2005: USGA shakes up Executive Committee

In an unexpected move, the Nominating Committee of the U.S. Golf Association has voted to terminate two of the most prominent members of the USGA Executive Committee at the association’s next annual meeting in early 2006, Golfweek has learned.

It is the 15-member Executive Committee, composed entirely of unpaid volunteers, that makes all final decisions for the ruling body of golf in the United States.

The two departing Executive Committee members are Paul Caruso Jr. of Helena, Mont., and Mary Bea Porter-King of Kapaa, Hawaii.

Caruso and Porter-King will be replaced by golf course architect Steve Smyers of Lakeland, Fla., and Patrick McKinney of Kiawah Island, S.C.

Caruso is one of two USGA vice presidents and was presumed to be second in line for the USGA presidency.

Porter-King, a former winner on the LPGA, is one of the most popular members of the Executive Committee.

Many USGA committee members and staff employees at the U.S. Women’s Open in Cherry Hills Village, Colo., were surprised by the news, although they declined to allow their names to be used.

“I cannot believe what is happening,” said one longtime USGA committee member. “People are really upset about this. Some are mad as hell. Everybody loves Mary Bea.”

Porter-King cried as she stood on the 18th green at Cherry Hills Country Club after the awards ceremony.

“I really can’t talk about it,” she said. ‘It’s too emotional right now.”

Later she added, “I’m still in shock. I gave everything I could to the USGA. I guess I didn’t give enough; I don’t know.”

Porter-King, who joined the Executive Committee in 2001, acknowledged “the tremendous support of all the people around here. The USGA staff has been incredible.”

The move is the latest chapter in the controversial saga of the USGA Executive Committee. Last year, USGA secretary Eric Gleacher was removed from the Executive Committee, causing fellow member Jack Vardaman to resign in protest.

Nominations for the Executive Committee are made by a Nominating Committee that is composed of two recent former presidents of the USGA along with three other individuals who have not been USGA presidents.

Chairman of the Nominating Committee is F. Morgan (Buzz) Taylor Jr. of Juno Beach, Fla., who was USGA president in 1998-99. Trey Holland of Indianapolis, USGA president in 2000-01, also is a member. The other three members are Winfield Padgett of Dallas, John O’Neill of Southampton, N.Y., and Christopher Liedel of Reston, Va. Padgett and O’Neill are former members of the Executive Committee.

The makeup of the Executive Committee undergoes some changes every year, with a simple majority vote of the Nominating Committee determining the fate of current Executive Committee members. This means Caruso and Porter-King received “no” votes from at least three members of the Nominating Committee.

Executive Committee members serve one-year terms and are not guaranteed a minimum length of service. These members pay most of their own expenses, including travel and housing costs, to attend USGA meetings and championships.

Porter-King, the primary force behind the establishment of the Hawaii State Junior Golf Association, was informed of the decision while in New York for the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association banquet June 21, at which the annual Mary Bea Porter Humanitarian Award is presented.

The award was created after Porter-King scaled a fence to save a drowning boy’s life. While playing in an LPGA event in Phoenix, she noticed a young boy floating unconscious in the pool of a house bordering the golf course. She climbed the fence, pulled the boy from the pool and administered CPR.

“Their timing stinks,” said Porter-King, who served as a rules official at the U.S. Women’s Open.

Caruso, who was USGA treasurer before being named vice president, could not be reached for comment. President of the Helena First Security Bank, he had been considered an ideal Executive Committee member because he lives in a small city in the western part of the United States. The USGA frequently has been criticized for being dominated by wealthy East Coast golfers.

Caruso and Porter-King clearly are separated from the eastern golf establishment. (USGA headquarters is located in Far Hills, N.J.)

There is more fuel for critics. Not only are there no women on the Nominating Committee, there also is no representation from the western United States. Padgett, who owns a printing company in Dallas, is the only member of the Nominating Committee who lives west of the Mississippi River. Emily R. (Missy) Crisp is the only woman on the Executive Committee.

McKinney is one of the owners of Cassique Golf Club, which has been actively attempting to land a future USGA championship.

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