In the early 1980s, the USGA was strapped for cash. It had moved its headquarters from New York City to its present Far Hill’s location about a decade earlier, at a cost of roughly $600,000, and was, as they say, land rich and cash poor. Its situation was critical but not yet desperate. It had publicly announced it was looking for less expensive headquarters and had briefly considered a location near Atlanta. Its programs were under-funded, and the U.S. Open produced far less in that era than the cascade of cash it does today. Its Executive Committee calculated that it needed $10 million to do the job it wanted and needed to do. According to a USGA press release in 1983, a search committee headed up by Howard Clark and Jim Hand, the then Vice President and future President of the USGA, recruited Bobby on the basis of his record with other groups. He had been chairman of the fundraising campaign for the Police Athletic League of New York in 1982, honorary chairman of the Greater New York Councils of the Boy Scouts of America in 1976, and a trustee of the Independent College Fund of New Jersey. Hand told us he had seen what Bobby could do and believed he could raise money in the middle of the Sahara Desert. The results of the campaign showed that Hand had picked the right man: Bobby raised $12 million.
We were able to speak with a number of people who worked on that campaign. Some of them were in those days young staffers at the USGA who to this day appreciate the friendliness, care, and interest Bobby showed in them and in what they were doing. Bobby made a lot of money for the USGA and in the process also made a lot of friends in Far Hills and at golf clubs around the country.
Bobby always sought ideas and encouraged others to bring ideas to him. One of the great successes of the campaign was the so-called “golf cart drive.” The idea was to persuade every member of every golf club in the country to contribute the rental fee of one golf cart per month. It turned out to be a hugely productive idea. The initial plan envisaged that most of the proceeds of the campaign would come from major gifts made by regional golf associations and individuals. In the end, it was the golf cart idea that generated the most revenue. It turns out the golf cart idea was hatched during a brain-storming session with Tom Eagan, a USGA volunteer and Baltusrol member, and two USGA staffers, Don Spenser and Ran Morrissett. Bobby liked the idea and ran hard with it. He, Hand, Morrissett, and others arranged dinner meetings with the regional golf associations and as many local clubs as they could. Bobby and Hand pitched the USGA, its activities, and its value to golf at those dinners. They made dozens of flights around the country. Recalling those days, Morrissett told us, “You know, Bobby was the guy. He made the sale. They loved him at the meetings. On those long, tough trips, he was always the first one down to the lobby in the morning. He bought breakfast. He always thought there was one more thing we should do and he could get it done. He was retired, and we were all pretty young, but he always had more energy than we did. He had been the chairman of a big company, but he wouldn’t let anyone carry his bag. He always carried his own. We all loved working with him.” Bobby and his team found a way to package the campaign in a way that interested and appealed to thousands of individual golfers making the capital campaign a great success for the USGA.
Bobby joined the USGA Executive Committee in 1985 and served until 1990. He was Treasurer in 1988 and Secretary in 1989 and 1990. The list of his committee assignments is half a page long. In addition to his fundraising work, he chaired at various times the Development, Facilities, Museum and Library, Public Golf, and the 1990 Public Links Championship committees. He also was Honorary Chairman of the USGA Foundation Board of Directors from 1991 to 1995. Bobby says he did not do much for the USGA, aside from the fundraising, but the facts suggest otherwise. Golf was in the midst of its greatest ever period of growth, with golf equipment manufacturing becoming big business. The square groove issue was just one of the matters that came up; one would have to believe the USGA and every committee in it spent long hours dealing with the issues of those years, and that Bobby did more than carry his weight in those proceedings.
Baltusrol’s Oliver Havens became General Counsel to the USGA at the time of the square grooves issue, which ended satisfactorily from the USGA’s point of view. His and Bobby’s contributions to the Association led to a strong case being made for the return of the U.S. Open to Baltusrol in 1993. Other clubs wanted it, but Bobby sealed the deal for Baltusrol.