Murphy 2nd Female USGA President in Over a Century
In the golf world, the USGA is a big deal, a very big deal. In fact, in many areas, the USGA “is” the deal. It touches every area of organized golf. It sponsors championships, sets national rules, sets requirements for player status, equipment, and along with that and more, preserves and upholds the tradition of the game. The organization has done this for almost 122 years, and despite what some see as a rather overly-firm grip on things, we enjoy a marvelous thread of consistency, thanks to its efforts.
Golf was, at one time on the grassroots level, considered a man’s game, designed not only for the beauty that the game affords, but as an undertone, an escape from oppressive domesticity. Never mind that ancient female royalty got the whole thing going in Scotland. Never mind an LPGA founded in the early 50s, a tour that goes great guns in the present day. And, never mind that escape from oppressive domesticity is not restricted to the male realm. I have visited the home of the USGA, and have walked through the hallowed halls. It gave me a little of the same feeling I got walking through Westminster Abbey. The visual presentation for USGA visitors is beautifully laid out, thorough, and appropriately reverent. Yes, it’s a big, big deal.
So, if this is a man’s game, or was at one time, when did the glass fairway finally shatter? While tensions between male and female players may have required some sorting out here and there over the years, women made it clear some time ago that leadership was the point when it came to the fortunes of the USGA, and the overseer of the game agreed. The first female President of the organization served in 1996 and 1997 after succeeding her husband in the position – that was Judy Bell, an amateur golfer of some note, and a moving force within the industry.
It’s happened again, and this time, golf seems to experience little or no growing pains as Diana Murphy takes over the spot, succeeding Thomas O’Toole after consecutive terms. This is no token gesture by a club weary of social pressure. Murphy, a native Georgian, a journalism major out of West Virginia University, and the Managing Director of a corporation entitled Rocksolid (a name that should be comforting to any interested employer), has enjoyed a long association with the USGA, and she will not assume the position as a novice. She served for five years on the Executive Committee, and participated in the inner workings for decades before that in the mid-90s.
Not even the USGA could come up with a system too intricate for Murphy’s skills and background. Rocksolid works closely with colleges and universities over a wide area, and getting them to agree on much of anything is a neat trick. One responsibility that might require some nerve and midnight oil is the new partnership with Fox Sports, who is just getting its feet wet with professional golf. Some would say that a lot more than their feet got wet in the first season, particularly where a certain PGA major was concerned. Odds are that Murphy will do well with the relationship, and that things will smooth over. Fox is pretty good at their other sports – they’ll get the hang of it.
The tours are a visual presence for the general public. The PGA and LPGA are graspable for the imagination. We see their work every week during the golf year. The USGA, however, is not a spotlight-seeking group. It is the reason, however, that the LPGA, the PGA, and weekend golf in American even exists. That’s what sits in Diana Murphy’s hands – and frankly, I’m not worried, not the slightest bit.