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BACKGROUNDER

Board of Directora LA Sports and Entertainment Commission; former member of the LA Convention Center Commission; former Director of Golf for the State of Hawaii. Was legal counsel for J.A.C.L., the oldest Japanese American Civil Rights organization in the U.S.  Named as one of the 100 most influential attorneys in California by The Daily Journal. Served as a Commissioner on L.A.P.D., L.A.F.D. and POST (Peace Officer Standard Training).  Currently on the Board of Directors of DEA Educational Foundation. Formerly the Appointments Secretary to Governor Gray Davis, responsible for 3000 Board and Commissions in the State of California.   

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You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?

Something fun or interesting is going to happen every day!

You staged a most successful US Amateur last year and Riviera is set to host the ’28 golf competition in the Summer Olympics when the Games return to Los 

Hole #18

Angeles. What prompted the desire to go full throttle and expand the club’s reach with such events?

If you are not a golfer, the US Open or Masters is meaningless to you.  The Olympics are a global event, everyone goes for the Gold!

Michael Yamaki

The 2023 US Open will be held for the first time at LACC / North and that event marks the first time the national championship of American golf will return to the immediate Los Angeles area since 1948 when Riviera was the venue for Ben Hogan’s record setting win. Do you envision Riviera hosting a future US Open and do you see the USGA being interested in coming back?

The US Open is the cash cow for all the programs the USGA puts on.  Therefore, part of the selection process is dependent on how much money can be generated by the venue.  If they ever change the event to pay per view, we might be in the mix!

What lessons were learned from the ’95 PGA Championship when the failure of the putting surfaces to be at their best became a major storyline for that event?  

Too many cooks spoil the sauce!  Our then superintendent tried to please the U.S.G.A., P.G.A. Tour, P.G.A. of America and a host of our well intentioned members giving advice.  Today, Matt Morton, our superintendent along with Paul Latshaw, our consultant, have complete control over agronomy.   

What does it mean to the club and to the event to have Tiger Woods back in the field for the first since ’02?

Tiger is our home town hero — we all want him to do well.

It’s interesting to point out that neither Woods, thus far, nor Jack Nicklaus ever won the LA Open although the Golden Bear did come close to winning the ’83 PGA Championship when held at Riviera. Why do you think that is?

It’s “The Curse of Hogan.” Jack was always chasing Hogan’s success here at Riviera and Tiger also wants to do well in front of his hometown crowd so there is a lot of pressure.

You’ve been quite candid about your concerns that too many of the key majors are held at east coast locations. Do you view such feelings as being warranted given the recent site selections that have happened?  

I am happy the USGA is coming back to Southern California.  But there is still an east coast bias in all sports because of the time difference.  Many sports writers are sleeping by the time we finish all of our games.

You can change one thing in golf unilaterally – what would it be and why?

It’s the ball. Dial back the distance the ball travels, people will still buy new balls.

The major golf associations — USGA, R&A, PGA of America, PGA TOUR, LPGA — are all seeking ways to attract new players to the game especially among juniors, Millennials, women and minorities. If you were counseling them what would you recommend be done?

In an effort to attract these new players to the exciting game of golf these Organizations should try to make it affordable and approachable.   

  • Subsidize the golf experience for courses who struggle to have an income during summer months for a win-win solution.
  • In Los Angeles the two muni courses, Wilson and Harding, are at the same location.  Harding (the shorter course) can be subsidized in the summer months on Tuesdays and Thursdays, after 2 PM with a flat fee of $5 for new players.  Experienced golfers will golf at Wilson to avoid all the beginners and allow the beginners to golf at Harding with less pressure in a less intimidating environment.  This will also increase the revenue at Wilson.  
  • The USGA., PGA of America, PGA TOUR and LPGA can negotiate accordingly with courses across the country who struggle to have an income during summer, it will be a win-win!
  • Another way to encourage new players is to recruit local companies to establish an after-work golf league, similar to bowling leagues — after 5pm.  They can play a 5-hole match and have pizza and beer after the round.
  • Companies would recruit A-B-C and D players.  The D player must be a beginner player and double par is max.  A’s play with A’s, etc.  The winning team is usually the one with a D player who scores a triple on a par 4.  You will now have four novice players who are excited about playing golf because they were able to compete for their company on an equal basis, not feeling intimated or pressured because in the end it is the pizza and beer they are coming for.  The goal for the D player is to become an A player one day!  

These ideas will attract new players by providing them a less intimidating environment and encouraging them to have fun, be competitive, passionate and committed.

Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from.

My mom told me “never give up and always do your best!”   

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