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PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh stepping down; not renewing contract

Seth Waugh, PGA of America, PGA Championship
PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh speaks to the media ahead of the 2024 PGA Championship. | Photo by Darren Carroll/PGA of America via Getty Images

The man in charge of the PGA of America, the organization that runs the Ryder Cup and the PGA Championship, is stepping down.

After six years of serving the PGA of America as the organization’s Chief Executive Officer, Seth Waugh has decided to step down.

Waugh, who previously served as CEO of Deutsche Bank Americas, became the CEO of the PGA of America in September 2018, the same month Le Golf National in Paris hosted the 2018 Ryder Cup. Of course, the PGA of America facilitates both the Ryder Cup and the PGA Championship.

But now, a month before Le Golf National will host the Men’s and Women’s Olympic Golf Competition, Waugh announced in a statement that he will not renew his contract with the organization.

“I recently informed the board that I would not be renewing my contract that is set to expire on June 30, but I am honored to continue to serve the association as a Senior Advisor,” Waugh said.

Seth Waugh, Xander Schauffele, PGA Championship Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Seth Waugh and Xander Schauffele at Valhalla.

“It has been an absolute privilege and honor to serve as the CEO of the PGA of America for the past six years.”

Waugh has had quite a tenure. In May 2019, he helped lead the organization at Bethpage Black, which hosted the PGA Championship in May for the first time instead of its traditional August date.

Then, a global pandemic disrupted the entire world, which consequently led to a golfing boom among amateur players. People from all walks of life have begun to play the game as the sport continues to grow among younger, more diverse populations.

But the men’s professional game has been divided over the past few years thanks to LIV Golf’s prominence. Waugh and the PGA of America have mostly stayed out of the PGA Tour-LIV Golf fray, but he did say at Oak Hill in 2023 that “division is not good for the game.”

Nevertheless, the PGA of America invited numerous LIV Golf players to compete at Valhalla this year, hoping to create the strongest field in all golf.

On top of that, Waugh has repeatedly opined about rolling back the golf ball, which has sparked controversy over the past decade. The United States Golf Association (USGA) and the R&A—the two governing bodies golf has—wanted to create a rule where professional golfers would use a limited-distance golf ball to combat the preposterous length players now have.

“We fear that the proposed changes could seriously interrupt the current momentum in the game and be fundamentally damaging and detrimental in the long run,” Waugh wrote in July 2023.

“It is something that we feel could lead to division and cause us to lose a very precarious characteristic of golf; the fact that we all play on the same course with the same clubs and balls. In our view, this dynamic should be preserved as a fundamental tenet.”

To respond, the USGA and the R&A decided that, instead of creating a different ball for pro circuits, all golfers must play with a newer limited-distance ball that will be instituted in pro events in 2028 and among the amateur game by 2030.

“The very best will figure out this new ball and how to hit it farther than I certainly do,” Waugh said at Valhalla in May 2024.

Seth Waugh, PGA Championship Photo by Darren Carroll/PGA of America via Getty Images
From right to left: Seth Waugh, John Lindert, and Kerry Haigh speak to the media ahead of the 2024 PGA Championship.

“I think our biggest fear is for that part of the game that is growing, are you going to sort of disrupt that for one-half of one percent that are out there, right, and where do you draw the line of what’s elite and what’s not? Is a club championship elite or not? And so, we are glad it’s one rule, and the game will be bigger than any of this. We can all argue about it, but the game will be fine both recreationally and, I think, professionally, as well.”

Waugh has witnessed some incredible events play out during his tenure, too.

He saw Phil Mickelson become the oldest major champion at Kiawah Island. He also witnessed Justin Thomas win his second Wanamaker Trophy at Southern Hills in 2022. Then, Michael Block became an internet sensation at Oak Hill, jarring a hole-in-one on the 15th hole that golf fans will remember forever.

Plus, he watched the Americans win the Ryder Cup on home soil in 2021, when Steve Stricker captained Team USA to victory in his native Wisconsin.

However, a captain has yet to be announced for the 2025 competition at Bethpage Black. Luke Donald, meanwhile, will return as the leader of Team Europe after their resounding victory in Rome last fall.

Still, Waugh feels confident in his work and will continue to consult the organization as an advisor. PGA of America Chief Championships Officer Kerry Haigh will serve as CEO in the interim.

“The goal from the start was to leave the room better than we found it, and I believe that together, we have done just that,” Waugh added.

“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 this has been.”

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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