Two local golf advocates from Scottsdale and Gilbert have been elected into office for the Professional Golf Association of America, the world’s most prestigious organization for the classic game.
Jim Richerson, a Scottsdale resident who serves as the senior vice president of operations for Troon, was elected the 42nd president of PGA of America during the 104th annual meeting on Oct. 29, held virtually for the first time ever due to the coronavirus pandemic. Don Rea Jr., a Gilbert resident and owner and general manager of Augusta Ranch Golf Club in East Mesa, was elected PGA secretary during the meeting.
“It’s extremely exciting for me and my family,” Richerson said. “It’s unbelievably humbling to think you’re in a role trying to represent as best you can our almost 29,000 members around the country. Not only has it been an honor for me and my family, but I look at it as a major responsibility.
“It’s exciting, it’s enjoyable but there’s a lot of work ahead.”
Richerson has been a longtime member of PGA leadership. He became a member of the PGA Board of Directors in 2013, representing District 6, which encompasses Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. In 2016 while living in Wisconsin, Richerson was elected as PGA Secretary. He was the first PGA member from Wisconsin to be elected as a national officer.
In 2018, Richerson ran for and won the role of Vice President of PGA. Now as president, he aims to continue growing the game of golf around the United States and world, much like he does as part of the team that oversees day-to-day operations for Troon, which opened its first course in 1990 in Scottsdale.
“Golf was natural for me,” Richerson said. “I fell in love playing the game early on and I made it a career. I’ve been very fortunate to do that.”
Located in more 40 states and 30 countries, Troon helps manage and facilitate daily operations at more than 470 golf courses. What first started as a small operation has since become the largest golf course management company in the world.
Richerson believes his expertise with Troon will transfer to his role as president. Part of that involves raising awareness to the several public and private courses in the East Valley and across the state and what they can offer patrons. He believes the popularity of golf in Arizona is still on the rise, citing its exponential growth in the spring with many taking to the course to experience the outdoors when the state was shut down due to the virus.
“Golf is such a great game because the people you meet are so genuine and from all walks of like and backgrounds,” Richerson said. “From titans of industries to professional athletes to everyday people. They’re all bonded together because they love golf.”
Like Richerson, Rae has been a longtime member of PGA leadership. He spent time as one of the Board of Directors for the PGA Southwest Section, and from 2013-14 served as president of that section. From 2016-19, he served on the National Board of Directors for the PGA.
Along with his love for golf, Rae also has a passion for baseball. He spent nine years as an umpire in Major League Baseball’s farm system, reaching the Triple-A level at one point. He also umpired several spring training games in Arizona.
During Rae’s time as owner and general manager of Augusta Ranch, the course has been rated as the “Best Executive Golf Course in Arizona” by local media outlets and was named “Host Club of the Year” by the Arizona Women’s Golf Association.
“I couldn’t be happier, humbled and excited all at the same time,” Rae said. “I want to get in that national board room as a guy from a par-61 golf course in East Mesa and talk about what I see every day at the counter with new families coming in to play.”
Both Rae and Richerson have spent the last year campaigning for their respective roles with the PGA. Both men routinely traveled to or contacted golf courses across the nation to identify areas where they could help improve should they be elected.
They both beat out other individuals vying for the same positions, which brought an overwhelming sense of relief despite immediately having to hit the ground running on implementing new strategy to continue improving the game around the country and specifically, in Arizona.
“I know what golf means to the state of Arizona,” Rae said, “nearly $4 billion in economic impact. And I know how important golf is to East Mesa where I’m at. So, to kind of represent that now on the national level, I want to talk about public golf, talk about Mesa and what the game does to bring families together for outdoor activities.
“I’m so excited to represent the over 300 golf courses in Arizona and talk about how we do it out here.”