There's politics, to paraphrase Bobby Jones, and then there's PGA Tour politics. "I always say that 100% of Tour players are Republicans," Joe Ogilvie said last week, "until they finish 126th on the money list." ¬∂ Ogilvie, a 31-year-old Tour veteran who ranks 33rd on that list, describes himself as a conservative Republican with liberal social views. His take on environmental issues, for instance, is a couple of club lengths to the left of the man currently occupying the White House. "Most people buying SUVs don't really need them," Ogilvie says. "They simply want a bigger car." Ogilvie also believes that a Republican's natural antipathy to taxes doesn't excuse the administration's policy of going deeper into debt to pay for hurricane relief and the war in Iraq.
But Ogilvie's positions on more parochial issues are the ones that the pundits must now divine. On Jan. 1 Ogilvie will replace David Toms as one of four player directors-the others are Joe Durant, Davis Love III and Scott McCarron-on the nine-member PGA Tour Policy Board. While the elevation of Ogilvie for a three-year term might not command as much attention as the recent sparring over U.S. Supreme Court nominations, it's a big deal to anyone connected to the Tour, a billion-dollar, not-for-profit corporation with headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Last week at Spanish Oaks Golf Club, near his home in the Austin suburb of Bee Cave, Ogilvie staked out positions on many of the issues he will deal with in his new part-time job. In general he endorsed the leadership of Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, praised the home office for its ambitious plans to reconfigure the Tour schedule in 2007 and predicted a worldwide golf boom based on the spread of democracy and capitalism. "For the first time in history the two most celebrated athletes are golfers," Ogilvie said, referring to Tiger Woods and teenage multi-millionaire Michelle Wie. "It's a pretty awesome time to be a player."
On the other hand, Ogilvie made it plain that he can see without his Tour-issued rose-colored glasses. He said that the 16-man Player Advisory Council, which he currently chairs-a position that led to his automatic ascension to the Policy Board-should be smaller "because sometimes we get bogged down talking about meaningless issues," and that its quarterly meetings should be run by the chairman, not by the commissioner. Ogilvie also pronounced the Tour "guilty" of bad communication and failure to stamp out rumors about its '07 schedule. "At the beginning of the year they handled it very poorly," Ogilvie said. "They talked to Tiger, Phil and Vijay," but not to the rank-and-file players, who were "pretty much spectators." Showing a willingness to step on even the most talented toes, Ogilvie later addressed the rumor du jour on Tour-that third-term Policy Board member Love will be awarded the contract to rework the TPC of Avenel in Potomac, Md., if tournament sponsor Booz Allen decides to return to the unpopular venue. "There's clearly a conflict of interest," Ogilvie said. "Davis probably wants the business, which is fair enough, but there's been a lot of discussion about it, and I think ultimately the Tour will give somebody else that contract." A Tour spokesman told SI that no contract has been awarded, and before one is, the matter will be the subject of full Policy Board discussion.
Ogilvie's polished manner and measured zeal should play well with most Tour players, who cherish the prize-money windfalls of the Finchem era but don't always trust the executives who manage the wealth from their Ponte Vedra Beach offices. "Joe's the kind of guy you want on the Policy Board because he's not going to roll over if he disagrees with something," says U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman. "And he doesn't simply shoot off his mouth. He has a businessperson's attitude." Tour veteran Olin Browne, noting that Ogilvie has an economics degree from Duke, calls him "a very bright guy ... a thinker." And young Charles Howell declares that Ogilvie is "fantastic, spot-on perfect" for the board. "Where a lot of guys out here follow football or baseball, this guy is following the market, he's following money, he's following trends," Howell says. "I have not asked Joe a question yet where I have stumped him."
A runner-up three times in the last 17 months, Ogilvie has yet to bag his first Tour win. "With golf, for some reason, I've always thought of myself as a happy-to-be-there kind of guy," Ogilvie says. "I think I've set my goals a little too low."
Growing up the son of a lawyer and a first-grade teacher in a middle-class neighborhood in Lancaster, Ohio, Ogilvie followed the gnomes of Zurich as closely as the putts of Crenshaw. When he was 13, Ogilvie took $500 he had earned mowing lawns and bought a certificate of deposit at an interest rate of 8% or 9%. ("If I could get that the rest of my life," he says now, "I'd be happy.") His first equity was a Vanguard mutual fund "because I like low fees," and his first true capitalistic love was Berkshire-Hathaway Inc., the holding company run by Nebraska billionaire Warren Buffett.
Golf and business wound up competing for Ogilvie's attention, and he admits there were times when he held on to the game like a bad investment. A couple of years after he graduated from Duke, he found himself in the Philippines trying to qualify for the Asian tour. "I ate bad squid, I'm throwing up, I've got diarrhea," he recalls, "and then I shoot a final-round 77 and miss by three." In an e-mail to his parents Ogilvie noted that while most of his college friends were getting rich on Wall Street, he was puking in the Philippines-a sign, he wrote, that it might be time to put away his clubs. Forty-eight hours later, however, after a hi-and-bye stop in Lancaster, Ogilvie landed in Bogota, Colombia, and played a practice round as a late entry in the Colombian Open. "In bed afterward I said, 'For a 23-year-old, this isn't such a bad deal. I can do this,'" Ogilvie says. His Dow Jones side, you might say, yielded to his Indiana Jones side.
Ogilvie sees the two as compatible. He began making real money with his clubs in 1998, when he won twice on the Nike tour and earned a promotion to the PGA Tour. Last year, on the strength of one of the Tour's best short games, he won more than $1.4 million. Ogilvie the businessman, meanwhile, spends an average of two hours a day researching companies on his laptop and making judicious investments. "I know enough to be dangerous," he says, "but I wouldn't say I'm a trader. I simply like investing." He reads all the business magazines and The New York Times, and when he needs a little inspiration, he calls Buffett, whom he met in '98 when the Nike tour stopped in Omaha. "People think I talk to him on a daily basis," Ogilvie says, "but it's only six or seven times a year. He has a knack for putting complex ideas into layman's terms."
When it's time to actually spend some money, Ogilvie is predictably careful. "He researches everything," says his wife, Colleen, "but he has a strong sense of style. He's my favorite person to go shopping with." His favorite pastime? Inducing giggles from his daughters Brady, 2, and Kaitlin, nine months.
Whether Ogilvie's good humor will hold up through three years of boardroom politics remains to be seen, but last week he seemed eager to join the fray. "The Tour is a microcosm of society," he said. "We have the rich and the powerful, like Tiger, Phil and Vijay. We have the moderates, the players ranked from 20 to 100. And then we have the guys out of the top 125 and the veterans who can't set their own schedules." Sometimes, he conceded, any or all of the three factions feel slighted or shut out of the decision process. "But I think I can help debunk that myth," Ogilvie says. "If you haven't been in the board meetings, you don't see it, but everything seems to be about the players."
So personable, so informed, so articulate is Ogilvie that it's hard to suppress the notion that he might be the stuff of which future commissioners are made. Asked if he aspired to that office, Ogilvie laughed and said, "Tim is the perfect commissioner for what we're faced with now." Students of politics will take that as a yes.
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Other pros say Ogilvie and the PGA Tour board are a perfect fit.
A sharp short game has lifted Ogilvie to 33rd on the money list.
Ogilvie, who idolizes Buffett (left), is seen as a possible successor to Tour boss Finchem.