Former PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem wasn’t autocratic sufficient to summon folks to his modest workplace on the outdated Tour headquarters constructing.
Usually, he would shock a member of his govt workers by exhibiting up, unannounced, at their workplace or cubicle.
So it was that Ty Votaw was in his workplace within the spring of 2008 when Finchem dropped by with an concept. … and a cost to the 46-year-old former LPGA commissioner, who was then the Tour’s govt vice-president for Worldwide Affairs after overseeing a major worldwide growth of the ladies’s skilled recreation when he ran the LPGA from 1999-2005.
“Tim had been in a gathering with quite a few the golf organizations on the planet on the Masters and the U.S Golf Affiliation and R&A, which had been the founding members of the Worldwide Golf Federation, stated that golf had one other alternative to get into the Olympics for 2016,” Votaw stated, referring to an on-again, off-again debate that had been effervescent since 1996 when Augusta Nationwide member Billy Payne had tried to get golf into the Atlanta Video games he chaired.
“The query was requested, ‘What’s the easiest way to develop golf in your nation?’” Votaw stated of what was posed to greater than 100 representatives of the IGF. “Ninety-some p.c of the responses was to get golf into the Olympics, which was the one manner they may get cash from their governments for his or her nationwide golf federations.”
There was a catch. These amongst golf’s governing our bodies who had connections to the Worldwide Olympic Committee — similar to Payne — stated the one manner the game had an opportunity of returning to the Olympics for the primary time in additional than 100 years was to get the sport’s prime professionals to commit.
Since many of the prime male gamers on the planet performed on the PGA Tour, and Votaw had been extremely profitable because the LPGA commissioner, he was a pure to coordinate with IGF president Peter Dawson to develop a presentation to the IOC in Denmark in 2009.
Votaw agreed to change into the manager director of the IGF Olympic Golf Committee and he and Dawson went to work over an 18-month interval, first on the 2008 Beijing Video games, then touring around the globe to make their case to IOC members at subsequent conferences — backed by World Golf Corridor of Fame members similar to Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam.
They gained. In a 63-27 vote on Oct. 9, 2009, in Copenhagen, the IOC members accredited golf, which started on the Rio de Janeiro Video games and was performed for the second time final yr on the Tokyo Video games.
Finchem stated tapping Votaw as the purpose man was a no brainer.
“Ty had an awesome background within the recreation, was actually good with folks, handles himself properly and he’s good as a whip,” Finchem stated. “He was excellent … and I believe it’s truthful to say that there was a major profit to every part on a global stage to have golf again within the Olympics.”
As Votaw nears the tip of a three-decade profession that started in 1991 because the LPGA’s common counsel, his work in Olympic golf is the crowning achievement of a life dedicated to growing the game’s attain to as many elements of the world as doable.
Votaw, who has most not too long ago been the Tour’s govt vice-president, Worldwide, will retire on June 30, 16 years after leaving the LPGA and touring 90 minutes north to start on the PGA Tour. He hit 31 years in golf administration on June 6 however informed commissioner Jay Monahan final yr that he was pondering of retiring.
Votaw stated timing is correct
On the finish of every yr I at all times attempt to mirror on how I really feel in regards to the yr that simply handed and the yr arising,” stated Votaw, who additionally has been the Tour’s govt vice-president for worldwide affairs, chief advertising officer and chief international communications officer. “And understanding that I’ll have served over half of my life in golf on the LPGA or the PGA Tour, I simply felt it was sort of the appropriate time for me to have the dialog with Jay about what was the appropriate timing for me to retire.”
Monahan talked Votaw into staying on for the primary six months of this yr and likewise will probably be open to the thought of consulting with the Tour on an as-needed foundation.
“His mixture of management, enterprise acumen and diplomacy has undoubtedly modified the LPGA, the PGA Tour and the worldwide recreation for the higher,” Monahan stated in a press release on Feb. 15 when Votaw introduced his retirement.
Since Votaw wore quite a few hats — authorized, advertising, communications — and has contacts around the globe, with each governing physique, the cellphone may ring prior to he expects.
It could possibly be Monahan with a easy query or a request for assist. However it additionally could possibly be another person who needs to make the most of the expertise and enthusiasm of the Ohio College and North Carolina graduate who hails from the small Ohio city of Greenford, a small farming and mining neighborhood close to Youngstown.
“If the cellphone rings, and there’s any individual fascinating on the opposite finish of the cellphone, I’ll hear,” he stated. “If the cellphone by no means rings, I’m okay with that too.”
In that case, Votaw will get pleasure from life in Ponte Vedra together with his spouse Kelli and 16-year-old daughter Grace. He has two grown kids, Sam (28), a Stetson graduate who works at an internet design firm in Florence, Alabama, and Caroline (24), a realtor in Charleston, South Carolina.
Votaw has an element curiosity in a bourbon firm, Blue Run Spirits. He may truly play extra golf or reap the benefits of the First Coast life-style he missed due to his workaholic methods.
“After I lived in Daytona, and to an awesome extent right here, I knew my manner from my home to the workplace and to the airport,” he stated. “I at all times needed to do job so I didn’t essentially reap the benefits of what the remainder of the neighborhood has to supply. If I’ve any regrets, it’s about that. Now I’ve a possibility to do this.”
However Votaw’s pushed methods first reworked the LPGA after which golf on the worldwide stage.
‘Mr. Boy’ revitalizes LPGA Tour
Shortly after former LPGA commissioner Charlie Mechem lured Votaw from a snug company authorized profession in Cincinnati in 1991, Votaw met founding LPGA member Louise Suggs at a match. Suggs, who spoke her thoughts not like few different gamers, sized up Votaw, 29 on the time, and stated, “You’re nothing however a boy. How are you going to be common counsel?”
