Tom O’Toole Jr. is in his first year as president of the United States Golf Association. He has been involved with the USGA since 1988.
He has been certified as a golf rules experts every year since 1990, and a member of the rules committee since 2004. He was secretary in 2010, and Vice President of the of USGA 2011 to 2013. O’Toole has served as a rules official for 135 USGA Championships, including every U.S. Open since 1990.
” WE NEED TO CONTINUE TO WORK BRINGING PEOPLE INTO THE GAME. IT’S A 70 BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY, THIS GAME IS IN GOOD HEALTH, LET’S NOT ALL SCREAM FIRE IN A THEATRE,BUT WE’VE GOT TO WORK AT IT, WE HAVE JOINED FORCES WITH OUR PARTNERS TO WORK AT IT. BUT OUR GAME IS GOING TO BE OKAY. WE JUST HAVE TO CONTINUE TO EXPOSE IT, TO NEW PEOPLE.” USGA President Tom O’Toole, on the state of the game of golf.
USGA PRESIDENT TOM O’TOOLE, has made two recent visits to the Chicago area. He was first on the tee in July to speak at the University Club to launch promotion of the 115th U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields Country Club that will be played next August. Last week O’Toole returned as one of the featured speakers, at the Chicago District Golf Association’s Centennial dinner at the Palmer House.
Below is part of his media session from July. His interview with CDGA magazine staff writer Tim Cronin and Golfers on Golf before the CDGA dinner, covered a variety of topics and is found on the audio track below.
Q. What were the considerations in choosing Olympia Fields for the amateur ?
O’Toole: The USGA has had a policy for about a decade that says Championship Committees, said to accept invitations from clubs for the U.S. Amateur, those clubs should be a past or future U.S. Open site. So with 1928 and 2003 under Olympia Fields belt… Not only the North Course, but the restoration of the South Course, then the aspects of having 36 holes at one spot for 312 players to conduct our stroke play portion, operationally that’s exciting and welcoming to our staff. So I think Olympia Fields had that component. They have had a championship history there since 1928. It was an invitation we were excited to receive, and we are looking forward to next August.
Q. What are some of things you and your USGA colleagues love about this championship.
O’Toole: Well besides it being our oldest championship by one day in 1895, this a learned golf group here today, but when you speak to people that are not as initiated, the first thing you have to try to draw the distinction is that the USGA is an amateur body. That’s why we were formed in December of 1894, to really conduct national championships, which are primarily of amateur variety.
The U.S. Amateur is the most coveted title in amateur golf. While people will debate which of the professional major championships is the best. I don’t think there’s any debate in men’s amateur golf that the most coveted title is the Havemeyer Trophy that has been conducted since that summer of 1895 at Newport Country Club. It has a long connection with what the USGA represents and the epitome of what were trying to do in our championship presentation. I’ve had a chance to interact with a lot of the past amateur champions. What that title has meant in their career’s and it’s pretty remarkable.
Q. What excites you about Olympia Fields, specifically the golf courses ?
O’TOOLE: Well I think two great tests of golf courses. When we went to 312 players, if you look historically when we went to companion sites that were away from the host site, not part of that club,we probably went to some sites where we can get an 18-hole round posted, but it doesn’t meet the test or level of the championship presentation that the host site where the match play portion was going to be conducted. I think what we have here is that we have two really good golf courses that arguably, particularly after Steve Smyers restored the South Course, are challenging to one another. I think we could get a good debate between their membership on which course they like the most. From a clubhouse perspective, it doesn’t get any bigger or more expansive than Olympia Fields. That will give the club a lot of capability to do some things hopefully with some sponsors and with spectators and people that can come an enjoy the championship. I Think Chicago is a great golf market, and to bring our oldest championship here, and I think it’s been here 13 times, is something special to the USGA.
Q. Have there been any discussions about course set up as compared to the set up that was used here for the 2003 U.S. Open ?
O’TOOLE : Ben Kimball who oversee’s our men’s amateur championship has Tom Meeks and a mentoring Mike Davis’ notes from 2003. I think the championship will be conducted nearly as it was in 2003 for the Men’s Open. There may be some slight modifications. 2003 was a good test, Furyk won there. But I think there have been a couple of teeing grounds added and the like. I think you will see that the philosophies have changed slightly under the Davis regime. You’ll probably see graduated rough, probably drivable par 4’s, if that makes sense in the set up from one day to the next. In match play you can do a lot of different things and create some different challenges intellectually and mentally. I think you will see some of that.
FROM THE CDGA DINNER INTERVIEW :
USGA PRESIDENT TOM O’TOOLE speaks with Tim Cronin and Rory Spears at the CDGA Centennial dinner. O’Toole covered a variety of topics, including a review of 2014, a preview of 2015, the new TV contract with Fox, what’s happening at the USGA in Far Hills, the state of the game of golf and more.
STAY CLICKED IN for our story and feature with USGA Executive Director Mike Davis, coming soon.