[PHOTO: Warren Little]

Seth Waugh announced he will be stepping down as head of the PGA of America when his contract expires on June 30.

Waugh, a former chief executive of Deutsche Bank Americas, joined the PGA of America as chief executive officer in September 2018. His reign at the governing body coincided with an eventful and tumultuous time in the sport and in the USA.

“I recently informed the board that I would not be renewing my contract that is set to expire on June 30, but am honoured to continue to serve the association as a senior adviser,” Waugh said in a statement. “It has been an absolute privilege and honour to serve as the chief executive of the PGA of America for the past six years.”

Waugh, 66, was in charge when the PGA of America decided to move the 2022 PGA Championship from the Donald Trump-owned Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey after supporters of the president stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, during a joint session of Congress to formalise president-elect Joe Biden’s election victory. In an interview with the Associated Press, Waugh said his organisation found itself “in a political situation not of our making”.

Waugh also was involved in postponing the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits to the following year during the COVID-19 pandemic, in order for fans to be able to safely attend the biennial match between the United States and Europe. More recently, Waugh’s been caught in the middle of the professional game’s civil war between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf. He had initially signalled in 2021 that players who defected to the Saudi-backed circuit would probably be ineligible to compete at the PGA Championship, and followed up those comments later by calling the LIV proposal “flawed” and “not good for the game”.

However, no LIV players were ultimately banned from the 2023 or 2024 PGA Championships – with LIV captain Brooks Koepka winning the Wanamaker Trophy at Oak Hill – and last month at the PGA Championship Waugh expressed his hope that the tour and LIV ultimately come together to end the schism.

“I hope there’s a deal,” Waugh said at Valhalla. “I think both sides are not only committed to trying to find a deal but really need a deal. And in my history of deal-making, when both sides kind of need something to happen, it generally does. I don’t know the timing. I don’t have any insider information that you all don’t have. But I’m hopeful that there will be a deal over time.”

Waugh and the PGA also have been a part of the discussion involving a rollback of the golf ball decided upon by the R&A and USGA. The new rule, which would take effect for professional golfers in 2028 and recreational players in 2030, was not fully embraced by the PGA, and Waugh reiterated at Valhalla that his organisation and its members are concerned about losing the momentum the game has seen in participation since the beginning of the pandemic.

“I think our biggest fear is for that part of the game that is growing, are you going to sort of disrupt that for one-half of one-half of 1 percent that are out there, right, and where do you draw the line of what’s elite and what’s not. Is a club championship elite or not?” Waugh said.

“We are glad that it’s one rule [rather than bifurcated], and the game is going to be bigger than any of this,” Waugh added. “We can all argue about it, but the game is going to be fine, both recreational and I think professionally, as well.”

On the PGA of America business front, the organisation moved its headquarters to Frisco, Texas, with a new facility opening in mid-2022. The Frisco site – a 10,000-square-metre, mixed-use campus on more than 240 hectares of land – will also host a number of future PGA of America championships, including two PGA Championships and likely the Ryder Cup.

It is not immediately clear who will be Waugh’s long-term replacement. The news comes as the R&A’s chief executive, Martin Slumbers, is expected to retire at the end of the year.