Peter Dawson, the R&A's Chief Executive, is currently presiding over his last Open Championship
Peter Dawson is currently presiding over his last Open Championship as the Chief Executive of The R&A before stepping down from the post in September.
Dawson – who will be replaced by Martin Slumbers from October 1 – has been at the helm for 16 years.
But what will his legacy be and how will he be remembered? Unfortunately, the last part of his tenure has coincided with some alarming figures pertaining to participation levels across the UK.
While many will see that as a negative that overshadows everything else, we must remember the paradigm shift that’s taken place over the last few years.
There’s more pressure on everyone’s time, economic factors mean many have struggled to justify golf-related expenditure and the modern culture of instant gratification is very much at odds with a subtle game that will always take a number of hours to play.
So let’s not dwell on the negatives, and instead look at five reasons why Dawson’s reign has been a real success.
Seven ladies became members of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews in February 2015 after 85% of its members voted to end the club’s male-only policy in September 2014. Dawson, as secretary of the club, helped pioneered the vote and used his influence to bring about the much-needed change.
“This is an important and positive day in the history of the R&A Golf Club,” he said. “The R&A has served the sport of golf well for 260 years and I am confident that the club will continue to do so in future with the support of all its members, both women and men.”
The R&A, working in conjunction with the USGA, has made a number of rules changes over the past few years designed to improve the game and preserve golf’s integrity. Most recently, the two organisations announced a ban on anchored strokes, which will come into effect from January 2016. It can’t have been easy to bring in such a controversial rule, knowing there could have been a potential backlash from both players and equipment manufacturers, but Dawson wasn’t afraid to put his neck on the line to do something he believed was right.
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Open TV deals
Dawson was heavily involved in facilitating two new lucrative broadcasting partnerships that will enable The R&A to increase its initiatives to grow the game of golf around the world. It must be noted here that The R&A is a non-profit organisation which invests all its profit into various schemes, and also that The Open is its only source of income.
Sky Sports will broadcast the Open Championship exclusively live from 2017, and in the USA, NBC and the Golf Channel will take over the reins two years from now. Both deals will provide significant funding and exposure – a move back to terrestrial in the USA and huge reach across digital platforms in the UK.
Modernisation of the R&A
The R&A has made significant strides under Dawson’s stewardship, developing from an old-fasioned organasation into one that’s at the forefront of innovation. The Open is first class – with the addition of free WiFi, an all-encompassing app and many other additions that enhance the viewing experience and ensure it satisfies modern demaind – and its coverage on digital and social channels is second to none.
It’s embraced technology – a contrast to how its perceived in many quarters – and the organisation as a whole is much more resemblant of a modern business than it was when Dawson came to the helm.
Dawson views sustainability as a key objective of The R&A and has helped roll out a blueprint to make sure golf courses are environmentally friendly and socially responsible. It gives seminars on the topic and its research in the field is, again, second to none. Elsewhere, The Open maintains high standards for environmental impact, waste management and energy efficiency.