After working tirelessly for eight years, Votaw was employed to exchange Jim Ritts, who had taken over for Mechem. When he subsequent encountered Suggs, she stated, “Now I suppose I’ve to name you Mr. Boy.”
However nobody underestimated Votaw, particularly after he laid the groundwork for document TV scores, attendance, purses and web engagements because the LPGA’s vice-president for enterprise affairs.
Upon changing into commissioner in 1999, Votaw first helped the LPGA stage a year-long celebration of its fiftieth anniversary in 2000, launched the first-ever participant summit, the place he unveiled a five-year “Followers First” strategic marketing strategy and performed a key position in forming the World Congress of Ladies’s Golf.
Se Ri Pak fueled an explosion of South Korean golfers to the LPGA Tour.
Worldwide participation on the LPGA additionally exploded, particularly from Asia and led by South Korea. In 1998, the yr earlier than Votaw took over, U.S. gamers gained 17 tournaments and worldwide gamers 17. Nonetheless, three gamers, Annika Sorenstam (Sweden), Karrie Webb (Australia) and Se Ri Park (South Korea) mixed to win 10.
In 2005, Votaw’s last yr, worldwide gamers gained 23 tournaments to 10 for U.S. gamers, however international locations as various as Chile, the Philippines and Colombia produced LPGA winners — plus, from Mexico, a shy however nerveless 24-year-old from Mexico named Lorena Ochoa, who would go on to win 27 titles.
Votaw performs humble, and credit being lucky sufficient to be the LPGA commissioner at a time when the gamers he stated are on the “Mount Rushmore” of feminine worldwide stars got here alongside: Sorenstam, Webb, Pak and Ochoa.
He additionally identified that the 4 represented 4 distinct areas of the world: Europe, Australia, Asia and Latin America.
“It turned a extra globally-focused enterprise,” he stated. “For Asia, Se Ri profitable was the catalyst for the expansion in Asia. Earlier than her, there weren’t any Koreans on the Tour on the time however once I left there have been over 40. However all 4 contributed to the worldwide attain of ladies’s golf.”
After Votaw got here to the PGA Tour, one in all his first huge jobs was serving to Finchem navigate the 2008 recession. Many of the Tour’s title sponsorships agreements had been up by 2010 and the TV deal was set to run out in 2012.
However the Tour’s schedule didn’t contract, purses and charitable contributions weren’t lower and the financial storm was weathered.
Then got here the Olympic quest.
Promoting the world on golf
It wasn’t simply getting golf accredited, which was tough sufficient. Throughout greater than a yr of touring the globe, Votaw communicated in some method with all 106 members of the IOC, which included princes, princesses, sheiks, one Grand Duke and previous Olympians similar to Kip Keino, Jean-Claude Killy, Valerly Borzov and Sergey Bubka.
As soon as golf was voted in, a golf course was wanted.
Rio de Janeiro didn’t have a course appropriate for a serious championship and architect Gil Hanse was enlisted to carve out a championship-caliber monitor for the world’s finest gamers. Pursuant to Olympic necessities, the course needed to be constructed with the utmost care by way of environmental considerations.
Only for yet one more curveball, the Zika virus, carried by mosquitos, surfaced within the Southern Hemisphere and gamers similar to Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson declined to take part.
Nonetheless, the medalists had been stars from each males’s and girls’s golf: Justin Rose gained the gold, adopted by Henrik Stenson and Matt Kuchar, whereas Inbee Park gained ladies’s golf, with Lydia Ko and Shanshan Feng additionally on the rostrum.
Xander Schauffele and Nelly Korda gained gold final yr in Japan.
The impact of golf within the Olympics will be measured in a single key manner: There have been 100 nationwide federations for golf earlier than the game was added to the Olympics, and that determine has jumped 50 p.c to 150.
“It wasn’t simple,” Votaw admits. “The media questioned whether or not we should always have golf within the Olympics, with main championships, and the Ryder, Presidents and Solheim Cups. We needed to present that it might enchantment to a youthful viewers. Is it environmentally accountable? Is it elitist?”
Votaw stated golf’s beliefs mesh with the Olympics code in addition to any sport.
“We confirmed that the values of our sport are complementary to the Olympic Motion,” he stated. “Given the worldwide nature of our sport, golf could be good for the Olympics and the Olympics could be good for golf.”
Votaw once more likes to share the credit score … with Dawson, golf’s governing our bodies, the final three PGA Tour commissioners and the highest gamers on the planet who lent their highly effective voices.
“I’m very lucky … I believe I’ve set a world document for being round probably the most nice folks in my 31 years,” Votaw stated. “I give Deane credit score, Tim credit score, Jay credit score, for being able to not view the world from behind their desk however perceive the place golf can go. I used to be in the appropriate place on the proper time.”
Votaw stated skilled golf is in place, regardless of the upstart LIV Golf Worldwide. He didn’t need to remark in specifics in regards to the Saudi-backed tour however believed Monahan would deal with no matter occurs.
“All I can say is that like in any space, any enterprise, competitors may help you give attention to methods in which you’ll be able to enhance,” he stated. “I believe Jay is doing an exceptional job in not solely rising the enterprise however in responding to what the world outdoors of Ponte Vedra is coping with. We noticed not too long ago that 9 of the top-10 gamers on the world rankings are all underneath the age of 30. I believe that reveals the long run is fairly shiny, and definitely the identical goes for the LPGA.”