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Chambersburg graduate Davis a key USGA figure

December 24, 2006|by TIM KOELBLE

Mike Davis won a Pennsylvania Junior Golf title in 1982 as a senior at Chambersburg High School.

Little did he know back then that, later in his life, he would become a key figure conducting championships for the United States Golf Association, where he is now the senior director of rules and competitions.

Among his high-profile duties, Davis is responsible for course setups for all USGA Championship events. When he took over for the retiring Tom Meeks, his first major undertaking was the U.S. Open at Winged Foot last summer.

Davis, who returned to the area to celebrate the holidays with his parents William and Elaine, went on from Chambersburg to Georgia Southern University, where he played golf four years.

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"Playing in high school, I was pretty good and I remember thinking that I wanted to go to a good golf school and see how good I could get," said Davis. "I didn't have thoughts of turning professional and when I got to college, it's not that I didn't get better, I just didn't blossom to where I could consider turning pro."

Fresh out of college, Davis wasn't sure golf was in his future. He headed to Atlanta to work in commercial and residential real estate.

Three years later, another Chambersburg graduate, Mike Butz, called Davis and asked if he would be interested in an opportunity.

"When I got done with college, I wasn't exactly sure what to do," said Davis. "I had known of Mike Butz, not well because he was several years ahead of me, but our fathers knew one another well, so I sent him a resume with a note.

"Out of the clear blue sky I get a call three years later. I've got a house and family in Atlanta, the job is fine and I've got lots of friends. But I went (to Far Hills, N.J.) for an interview."

That was in 1990 and Davis has grown within the USGA ever since.

After three years, he was given the responsibility of working the U.S. Mid-Amateur, setting up the course.

In addition, Davis became involved with the rules of golf, going to seminars and teaching rules. Those areas blossomed to where they are now.

By 1996, Davis was working with Meeks. He took over in 2006, with the U.S. Open at Winged Foot his first big test with all eyes on his shoulders regarding the course setup.

He implemented a different strategy, theorizing that the farther off the fairway a player missed his tee shot, the more difficult a lie he should draw. Thus, he instituted a graduated cut of the rough, penalizing a player less for just missing the fairway by a yard or so.

His changes were met with accepting reviews despite the winning score reaching 5 over par. He's already been to Oakmont Country Club, outside of Pittsburgh, to begin work on the 2007 U.S. Open.

During the play of a USGA tournament, Davis will be on location, but doesn't necessarily have much contact with the players.

"I don't know a lot of them real well," he said. "I'll spend time with them during their practice rounds, watching how the course is playing. We're anticipating weather, watching morning dew points.

"During the tournament itself, if we've done a good job getting things ready, we are simply troubleshooting, monitoring rules and roving the course. I'll personally be involved with rules decisions if the group rules walker needs a second opinion. Then it will come back to me. The following morning, I'll go with the course superintendent and work on pin placements and determine if the roughs and greens need cut before play starts."

In addition to the men's Open, Davis has responsibilities with the women's Open, men's Senior Open and the men's and women's amateurs among the championships within the USGA umbrella.

"Time is precious, but I'll also be involved on rules committees for The Masters and British Open and some others such as The Presidents Cup," said Davis, who figures he spends anywhere between 100 and 130 days away from home.

This holiday though, he's back home in Chambersburg where he grew into golf.

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