Appellate lawyer Glen Nager of Jones Day in Washington, D.C., was recently installed as president of the United States Golf Association (USGA). Dream gig, right? Sure, but it’s also a lot of work, especially since he’s doing it on top of his day job as chair of the firm’s Issues & Appeals practice. We got the perennial member of the Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers list on the phone for a quick interview about his new challenge, which sounds like anything but a good walk spoiled.
How long have you been involved with the USGA?
I joined it in 2005 as volunteer general counsel and held that role for three years. Then I became a member of the executive committee, and served there in a variety of capacities — on the Rules of Golf Committee, Compensation Committee, Equipment Standards Committee — until Feb. 4, which I became the 62nd president.
Sounds like another full-time job.
It’s a challenge, but it’s manageable, and Jones Day has always been fully supportive.
You must play a lot of golf?
Not really. Between my practice and being a golf administrator I don’t have much time to actually golf. [laughs]
What have been your highlights in your time in golf?
Well, I can say I’ve played with Arnold Palmer, that’s right up there, and I get to officiate at major championships, which I enjoy.
Priorities as president?
The first is to host the best national championships that we can. That’s the reason the organization was founded, and we’ll be running 14 of them this year, including the U.S. Open. We want these championships to be the best, most difficult tests of golf. Beyond that, golf is at a point where the sport, particularly in the U.S. and Europe, is facing declining participation rates, mostly due to economic and environmental challenges. We want to address that.
What is it about golf that speaks to you so strongly?
It’s about the values that the game defines: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, discipline. In golf you call penalties on yourself; almost every other sport has an official to call penalties on you. It really is about character and integrity and the bonds people form on the course.