In February 2016, Diana M. Murphy, of St. Simons Island, Ga., was elected as the United States Golf Association’s 64th president, the second woman in its history to hold the organization’s highest position. She is serving her sixth year as a member of the USGA Executive Committee first as president, having previously served as treasurer in 2013 and as vice president in 2014 and 2015. We recently sat down with Ms. Murphy to discuss the USGA and her new role.
Although he died when I was an infant, my father is the reason I am where I am today. His love of golf was passed down to me through my brother. My father came to America from England and worked hard in the coal mines, but every time he found himself with spare time, he spent it on the golf course.
I don’t own many of my father’s keepsakes, but one in particular is special to me and maintains permanent residency in my office. It is a scarred, MacGregor 4-wood with a steel shaft and old-fashioned leather grip with Ben Hogan’s name across the top. To me — it is a constant reminder of the eternal allure of golf — a game that has survived 600 years by constantly evolving.
MATT WARD: You were just elected to be the USGA’s president, just the second woman in the Association’s history. What’s really changed for women golfers since the first woman, Judy Bell, held the position? Has much really changed, especially for women’s golf at the public-course level, since 20 years ago?
DIANA MURPHY: First, it is an honor to be mentioned with Judy Bell. She actually encouraged me to get involved with the USGA Membership Committee during her presidency. As far as women’s golf, it is something that is very important to the Association, as evidenced by our involvement with LPGA-USGA Girls Golf and the addition of the U.S. Senior Women’s Open in 2018. With the Senior Women’s Open, the USGA now has a national championship for every demographic. Our continued involvement with the Masters Tournament and The PGA of America on Drive, Chip & Putt has been a great vehicle for outreach to youth golfers. The enthusiasm of the competitors is so exciting to see and we know the event will continue to gain momentum going forward.
MW: If you had to name one specific agenda item of utmost importance during your expected two-year time frame as USGA president what would it be and how do you expect to carry it out?
DM: I spoke about my “Plus One” philosophy at the Annual Meeting. It’s simple: I want everyone to reach out to someone this year and introduce them to golf. Ideally, it would be someone from a different background who may be interested in golf but doesn’t know how to get involved. We want to encourage golfers to serve as mentors. Making an investment in another individual is a powerful gift. The Plus One does not even have to play; they can volunteer at a championship or even just watch the game on TV. It all makes an impact in some way, and this game is too great not to be shared.
MW: The female golf population in the States has remained at a roughly flat percentage figure when compared to other sports. What role can the USGA play to get more women playing the game and parallel to that – equally do on the side of minority participation?
DM: Our work with initiatives such as LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, The First Tee, and Drive, Chip & Putt provides the means and motivation for youth to get involved in the game. A lot of this game’s future success will be reliant on getting kids interested at a young age and keeping them engaged to play the game for alifetime. We continue to make strides for greater inclusion and ways to play the game that are more time friendly. By supporting programs like Play9 we hope to get people out on the course to see how much fun it is and how the game can be played in a shorter amount of time.We are also asking ourselves, along with other golf organizations, what else can we do? Stay tuned, we have big plans.
MW: If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally what would it be?
DM: I am really excited about the work we are doing to modernize the Rules of the game. There is a need to consolidate and organize the Rules of Golf in a plain-spoken, easier-to-understand format. It is something we have active conversations about and I expect we will hear more about it in the next couple of years.
MW: The USGA has brought forward a new requirement that golf scores can no longer be posted for handicap purposes if the person doing so has played by themselves. Since golf is fundamentally a game of honor, what was broken with the past practice?
DM: Handicap manipulation is an area of contention from golf facilities and the concept of peer review is important in maintaining the integrity of the USGA Handicap System. Golf is also becoming an increasingly global game and as players compete with one another around the world, it is important to assure that a Handicap Index® has value.
MW: You and your husband, Reg, are the first couple to hold the presidency of the USGA. What’s it like when the two of you discuss USGA situations given his past connection and your long involvement with the Association?
DM: Reg and I talk about our individual golf games, our travel schedule and elite golfers regularly, but we don’t talk about the USGA.That is off limits.
MW: You’ve got one round left to play – where do you tee it up, and who makes up your foursome?
DM: My ideal foursome would include my husband, Reg, Arnold Palmer and Davis Love III and I would let Arnie or Davis decide where we should play. I’ve only played approximately 100 courses. I want to play 1000 more before I make a final choice.WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?