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Butz's journey to USGA 'bizarre'

December 24, 2006|by TIM KOELBLE

Mike Butz described his ascent from his post-college days at Wake Forest University to his current position with the United States Golf Association as "bizarre in more ways than one."

A 1974 graduate of Chambersburg High School, Butz has been the deputy executive director of the USGA since 1995, making him second in command of golf's ruling organization in the United States.

Butz was an outstanding prep golfer at Chambersburg and planned to attend High Point College in North Carolina before going into the home appliance field, a family trait. However, he applied and was accepted at Wake Forest, a school long known for its golf tradition and the alma mater of Arnold Palmer.

"I knew I wasn't nearly good enough to play college golf," said Butz. "We had guys there like Curtis Strange, Jay Haas and Gary Koch that won the NCAAs in 1974 and 1975."

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Following graduation in 1978, Butz worked in Atlanta for 3M and BASF for two years.

While there, he was contacted by Steve Dodd, an old friend of his who was heading to Atlanta for a tryout with the Atlanta Braves.

"Out of the clear blue, I got a call from him," said Butz. "I had not spoken to him for about five years. But he came down and bunked with me. One day we were sitting around and watching a golf tournament on TV and he said, 'Look at those guys. Don't you wish you were there chasing the dream?'"

That question ignited Butz' hidden desire of working in the golf business.

"I literally went to the library and started looking up golf associations, wrote letters to the PGA, the USGA and read as much as I could," said Butz. "It just so happened they were looking for someone in regional affairs because a fellow that was in Atlanta had left three days before my letter got to the top of the USGA. I got an interview and the next thing I know I'm starting with the USGA in April of 1980."

At that time, David Fay, the current executive director of the USGA since 1989, was the manager of championship relations and brought along Butz to work the U.S. Women's Open in Nashville, Tenn.

Butz moved to USGA headquarters in Far Hills, N.J., and the rest is history.

"When I walked into Far Hills, it was just an amazing shock," said Butz. "Mr. Fay had said, 'We need someone overseeing the business side ... rules, legal, merchandising, etc.', and that's still that way for the most part."

He's done it all for the USGA except for the rules, when Mike Davis, also of Chambersburg, was brought into camp in 1993. Davis stepped in with Tom Meeks and eased the workload with regard to rules and competition, leaving Butz to tend to business aspects.

"Two things keep me energized in what I do," said Butz. "One, what is it I can do to keep the USGA, the players, the fans energized, and two, the U.S. Open has grown as large as it is that where do we put 35 to 40 thousand people and make things happen that at the end of the day people feel they have had the greatest experience they've been to."

Butz said the USGA is doing well financially and that the organization continues to do what it can to help golf continue to grow.

"We've created a foundation that has given millions of dollars in grant monies like The First Tee, giving access to junior players, disabled players and economically disadvantaged individuals to get to driving ranges and learn the game," said Butz. "We have a wonderful Fellows and Grants program."

The USGA always has had a focus to run the best championships in golf and has tried to keep an eye on equipment, which has been subject to criticism by making golf courses obsolete.

"Equipment is the biggest debate and if you go back into our minutes of meetings in the 30s and 40s, people were asking the same thing back then," said Butz. "We're watching it closely on a worldwide basis with the R&A (Royal & Ancient Club). I don't think it's out of control."

Butz' father, Stan, was an eight-time club champion at Chambersburg Country Club who passed away about 18 months ago prior to reaching age 90. His mother is still alive and he and his wife, Leslie, married in 1981 and have two children.

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