Three Questions with ... Steve Mona, longtime leader of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America
The leader of Lawrence-based Golf Course Superintendents Association of America is leaving for another job with global influence.
After 14 years as the association's top administrator, Steve Mona was introduced Wednesday as chief executive officer of the World Golf Foundation, an organization charged with uniting the international golf industry and upholding the game's traditions and values.
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem made the announcement at the Presidents Cup, the golf showcase pitting America's top professional golfers - including Tiger Woods - against an international team at Royal Montreal Golf Club in Montreal, Quebec.
Among Mona's first responsibilities will be starting an anti-doping office, to which golf's leading organizations - including the PGA, European and LPGA tours - will turn for technical advice and information about common standards for preserving the integrity of the game.
"Tim half-jokingly said to me, 'You'll have to become an expert on doping,'" Mona said, during a phone interview from Montreal. "We're going to be advising tours on what they should and shouldn't be doing, and so that's a pretty heavy responsibility. ...
"And the whole image of the game is at stake with this issue, because there are those of us in golf - and I'm one of them - that feel that golf's an honorable game played by honorable people. I personally don't think the use of these substances is a problem in golf, and I'll stand by that statement, but yet we have to prove that, without a shadow of a doubt, and that's what we intend to do through this drug testing."
Mona's role will be about more than addressing questions about performance-enhancing drugs. The foundation, a nonprofit organization formed in 1994, already oversees:
¢ The First Tee program, which promotes character development and values for young people through golf instruction.
¢ The World Golf Hall of Fame, a complex in St. Augustine, Fla.
¢ Golf 20/20, an ongoing effort to expand the number and diversity of people playing golf worldwide.
In past years, the foundation has had revenues of more than $37 million. The current staff numbers just under 100.
When Mona came to Lawrence in 1993 to lead the superintendents association, the organization had 72 employees operating on a $12 million budget and working on behalf of 13,300 members.
The association now has a $20 million budget, 120 employees and more than 20,000 members in the U.S. and abroad - superintendents and other professionals who work in an industry responsible for the maintenance and condition of the golf courses themselves.
All but a dozen of the association's employees work out of a headquarters building at 1421 Research Park Drive in western Lawrence. While the association previously entertained offers to move elsewhere - including the World Golf Village in St. Augustine - Mona said Wednesday that he would not "poach" any employees or otherwise push for the association to relocate.
Instead, Mona plans to remain working with the association for up to six months, as the organization seeks another CEO to continue the "unprecedented growth" enjoyed during Mona's leadership, said Ricky Heine, the association's president.