GOLF Mon­a­han brings per­sonal touch as com­mis­sioner

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Doug Fer­gu­son

Not ev­ery­one in the golf world knew much about Jay Mon­a­han ex­cept that he was anointed, and then ap­pointed, the next PGA Tour com­mis­sioner.

Odds are that Mon­a­han knew about them.

Mon­a­han, who takes over on Jan. 1, brings a per­sonal touch that was at times lack­ing from the three com­mis­sion­ers who pre­ceded him. One ex­am­ple of that came on the prac­tice range a few years ago dur­ing the Bridge­stone In­vi­ta­tional.

Cad­dies were in the mid­dle of a class-ac­tion law­suit against the tour over their treat­ment. Ten­sion and mis­trust were run­ning high, es­pe­cially at the sight of Tim Finchem talk­ing with play­ers on the range that day. Along came Mon­a­han, and one cad­die was asked if he knew much about Finchem’s new deputy com­mis­sioner.

The cad­die, his eyes nar­row­ing as he looked Mon­a­han’s way, said a player in­tro­duced them four or five years ago and while Mon­a­han seemed like a de­cent guy, he would be just like the other suits at tour head­quar­ters.

Mo­ments later, Mon­a­han saw a fa­mil­iar face and stopped to chat. He first in­tro­duced him­self to the cad­die, call­ing him by his first name.

“I don’t know if you re­mem­ber, but we met a few years ago,” Mon­a­han told him.

The mood light­ened. Judg­ment was re­served.

An­other such mo­ment was in March at the Valspar Cham­pi­onship, where Mon­a­han was sent for an an­nounce­ment that Valspar was ex­tend­ing its ti­tle spon­sor­ship through 2020. Th­ese are im­por­tant deals, though they typ­i­cally are filled with sleep-in­duc­ing cor­po­rate lingo. Mon­a­han found time to talk about his aunt, Sue Rooney, who used to work in cad­die reg­is­tra­tion and pestered him dur­ing sum­mer hol­i­days about how the Tampa Bay tour­na­ment didn’t have a long-term spon­sor­ship deal.

“She passed away in July,” Mon­a­han said. “She’s look­ing down upon us all with a big smile to­day.”

Re­mem­ber­ing names and per­son­al­iz­ing mo­ments only go so far when it comes to run­ning an or­ga­ni­za­tion that brings in more than $1 bil­lion in rev­enue, that is try­ing to fig­ure out how fans will be watch­ing golf 10 years from now when ne­go­ti­at­ing me­dia deals and is charged with keep­ing 43 tour­na­ments fully spon­sored.

Given the rest of Mon­a­han’s back­ground, it won’t hurt.

Finchem, who is re­tir­ing af­ter 22 years and mon­u­men­tal growth in ex­po­sure and prize money, saw enough in Mon­a­han to hire him away from Fen­way Sports Man­age­ment in 2008, get him in­volved in ev­ery im­por­tant as­pect of the PGA Tour and ap­point him as deputy com­mis­sioner in 2014.

Seth Waugh, the re­tired CEO of Deutsche Bank Amer­i­cas, hired Mon­a­han to run the Deutsche Bank Cham­pi­onship and then sent him Finchem’s way.

“I said to Tim when he was look­ing for some­one to put in sales, ‘The best guy I’ve seen is Jay Mon­a­han,’ who was with the Red Sox then,” Waugh said Tues­day. “But I said, ‘If you hire him, he’ll be your re­place­ment.’ He laughed. But I meant it.

“Rel­a­tive to tour stan­dards, he’s had a meteoric rise,” Waugh said. “Tim rec­og­nized he had some­thing dif­fer­ent.”

Run­ning the tour presents challenges large and small.

Finchem and Mon­a­han al­ready spent plenty of time in New York this sum­mer with tele­vi­sion ex­ec­u­tives, work­ing on the next deal. FedEx is up for re­newal af­ter this year, which is key to the FedEx Cup that the tour has billed as the cen­ter­piece to its wrap­around sea­son. Still to be nav­i­gated is a game that is global by na­ture but lack­ing in struc­ture. And the job that never ends is keep­ing the tour fully spon­sored.

Waugh of­ten uses the word “bal­ance” to de­scribe Mon­a­han, which starts with be­ing a good lis­tener.

“He tries to say ‘Yes’ in­stead of ‘No,’ and he fig­ures out how to solve things,” Waugh said. “He does his work to fig­ure out an opin­ion, and then he has an opin­ion. He’s not afraid to have an opin­ion, and he’s go­ing to make you feel good about hav­ing your opin­ion. He’s bal­anced, fair. He has a client fo­cus. He will bring a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to spon­sors, which is sorely needed.”

In an in­ter­view with Golf Di­gest that was pub­lished Tues­day, Finchem praised Mon­a­han for be­ing able to see big in­stead of small, for look­ing for­ward in­stead of be­hind him, and for hav­ing a skill set and back­ground in sports that was “su­pe­rior to what I en­joyed” when Finchem was tapped for the job.

“I think he’s 10 per­cent more Ir­ish than I am, but sub­stan­tially more lik­able,” Finchem said. “If you talk about pub­lic speak­ing, I have a bit of an ad­van­tage over him be­cause I’ve been do­ing it longer.

But he has a huge ad­van­tage over me be­cause he re­ally con­nects with peo­ple.

“He has this abil­ity to say things that draw you in, in a mean­ing­ful way,” Finchem added. “If I tell a story, I give the over­view. If he tells a story, he takes you there into the minu­tiae of what hap­pens, and you re­ally live through the mo­ments of the story.”

That’s the per­sonal touch Mon­a­han brings. Start­ing in Jan­uary, he’ll be mea­sured by where it all leads.

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