Seth Waugh is stepping aside after 6 years leading the PGA of America (2024)

Seth Waugh is leaving the PGA of America after six years as CEO, a period marked by a sharp boost in golf participation and PGA membership and moving headquarters from Florida to a massive complex in Texas.

Waugh was the CEO of Deutsche Bank Americas when he joined the PGA of America board as an independent director and then was hired to lead the 30,000-plus members in 2018.

His contract was up for renewal on June 30, and Waugh decided not to renew.

“It feels like the right time, not only personally but professionally,” Waugh said. “We’ve accomplished an awful lot in the six years. The game has never been in better shape. Participation is at an all-time high. It’s growing in all the ways we hoped it would.

“The fastest growth is women and people of color. We try to make the game look like the rest of the world, and maybe have the world behave more like our game.”

Waugh will stay on with the PGA of America in a senior advisory role. He will be at the British Open and Paris Olympics and plans to be part of the Ryder Cup next year at Bethpage Black.

The PGA of America said it has begun a search for CEO including candidates from inside and outside the association. Kerry Haigh, the chief championships officer and a key executive since 1989, will be interim CEO but will not be a candidate.


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“We are grateful for Seth’s leadership and for all that he accomplished for our members, our game, the business and our people,” PGA of America President John Lindert said. “He skillfully led us through incredibly challenging times and was always a great partner. We are fortunate to be able to call on him going forward for his always helpful advice and counsel.”

Waugh’s involvement in golf dates back longer than his time with the PGA of America. He was behind bringing a PGA Tour event to the TPC Boston in 2003 — PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan was the first tournament director of the Deutsche Bank Championship — and he has been a key voice in business and golf along the way.

“Seth’s voice on important issues has been steady and stellar as the golf world has gone through unprecedented change during his tenure,” Masters chairman Fred Ridley said.

Among his chief goals when he became CEO was supporting the professionals that spend long hours teaching the game. That includes a deferred compensation retirement plan for PGA of America members.

“The first time in 110 years anyone figured that out. I borrowed from my own background to help with that,” Waugh said. “But our membership satisfaction is at an all-time high.”

He said the average salary for a professional has exceeded $100,000 for the first time, and membership has surpassed 30,000, another benchmark.

Waugh had been been dropping hints since April that he was nearing the end. He signed up for a four-year term as CEO — he compared four years to a college or presidential term — and felt that would be enough time to make changes. He agreed to two more years in 2022 after golf made it through the COVID-19 pandemic with spikes in participation.

Most notably to Waugh was the age of those playing.

“We’re not declaring victory by any means, but the greatest statistic is 48% of all golfers are under the age of 35,” he said. “That’s generational growth, people from 25 playing until they’re 75, as opposed to playing from 65 to 75. It’s such a sea change.

“You realize this generation wants to do things with purpose, and golf has purpose,” he said. “You’re a teacher, a coach, and you have a mission to make lives better. The whole premise why I took this job was I felt I’d never have a chance to have more impact on more lives.”

He had no immediate plans after his board duties at the Olympics.

“I have often said that golf is one of the great engines of good on Earth,” he said. “I am perhaps the biggest all-time beneficiary of that good and I want to thank the membership, my colleagues, all the various board members, past presidents, our extraordinary partners, my peers at all the other golf bodies, as well as everyone who plays and loves our beautiful game for all the support and friendship during this journey.

“What a gift that has been.”


AP golf:

Seth Waugh is stepping aside after 6 years leading the PGA of America (2024)


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