Dawson heading to back 9 of R&A leadership

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 27, 2014 at 12:08 pm •  Published: May 27, 2014
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Anyone who spends 15 years in charge of the Royal & Ancient surely is entitled to at least one mulligan.

Peter Dawson took his long before he started the job.

"I was playing an American one year at Oxford Golf Club, and he introduced me to this traveling mulligan," Dawson said. "As you know, we don't have them over here. I was 2 down with four to play and on the par-3 15th, I shanked one. So I said to him, 'I'll have my mulligan now.' And with my next shot, I had a hole-in-one. I think he was so rattled that he lost the match. I never allowed myself to take another one. I had to keep my record intact."

Dawson is keeping another record rather tidy, somewhat by coincidence.

He announced last month that he will retire in September 2015 as secretary of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club and chief executive of The R&A, a business division he wisely created 10 years ago. He will have served 16 years, the same tenure as the three R&A secretaries before him.

What sets him apart is coping with perhaps the most challenging times in the club's 260-year history.

He is proud of a central role he played in getting golf back into the Olympics for the first time in more than a century, and Dawson will stay on as head of the International Golf Federation through the Rio Games. One of his favorite moments was gathering British Open champions at St. Andrews in 2000 to celebrate the millennium, an exhibition that brought together the likes of Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus and Seve Ballesteros on a glorious late afternoon at the home of golf.

But the Royal & Ancient game has been moving at warp speed over the last two decades, and Dawson has been in the middle of it.

He took over in 1999, about the time Callaway introduced the thin-faced ERC driver with a trampoline effect that was not allowed by USGA, yet approved by the R&A standards. That three-year period of golf's ruling bodies not being on the same page is the one "working mulligan" Dawson would have wanted.

Three years later, the R&A and USGA published a "Joint Statement of Principles," and pledged to work more closely together.

The most recent example was the decision to publish a new rule in 2016 that will ban the anchored stroke used for long putters — a putting stroke used to win each of the four majors over the last three years. There remains strife among leading golf organizations over the ban, though Dawson isn't budging.