INDIANAPOLIS – Candidates in what may be a historic vote for the PGA of America made their final pitch to delegates to become secretary of the association on Thursday.
Suzy Whaley, who is vying to become the association’s first female officer and eventual president, spoke first to the 117 delegates followed by Russ Libby and Michael Haywood.
The PGA Annual Meeting got off to a surreal start when officers from the Indiana Section, which is hosting the event, opened the proceedings early Thursday with what some considered a defense of Ted Bishop, the association’s ousted president following an insensitive tweet last month.
“We are 100 percent behind Ted,” said Tony Pancake, the Indiana Section president.
Whaley did not address Bishop or the tweet – which accused Ian Poulter of being a “Lil girl.” Instead, the Connecticut club professional spoke to the challenges facing the PGA, including growing the game with a promise to expand the PGA Junior League by perhaps creating a PGA College League or PGA Women’s League.
It was one of few references to women in the game made by Whaley.
Whaley began her speech by explaining she is a “traditional golf professional” but that the PGA must, “Transform the way the game looks without transforming the way the game is played,” she said.
Libby, a north Florida golf course owner and manager, was next with a focus on millennials and expanding the game through school programs and a more grassroots approach to what many consider the association’s No. 1 priority.
“Is a leader one that fires up the crowd, or is a leader the one who creates real growth,” Libby said. “I do recognize a leader has a public responsibility, but I want to increase focus on direct membership involvement.”
While Haywood, the director of golf at Tucson (Ariz.) Country Club, was much more detailed in his speech, calling for an expansion of the PGA’s “Get Golf Ready” initiative, greater involvement of the 41 PGA Sections in “We Are Golf,” the association’s lobbying effort, and a call for more accountability when it comes to the PGA’s south Florida golf properties.
“It’s not an amenity,” he said.
Haywood also made a plea “to look to a new generation of leadership.”
None of the three candidates for secretary touched any of the PGA’s hot-button issues, like the role of future presidents in the wake of the Bishop ouster, the Ryder Cup task force which is scheduled to meet for the first time next month or the impact future rule changes could have on the individual club professionals, like last year’s ban on anchoring.
The final vote will be held on Saturday with candidates needing a simple majority to be elected, and many observers consider Whaley and Libby the front-runners.
“It’s a shame they are running against each other because they would both make great officers,” said one delegate who asked not to be identified.