Steve Mona has undoubtedly remained well below your radar as a “Celebrity Golfer,” but the CEO of the World Golf Foundation doesn’t mind in the least. Inside his office at St. Augustine’s World Golf Village—a golf mecca/resort with the World Golf Hall of Fame and the two championship courses, Slammer & Squire and King & Bear—his work is behind the scenes as he fulfills the mission of the WGF to focus “on a variety of initiatives to grow and celebrate the game of golf around the world.”

Steve Mona

Steve Mona (Photo Courtesy of World Golf Foundation)

To the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors to whom he reports, Mona is, without question, one of the “Most Powerful People in Golf,” an accolade he has received every year since 1999. The long-term direction and policies of the WGF are determined by these seven men and Steve Mona.

Imagine sitting around the boardroom table with these commissioners, executive directors, and CEO’s of golf’s most influential governing bodies: Pete Bevacqua, PGA of America; Mike Davis, USGA; Peter Dawson, The R&A; Tim Finchem, PGA TOUR; Will Jones, The Masters; George O’Grady, European Tour; and Michael Whan, LPGA.

Imagine also discussing these initiatives with these men that, as Steve Mona quoted, “positively impact lives through the game of golf and its traditional values.” Several of these initiatives are the World Golf Hall of Fame, The First Tee, and Golf 20/20.

Mona is well qualified for his significant responsibilities. His first golf industry job was as tournament director of the Northern California Golf Association and then as the assistant manager of press relations for the USGA. In 1983, he was named the executive director of the Georgia State Golf Association. In 1993, he became the CEO of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, a position he held until 2008 when he assumed the role as CEO of the WGF.

So, learn a little more about Steve Mona and the World Golf Foundation to see if you don’t agree that he deserves “Celebrity Golfer” status, even if he is reluctant to accept it.

NEGM: What is the purpose of the World Golf Foundation?
SM: PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman, in the early 1990’s, had a vision to create an organization that would bring the golf industry together to collaborate on initiatives that no one organization could take on by itself. The World Golf Foundation takes on the biggest, broadest issues confronting the game of golf.

SMona1In 1997, the first initiative was The First Tee program. The second initiative was the World Golf Hall of Fame, opening in 1998. Third was Golf 20/20 in 2000. In early 2007, Tim Finchem reorganized the board to get all the people who could influence golf decisions on a world-wide basis in the same room.

NEGM: Why isn’t the WGF as well-known as the USGA or the PGA of America?
SM: WGF is a trade brand, meaning we’re not a consumer brand. We’re not trying to create a high profile in golf along the lines of a PGA of America, the USGA, or PGA TOUR. Our work is done at the trade level, so essentially we serve to bring the industry together on a number of issues. Our individual brands are more important than the umbrella organization of the WGF.

SMona2The First Tee is a consumer brand. We spend a lot of time promoting The First Tee, and it has become a remarkable program. Same thing with the WGHOF, a consumer brand that celebrates the history and personalities that have made the game unique. Golf 20/20 is also a trade brand, and the US golf industry helps to support its mission of growing interest and participation in the game.

NEGM: How often do you meet with the Board? What do you discuss with these men?
SM: We have three meetings a year. Our only in person meeting is the Wednesday afternoon of the Masters. Our second and third meetings are conference calls. In the late summer we finalize the inductees for the WGHOF. In early December we review our annual performance for the year and propose the budget and strategic plans for the following year. I meet and talk to individual board members all year long.

Steve Mona in his office at the World Golf Foundation. (Photography by Vicky MacKay)

Steve Mona in his office at the World Golf Foundation. (Photography by Vicky MacKay)

We discuss broad issues that affect the game. For example, we discussed how to get golf into the Olympics, which became a reality for 2016. We also formulated golf’s anti-doping policy that each tour now administers. And we informally discussed the anchoring ban outside the board room.

NEGM: The success of The First Tee and the legacy of the World Golf Hall of Fame are well known, but what is Golf 20/20 and how does it work?
SM: It is golf’s trade organization in that it is the public information office of the golf industry. It oversees areas that formulate research for our initiatives, improves public and media relations through our Image of the Game initiative, and contacts government agencies through our We Are Golf lobby.

Image of the Game and We Are Golf publicize four major points: (1) the golf industry makes a substantial contribution to the economic well being of the country with its $69 billion a year impact and two million jobs; (2) the charitable impact of golf is around $4 billion a year, most of it from one-day events at the country’s 15,000 golf courses. (3) properly sited, designed, constructed, and maintained, a golf course can be an environmental asset; (4) golf has important health and wellness benefits to complement one’s physical fitness routine.

Steve Mona plays about 25 rounds a year because of his busy schedule, but he still manages to maintain a 10 handicap.

Steve Mona plays about 25 rounds a year because of his busy schedule, but he still manages to maintain a 10 handicap. (Photo courtesy of the World Golf Foundation)

Golf 20/20’s most important initiative is Get Golf Ready, a huge success in introducing people to golf. By the end of 2013, it will be in 4,000 facilities with 100,000 people “graduating.”

NEGM: What should golfers remember about the purpose of the World Golf Foundation?
SM: One, that player development and growing the game are our biggest concerns, with diversity a major component of each. Two, that we are the starting point of a very vital three-step process: we facilitate conversation that leads to action that generates increased interest and participation in the game worldwide. I like to say that the World Golf Foundation sets the stage upon which other golf organizations and associations walk.

For more information about the World Golf Foundation, World Golf Hall of Fame, and World Golf Village access their respective websites: www.worldgolffoundation.org; www.worldgolfhalloffame.org; www.worldgolfvillage.com.