the game of golf for one and all.”
Both Nager and O’Toole are attorneys. No surprise there, as four of the last seven USGA presidents have been lawyers. Nager has argued more than a dozen cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, but it is O’Toole who has stepped forward more conspicuously than any recent USGA officer to speak publicly about the USGA and its many functions.
One reason for O’Toole’s prominence is his chairmanship of the powerful USGA Championship Committee. Jim Hyler, the popular president of the USGA in 2010-11, also was chairman of the Championship Committee and attained a similar high profile because of it.
In the case of O’Toole, he is expected to be mightily challenged by U.S. Open courses selected after many course visits and deliberations by the Championship Committee.
The 2014 U.S. Open will be played at Pinehurst No. 2 the week before the U.S. Women’s Open is held on the same course. The USGA has never attempted this back-to-back major double header, and clearly there are many potential hurdles.
Then, in 2015, the U.S. Open goes to the Pacific Northwest for the first time in the 108-year history of the championship. It will be played at Chambers Bay near Tacoma, Wash., where mid-June weather could present an obstacle and where U.S. Open attendance records probably will be set because of the expansive nature of the Robert Trent Jones Jr. golf course.
Though the office of USGA president is an unpaid volunteer position, most USGA presidents in recent years have spent 50 to 80 days a year on the road. O’Toole, a pillar of the St. Louis golf community, is a rules expert who has worked as a rules official at more than 125 USGA championships, including every U.S. Open since 1990.
The two USGA vice presidents under O’Toole will be Dan Burton of Lititz, Pa., and Diana Murphy of St. Simons Island, Ga.
Murphy is the wife of former USGA president Reg Murphy (1994-1995). If she becomes USGA president after O’Toole, she would be only the second woman to hold the position. Judy Bell of Colorado Springs, Colo., was USGA president in 1996-97.