In each “On Leadership” column, Allen Lima Leadership Executive Director Matt Childers talks with a regional business leader. This week, he profiles David Griffith, Executive Director of the Northern Ohio PGA.
Matt: Let’s start with your early years and how that started you on your path.
David: I grew up in Hudson, Ohio, and played golf at Hudson High School. I was fortunate to be able to go to Kent State and play college golf for one of the legends in college golf in Herb Page. It was a huge honor, and I look back on years and was very fortunate to have that experience under Coach Page. I learned a lot under Herb.
Matt: Did you know what you wanted to do in those early years?
David: I knew that I wanted to do something in golf. I grew up in a golf family. My dad was in golf sales. He started his career with Spalding in Columbus and was fortunate enough to land a job with Titleist in Northeastern Ohio area for 12 years as a sales representative and then was transferred to Palm Springs, California, where he finished his 25-year career with Titleist.
I always knew I wanted to do something in golf. After graduation from Kent State, I choose the traditional route in golf and became an assistant professional. Following that, I took the path of golf administration. A job came open with the Northern Ohio PGA 19 years ago, and I worked my way up, and I have been with the Northern Ohio PGA since. I was the tournament director for 18 years, and last year our Executive Director Dominic Antenucci retired after over 20 years in the position. I had the great opportunity to take over his chair, and I started as executive director in January. Dominic was a great mentor of mine, and he guided me along.
Matt: With all of your golf and professional experience, you were made for this position, right?
David: It is sometimes funny in life you do not set out for the end goal. It turns out to be quite different. I think the big thing is I love what I do. It was easy for me to work hard and work long hours and take pride in the product we put out. It takes time for sure. I continue to put myself in uncomfortable positions, and I believe that is how we all grow.
Matt: Going back to your influences, what did you learn from your dad and your parents in general?
David: Both my mom and dad have been influences on me. They taught me at an early age about hard work and to be honest and always do the right thing. Always follow through on what you promise. I learned from my dad who was then working for the premier brand in golf, Titleist, and he was able to be a part of that. He taught me everything about what customer service was and how to treat people and how important it is to be personable and engaged with people.
Matt: What was your experience and lessons playing for a leader in Herb Page at Kent State?
David: Herb was probably the biggest competitor I have ever met, whether it was with the golf team or in his business owning a golf facility. What I learned from Herb is the competitive side of life, to work hard and give it everything you’ve got. Herb taught us to outwork your competition. He was able to take average golfers and make them all-Americans. He brought the best out of his players. He had a way of convincing us that when things were the roughest, whether it was weather or course conditions, that we would perform at our best, and we did that a lot.
Matt: You are on Gov. Mike DeWine’s advisory committee for youth and adult sports. This was created due to the pandemic and health crisis. Take us inside that committee on sports in an extraordinary year.
David: Here I am in my first year as executive director, and I was asked to represent golf. I was extremely honored to be asked, and we were tasked with bringing back sport in a responsible way. Sports are a huge part of the state of Ohio, and I am learning so much regarding the different activities. We work very closely with the Ohio Department of Health, and the advisory committee consisted of 25-30 individuals are represented on weekly calls. We were tasked with outing mandates and recommendations to the governor on how we could responsibly conduct our activities in competition or leisure. We were very fortunate as a golf industry to be one of the earliest activities to be permitted. It was a great process to show how we were going to operate our facilities safely and communicate that to the public. It was a great experience. Great learning experience for me.
Matt: How would you define growing the game of golf and the best opportunities for that?
David: Junior golf is the obvious opportunity. If you introduce someone at a young age, it really helps. We also have a big focus on diversity and inclusion of the game. We are trying to grow the game with women, and that has been a huge growth part of the game. We are seeing more and more women in the game of golf. That’s a plus for us.