A Steady Hand at the Helm: A Fond Farewell to SCGA Stalwart Kevin Heaney
As a very young man, Kevin Heaney didn’t set out to spend his career as a highly influential figure in the Southern California Golf Association. Indeed, he didn’t take up the game until high school, and that was only after he discovered that his first sporting love, baseball, wasn’t going to provide any sustenance beyond post-game snacks.
The Northern California native majored in Agricultural Economics and Managerial Science at UC Davis, but Heaney didn’t exactly fit in with the modern farmers wearing John Deere and Caterpillar caps to class. He laughs when he says it was the winemaking science courses that most appealed to him. He tried his hand at selling tools and dabbled in broadcasting, but it was while he was completing his MBA at Davis in the mid-1980s that an article in a golf magazine piqued his interest. It was about an entrepreneur who was doing economic feasibility studies for golf course developments.
Now, that’s not everyone’s dream golf job, but it sounded perfectly fascinating to Heaney. He met with the businessman, who encouraged Heaney to talk to the SCGA. As timing would have it, the organization was creating a new position of tournament director and it picked Heaney to give it a try.
That was 38 years ago, and Heaney has spent most of his adult life serving the SCGA and its numerous constituencies in a way that is universally applauded. For his part, he couldn’t have imagined the rewards and challenges and relationships he’d experience along the way. In March, Heaney, 66, is retiring after holding four leadership positions in the SCGA, including serving as the organization’s executive director for the last 16 years.
“Everyone knows that we have an all-star team, and they’re dedicated to what they do,” Heaney said. “They’re incredible people who have made my job easy. The best thing I did was hire the right people and get out of their way.”
The people around Heaney heap praise on him. He helmed the SCGA during probably the most critical time in history for American golf associations. They transitioned from association workers who literally hand-entered scores for handicaps into newfangled computers to golfers being able to post scores on their phones within seconds of the last putt dropping. Heaney and his colleagues addressed the demands of more women and children taking up the game, golf course development, water issues, significant rules changes by the governing bodies and the evolving relationship with the United States Golf Association. In addition to his many important hires, Heaney brought on Executive Director Kevin Gigax to run the SCGA Junior Golf Foundation, and it’s flourishing.
Heaney has been there for all of it, as a mentor, strategist, diplomat and peacekeeper. His most notable accomplishments include growing membership to a current all-time high of 196,000 among 1,500 member clubs; expanding the SCGA and SCGA Foundation staffs to 50 full-timers and 65 part-timers; creating departments in public affairs, membership development and technology; unifying the SCGA with the Public Links Golf Association and Women’s Southern California Golf Association; and working closely with the USGA on initiatives that have benefited local golf associations around the country.
There is, of course, the actual staging of championships and events; the SCGA annually runs over 300 event days, including championships, USGA Qualifiers, One-Day Series tournaments, Member Outings, and competitive leagues for its member clubs.
If you look back over the history of the association, there have been some trying times,” said Jim Vernon, past president of the SCGA, SCGA Junior Golf Foundation and USGA. “Kevin’s great accomplishment is that he’s been able to navigate all of it. He’s created a culture of excellence, and he’s given his heart and soul to keep the organization growing and prospering.”