By Mike Dudurich, Freelance writer and host of The Golf Show on 93.7 The Fan Saturday mornings from 7-8 AM – Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeDudurich
Jeff Rivard has officiated nearly 60 USGA championships over the course of his career and learned something that helped him in 22 years as Executive Director of the West Penn Golf Association.
“No one asks for a ruling when they’re happy,” said Rivard, who will retire at the end of the season.
And as the golf administrator for the WPGA, he knew that not all of the decisions he made off the course would make everyone happy. But he stayed the course in both of those areas, buoyed by the rules of golf in the one instance and 16 years of experience in the golf administration business prior to West Penn.
“I was relatively comfortable with that part of it,” he said.
Under his leadership, the WPGA has prospered and is now 27th in terms of size among 60 golf associations. It began the practice of accepting public courses and golfers as members, instituted a Player Honor Rolls, a Hall of Fame, a centennial celebration, a Fall Players Dinner and Public Links and Spring Stroke Play championships.
Rivard is a voracious reader and that includes the Rules of Golf, which has enabled him to be recognized for his rules knowledge when he posted superior test scores nearly 20 times. He’s taught rules workshops after attending nearly 40 PGA/USGA Rules of Golf Workshops.
“I’ve officiated all the USGA championships and really enjoyed it,” Rivard said. “I did 25 Mid-Amateurs and that’s my favorite. I liked doing the Am, too. The courses were good, people were good. I just liked the culture.”
WPGA president Tim Fitzgerald offered high praise for the outgoing executive director.
“It has been my honor and pleasure to serve on a variety of committees, as an officer, and currently as President of the WPGA where Jeff Rivard has created a climate of volunteerism within our association,” Fitzgerald said. “Jeff has led the WPGA through many changes in the game of golf over his 22 years as Executive Director with excellent results. His knowledge of the game of golf, its rules and decisions, and of the game’s history has been at the core of his leadership style.”
Rivard credits a pair of people as being major mentors in his career: Betsy Rawls, one of the founders of the LPGA Tour, whom Rivard worked with during his time working on the ladies tour and Marshall Dann, the longtime executive director of the Western Golf Association.
“Marshall encouraged me to stay at golf,” Rivard said. “I hope I’ve helped a few people along the way.”
As Rivard looks back, he knows it’s been a great ride.
“I just basically feel like I won the lottery,” he said. “To do something I like, it really didn’t feel much like a job. I was treated very well everywhere. Not everyone gets to do something like that.
Rivard will work part-time with the WPGA after his retirement, helping Championship Director Matt Rusinko with events and working on special projects like the Hall of Fame.
The WPGA will be well-represented in this week’s Sunnehanna Amateur at Sunnehanna Country Club near Johnstown.
Nathan Smith, who won the title in 2011, leads the contingent. The group includes Trent Karlik, the 2014 West Penn Amateur champion; Sean Knapp, seven-time West Penn Amateur champion; Derek Hayes, 2014 Sunnehanna club champion and 2014 Eastern Am champion; Wes Turiano, 2014 Greater Johnstown Champion and Kurtis Straw, a committee invitee. Brett Rinker of Slippery Rock posted a round of 72 in a qualifier and won his spot in a playoff.
Hayes, Turiano and Straw are all from the Johnstown area.
The tournament is scheduled for Wednesday through Saturday with 18 holes each day.
A sectional qualifier for the U.S. Junior Amateur will be held June 24 at Champion Lakes Golf Course in Bolivar.
Thirty-nine youngsters will play 36 holes in an attempt to grab two spots in the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at Colleton River Plantation in Bluffton, S.C. The third and four-place finishes will be alternates.