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A candid conversation with USGA president Stuart Francis
03 Jun 2020
by Brayden Conover of AmateurGolf.com

see also: , Stuart Francis Profile

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USGA president Stuart Francis (USGA photo)
USGA president Stuart Francis (USGA photo)

The USGA announced on May 18 that their championship schedule for 2020 has been shortened to just four championships. The U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, U.S. Women's Amateur, and the U.S. Women’s Open are the only championships that remain out of the 14 which the USGA normally hosts each year.

USGA president Stuart Francis sat down to chat via Zoom with our own Pete Wlodkowski to discuss the current state of affairs the USGA, as the governing body of golf, is dealing with.

See below:


Interview Highlights

“Somebody asked me the other day ‘How’s your term going?' said Francis, now serving the first year of a three year term. "I said 'well all I’m doing so far is I’ve been on a couple conference calls at a minimum every day, dealing with the setbacks, the changes every three or four days, and so far essentially all we’ve done is cancel championships.' But, I do think we’re doing the right thing.”

The decision to cancel 10 of the 14 championships was not an easy one.

“We realized that to ask the allied golf associations (AGA's) around the country to commit today to conduct 100 plus qualifiers for the US Am, the US Open and the Women’s Amateur and the Women’s Open was just a very large ridge that was challenging for them,” Francis said. “Each of the AGA's have also delayed many of their championships. We would have had to condense a whole series of qualifiers in a very short period of time. Our overall goal is to conduct great championships and we just didn’t feel like we could do that in terms of doing qualifying and conducting another 8-10 championships this year so that’s why we made the decision we did.”

With no traditional qualifying for the four remaining championships, the USGA is putting the revamped World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) to the test. Francis feels as though the WAGR is a solid representation of who would have the best shot of qualifying in a traditional setting but also stated that the WAGR will not be the sole decider in who is in and who is out.

“We’re going to try to replicate the field we might have been able to achieve had we conducted a regular, rigorous qualifying schedule,” said Francis. “We won’t be able to do a perfect job of that, but we’ll be able to do a job that’s highly representative that we would’ve gotten beforehand.”

When it comes to the outlook on next year’s championships, Francis is highly optimistic that the USGA will be able to conduct traditional qualifying and traditional championships “assuming we have, and the various governmental entities have and rely on expert medical opinions and advice that COVID-19 hasn’t returned in force, or is under control, or the social distancing models work, and/or there’s a vaccine.”

Francis is very complimentary of the golf industry and golfers across the nation who have taken the utmost precaution during the pandemic while keeping the game alive. Asked if the USGA had a crystal ball when changing the flagstick rule, Francis said:

“Let’s put it this way; I don’t think we or anyone else predicted a pandemic and the ramifications which have flown through the world. But, we were happy to embark upon the rules of modernization project a number of years ago and we think after people had a period of time to adjust to them, which always takes a little bit of time, everybody has reasonably embraced almost every change we made, and I do think they have been for the good of the game.”

Believing that golf can be looked at as a positive recreational activity while safely socially distancing, Francis says that golf has been very diligent on following guidelines and rules laid out by both federal and state agencies. And he left us on with a golf metaphor we are going to adopt as our COVID-19 mantra:

"Let's hope that as a country, and as a world, COVID-19 turned out to be a tee shot deep into the woods," said Francis. "But we're chipping out to the fairway and their's still a lot of golf left to play."

Amen.

As for now, the four remaining championships will take place as follows. (Click link for more info.)

- U.S. Women’s Amateur, August 3-9 at Woodmont Country Club
- U.S. Men’s Amateur, August 9-16 at Bandon Dunes
- U.S. Open, September 17-20 at Winged Foot
- U.S. Women’s Open, December 10-13 at Champions Golf Club

Stuart Francis bio

From Hillsborough, Calif., Francis is the 66th president of the USGA. He is in his sixth year as a member of the USGA Executive Committee and has served on the Compensation, Equipment Standards and Governance committees in addition to four years as chair of the Championship Committee. An accomplished amateur golfer, Francis has competed in three U.S. Amateur Championships, two NCAA Championships and three Canadian Amateur Championships. Francis earned his B.A. from Princeton University, where he was named First Team All-Ivy League and All-American as co-captain of the men’s golf team. Francis, who also earned an MBA from Stanford University, is currently a senior managing director for Evercore, a global investment banking advisory firm, where he leads the Silicon Valley technology practice.

Francis has been a member of AmateurGolf.com since 2001.

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