Jimmy Dunne, golf's ultimate power broker, joins PGA Tour Policy Board – Australian Golf Digest
Australian Golf Digest
That’s because of what the boilerplate press release did not say: One of Dunne’s primary tasks will be to try to ensure that more elite players do not leave the PGA Tour, or the game’s amateur ranks, to join LIV Golf. He has been doing this, in his own sui generis way, for most of the past year, without any sort of official title. In business and in golf, Dunne, a silver-haired, 5-foot-8, 65-year-old Long Island, NY native with the accent to prove it, is not afraid to insert himself or his views. But now his pro bono advisory services will come with a title, and he will have a vote, one of 10, on sensitive PGA Tour policy matters and decisions. Asked what it means to be an independent director, Dunne said, “It means you think and vote for yourself. The commissioner’s first job is to take care of the players, but an independent board member is thinking about the players, the sponsors, the fans, the TV deals, all of that.”
But Dunne’s broad view of professional golf is similar to that of Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner. They both have a scrappy, take-my-lunch-money-and-I’m-coming-after-you mentality. They have a close relationship. Given that, this won’t surprise you. Rory McIlroy, Dunne’s friend and a PGA Tour board member, has, at least at times, shown an interest in finding a working relationship with Saudi-backed LIV Golf. Dunne does not share that view. “I am 100 per cent supportive of the PGA Tour and behind it,” Dunne said in a phone interview on Tuesday morning, before a meeting and a golf game, which is pretty much a typical day for him.
His appointment to the board, Dunne said, “is a war-time deal.” He did not use the famous line from “The Godfather,” about “going to the mattresses” as the Corleone family goes to war with the other New York mob families. Dunne and McIlroy share notes on books. Dunne is now reading McIlroy’s most recent recommendation, The Gap and the Gain: The High Achievers’ Guide to Happiness, Confidence and Success.
Dunne does not do corporate word-parsing. Even his commencement address last year at his alma mater, Notre Dame, was informal and freewheeling in places. He said, “If you like cool, clinical detachment in people, I’m not that guy.” He demonstrated his penchant for real-world talking in his comments on Tuesday as well. Regarding Greg Norman, the LIV Golf commissioner, Dunne said, “I wouldn’t want to work for Greg Norman. I like people who are absolutely credible, more worried about fact than sizzle, and are reliable.”
Dunne, whose life changed dramatically after the September 11, 2001, attacks as he lost scores of friends and colleagues, said he wouldn’t want his paycheque signed by a Saudi bank either. He has spent most of his Wall Street career working for himself, at investment companies where he was a principal.
One of his fundamental beliefs about the PGA Tour is that its greatness stems from being both democratic and meritocratic: Shoot the scores, make the money, hoist the trophies, become a legend. Live happily ever after. “Playing the PGA Tour is like playing centre field for the New York Yankees,” he said. “Do that for 10 years and everything else will take care of itself.” His athletic heroes are Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, and Ben Hogan and Lee Trevino. He has played golf with Trevino, with Michael Jordan, with Michael Bloomberg. He has an obsessive interest in success and excellence. His hobby and his profession are the same: dispensing advice. His stock-in-trade is reading people and winning their trust. Players who have sought his advice and will in the future will see that.
“If guys are asking me what they should do, I point to the money you can make on the PGA Tour, what it means to play in majors, playing on Ryder Cups and President Cups, playing in the FedEx events,” Dunne said. “Yeah, you can make a lot of money playing LIV Golf. But you can make a lot of money playing on the PGA Tour, and you can look back at what you’ve done with real satisfaction.” Where to play, Dunne said, “is a pretty binary decision.”
That could change depending on how various percolating legal issues are settled, both in the United States and abroad, how Official World Golf Ranking points are allocated, how welcoming the administrators behind the four major championships choose to be toward LIV players. Professional golf has never been messier. But things are clear to Dunne. “I don’t have any ill feeling to guys who have went [to LIV],” he said. He counts Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed and Graeme McDowell as friends. But he wants nothing to do with LIV Golf.
Dunne can play with anybody, and has. He shot 63 at Shinnecock Hills, where he is a longtime member. But par for him on a hard golf course is more like 75. He has no tolerance for slow play, slow greens or slow food service. He has always looked to get things done. Dunne plays most of his golf at clubs where he is a member, including Augusta National, Pine Valley, National Golf Links and various clubs in Ireland. He invited McIlroy’s father, Gerry, a former barman and a good golfer, to join Seminole and has logged many rounds with him.
In a pre-tournament interview in Dubai this week, Rory McIlroy said, “There’s a few things that I would like to see on the LIV side that needs to happen. I think Greg [Norman] needs to go. I think he just needs to exit stage left. He’s made his mark, but I think now is the right time to sort of say, ‘Look, you’ve got this thing off the ground, but no one is going to talk unless there’s an adult in the room that can actually try to mend fences.’ Then things can happen. But right now, it’s a stalemate.”
For months now, deriding Norman has been a running theme from the PGA Tour leadership, both in public and in private. A spokesperson for Norman said Norman did not want to respond to McIlroy’s comments, nor Dunne’s.
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