Former PGA Tour, Augusta National Executive a key cog in the potential super league

by | Nov 5, 2021 | PGA

Less than a year ago, Ron Cross occupied an elevated corner office at PGA Tour headquarters. It was a dream job in every way.

Cross grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, where he began volunteering at The Players Championship as a teenager and later interned his golf career on the PGA Tour when he graduated from the University of Florida.

“I was in the right place at the right time,” laughed Cross.

He became something of a plug-and-play manager on the tour, moving from championship to championship and city to city while organizing some of the circuit’s top-class events, including the Presidents Cup and Tour Championship. It was during his time in East Lake that he met former Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne who eventually convinced Cross to leave the tour and lead the club’s “Grow the Game” initiatives.

He eventually returned to the Tour as Senior Vice President of the Presidents Cup, overseeing the circuit’s international events in Mexico, China, South Korea and Japan.

Dream job stuff again.

Cross’s résumé is particularly important because he was in Dubai on late Friday. “We’re looking at the possibilities of the Asian Tour and where to go,” he explained.

BY Rex Hoggard

– November 5, 2021 at 9:54 am

Greg Norman has named Sean Bratches and Ron Cross as chief commercial officer and chief events officer, respectively.

If that sounds vague, you know it’s a sign of the times.

Greg Norman – who has been named CEO of LIV Golf Investments, the group behind a planned new global tour – appointed Cross and former ESPN executive Sean Bratches to his fund’s executive team early Friday. Cross becomes the Chief Events Officer while Bratches is the Chief Commercial Officer.

Norman and LIV Golf Investments emerged from the shadows last week as a group behind the startup super league that has been debated and speculated about for years. Neither Norman nor Cross have confirmed what the next step in the process will be – or whether there is a plan for a global tour – but with financial support from the Saudi Arabian state fund, the proposed cycle is either the greatest threat to the business model of Saudi Arabia PGA Tour or, depending on who you ask, a much-needed disruptor in professional golf.

This is why Cross is such a compelling figure in a global turf war. After spending nearly three decades near the PGA Tour’s decision-making process, he’s now on the other side of the table.

How will the PGA Tour react to a rival circuit that threatens to poach its top players with huge purses of money and lucrative stakes? “I’m probably not the best person to answer that,” Cross said.

Ron Cross, pictured far right, during a 2006 PGA Tour media interview.

Norman was similarly noncommittal when he met with a select media group in New York City last week (the Golf Channel was not invited to the meeting) and not a single player announced they would join a new circle. Instead, the Australian focused on LIV’s $ 200 million 10-year investment in an annual 10-event series on the Asian Tour.

However, Norman and Cross left plenty of breadcrumbs for the grand reveal of the new route.

“There is potential moving on the road, we have made great decisions about what we can do. Nothing we can say or label today, ”said Cross. “I know from my experience with Asian amateurs that there is great potential for growth in Asia, so I think this is a great place to start.”

The evidence of this potential lies in Cross’ particular area of ​​expertise. Since he has directed many of the biggest events on the PGA Tour, this would be a useful skill set for a circuit with global ambitions. During his tenure at Augusta National, Cross spent a lot of time organizing the Asian-Pacific Amateur, which will be held in Dubai this week.

“I think the potential for golf to become more global is very exciting and a great opportunity for everyone involved in the game,” said Cross. “Ultimately, we want to help develop the game and make the game better for everyone. But we can help make things better, that’s what interests us. “

As the news unfolded last week, Graeme McDowell was one of the first Tour players to ask the obvious question: is competition a good thing? It’s a seemingly poignant question for someone who’s worked for a company that didn’t have a lot of competition for about 30 years.

“I think competition is good for all companies,” said Cross. “That leads to further improvements. That leads to better results for everyone involved. “

When Jay Monahan took over as PGA Tour Commissioner in 2017, Cross “returned home” to where he began his golf career. “I thought I was going to retire on the tour, but unfortunately the pandemic struck,” he said. With the pandemic affecting the circuit’s business, his position was “eliminated” in December 2020.

Cross doesn’t have any hard feelings about the tour. He understands the reality of a global pandemic in almost every company better than most. But he also understands – again better than most – that the product can always be better.

“Continuous improvement”, he said, “we have learned from it” [the late Clifford Roberts] and Mr. Payne in Augusta. It’s what everyone strives for in golf. They want to improve the experience for fans, players, customers and volunteers. “

Cross doesn’t sound like a disruptor, which is not a big surprise given that the soft-spoken father of two has been immersed in the game’s setup for all of his adult life. But there is a lightning bolt as he urges us to understand Norman’s vision.

“The opportunity to keep improving and improving the game on a professional level and that ultimately carries over to the grassroots level,” said Cross. “These 10 events on the Asia tour will be a good first try to see how we can help and be a part of it and see where else we can make a difference.”