Tim Finchem turns 70 in April, but the PGA Tour’s commissioner since 1994 hasn’t been in any mad dash to head for the door at PGA Tour headquarters, primed to step into a slower-paced life in retirement.
Finchem holds a contract extension through June 2017, but he also has spent hours pondering this consideration: He wants the Tour’s next man up, Jay Monahan, a leader in whom he has great confidence, to have the same opportunity to enjoy a run as long and (hopefully) fruitful as he has had. Basically, the time has arrived for the 46-year-old Monahan, prepped under the PGA Tour umbrella since 2008, to take the wheel.
That move became official on Monday, as the PGA Tour’s nine-member Policy Board gave unanimous approval to making Monahan the fourth commissioner in the Tour’s history. Monahan takes over Jan. 1, at which time Finchem officially will retire.
“It would be really good if whoever it is goes 20 years,” Finchem said of his replacement at the Tour Championship in Atlanta in September. “I think that continuity creates a lot of good things that happen. He (Monahan) has got the passion for the sport, the focus, the family support that will allow him to do that. And getting him going is the right thing to do. It just feels good.”
In a statement released by the Tour on Monday, Finchem said, “I have the highest regard for Jay and have total confidence in his ability to lead the PGA Tour well into the future.”
This much is clear: Monahan has plenty of support. Having entered the arena initially in a sports marketing role with the Massachusetts-based EMC Corporation, Monahan moved on to be director of a start-up PGA Tour event outside Boston (getting the Deutsche Bank Championship off and running in 2003) and later filled various roles at the PGA Tour that would give him valuable experience in key areas: He served as executive director of The Players Championship, senior vice president of business development, became the Tour’s chief marketing officer, was named deputy commissioner and added the title of chief operating officer in April.
“Jay has proved himself to be an outstanding leader who has developed an intimate knowledge and understanding of the PGA Tour and a clear vision for the future of the organization,” said Victor F. Ganzi, chairman of the Tour’s Policy Board.
Monahan always has been driven to achieve success. Upon taking over as the Tour’s chief marketing officer, he described his aspirations to CMO.com in 2013: “One simple goal: to be the best sports marketing operation among any league or property,” he said. “That means the best people, ideas and resources. If we achieve that, the business results will follow.”
Monahan is a man of thick New England heritage, having grown up in Belmont, a Boston suburb. It took a good deal to pull him away from a dream job with the Fenway Sports Group, which had allowed him to work daily with his beloved Boston Red Sox. But in 2008 he would be pried away, and only because a game he loves, and a special brand, came calling.
“There’s only one thing I could leave the Red Sox for,” Monahan, who played golf at Div. III Trinity College, told writer Jim McCabe in a 2014 interview with Golfweek, “and that’s golf.”
So at Tour headquarters, the familiar face in the big office may change, but many of the challenges will not. Monahan will inherit an organization that is enjoying a significant amount of momentum. It has pretty much a fully sponsored tournament lineup, will play for $339 million in prize money in 2016-17 and is a highly tuned charitable-giving machine (crossing $2.3 billion total in the Tour’s lifetime). Sure, there is much work ahead, but mainly Monahan and the team he assembles will be charged with keeping things speeding along.
“Under Tim’s leadership, the PGA Tour has made remarkable progress, even in the most difficult economic times,” Monahan said in a statement released Monday evening. “We are now entering a very important time in our organization’s history, and I know our executive team and I will draw upon and be inspired by the invaluable experience of working with Tim as we take advantage of the extraordinary opportunities, as well as face the challenges, that are ahead for the Tour.”
In 2002, Mark Steinberg, now a partner at Excel Sports Management and Tiger Woods’ longtime agent, worked for IMG and convinced Deutsche Bank to come onboard to start a late-summer PGA Tour event outside Boston. One huge challenge: He needed just the right man to lead it. Monahan, who was director of global sponsorships at EMC, was handpicked by Steinberg to be that guy.
“Jay really didn’t have experience in running a golf tournament, but he wasn’t necessarily the tournament director … we needed a face of Boston,” Steinberg said. “When you can get that, which he was, and you get all the other benefits of just the type of businessman – the type of man – he is, it was a no-brainer for me. I had to do everything I could to get him.”
In the tournament’s first three years the fledgling Deutsche Bank Championship raised $4.5 million for its main charity, the Tiger Woods Foundation. The Tour thought so much of the event and how smoothly it was run that when it looked to start up the FedEx Cup in 2007, DBC became one of four playoff events.
“He’s unbelievable,” Sternberg added of Monahan. “He became a friend over the years, somebody I grew to admire.”
Monahan was the first executive director of the Deutsche Bank Championship, which began in 2003, and after a stint with Fenway Sports he joined the PGA Tour in 2008 as executive director at The Players Championship. He has filled roles as senior vice-president of business development, chief marketing officer and, more recently, deputy commissioner and chief operating officer.
Monahan was a four-year member of the golf team at Div. III Trinity College, where in 1993 he was an All-American. He received a masters degree in sports management from the University of Massachusetts in 1995. He and his wife, Susan, have two daughters.
Monahan will officially take over as commissioner on Jan. 1, 2017, upon the retirement of Finchem.
People who know Monahan marvel at his depth of quality relationships, his work ethic and his ability to get things done. Finchem’s recommendation that Monahan succeed him carried considerable weight with the PGA Tour Policy Board. Monahan always was his five-tool player. When he would take over? That was always a little hazy. But in identifying Monahan as the one to succeed him, Finchem had no doubts.
“What was prime in my mind was that he was the guy,” Finchem said. “And the question became, what was the right time frame? We didn’t even think that much about it for the first year, and then we started honing in on it. There are a variety of factors that led to the track that he currently was on.
“But I knew it needed to be him.”
There were other quality candidates. Why Monahan?
Said Finchem, “He doesn’t have a negative moment in his day. I mean, he is a total glass-is-half-full individual, and I think you’ll see that as we go forward. … Fifteen years from now, we will look back and say, ‘Wow, look what the PGA Tour has done.’ ”