PGA Tour-PIF dealmaker resigns, citing ‘no meaningful progress’

Jimmy dunne

Jimmy Dunne during his testimony in front for U.S. Senators in July.

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On May 12, 2023, Jimmy Dunne was in Venice, Italy, meeting with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of the Saudi Public Investment Fund, among others. Jay Monahan was there, too, looking to establish an agreement between the PIF and the PGA Tour to reunify the sport. Exactly one year and one day later — on May 13, 2024 — Dunne issued his resignation from the PGA Tour Policy Board, due to a lack of progress with that agreement. 

Dunne’s resignation arrived Monday at 5 p.m. Eastern time in the form of a 361-word letter to his fellow board directors, which was obtained by and first reported by Sports Illustrated. Ultimately, two words stood out above the others: utterly superfluous. That’s how Dunne described his role and the weight of his vote less than 12 months after reaching a Framework Agreement with the PIF and the DP World Tour.

“Since the players now outnumber the Independent Directors on the Board, and no meaningful progress has been made towards a transaction with the PIF, I feel like my vote and my role is utterly superfluous,” Dunne wrote. 

“It is crucial for the Board to avoid letting yesterday’s differences interfere with today’s decisions, especially when they influence future opportunities for the Tour. Unifying professional golf is paramount to restoring fan interest and repairing wounds left from a fractured game. I have tried my best to move all minds in that direction.”

Dunne’s work a year ago — in Venice, London, San Francisco and New York — led to the surprise June 6 news that the Tour and PIF intended to merge commercial business interests via a Framework Agreement. The first month of meetings between parties was done almost entirely in secret. The rollout of the stunning announcement was disjointed and haphazard. Commissioner Monahan regrets how he handled it. But Dunne was out front, conducting interviews with Sports Illustrated and ESPN and Golf Channel, arguing that it was past time for the sport to reunite its top players.

But only a framework was signed into place — a deal to make to a deal — one that included both sides dropping their ongoing litigation, at a time when Tour and LIV executives, players, agents, board members, etc., were starting to be deposed. In his letter, Dunne noted, “a path was created for the Tour to remain in control of professional golf.” 

Dunne himself testified in early July on Capitol Hill, as one of two Tour reps explaining the deal to the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Why? Because there were antitrust concerns about the legality of two competing entities now doing business with each other, particularly when Monahan called the act taking “a competitor off the board, and turning them into a partner, not an owner.” According to the agreement, the fate and future of LIV Golf were to be assessed for its empirical value to pro golf at large, but Dunne was not set to go anywhere. As documents in the investigation noted, Dunne and fellow Policy Board member Ed Herlihy were once considered (at least by Monahan) as potential figures to at some point oversee LIV Golf. 

The U.S. Senate was interested. The Department of Justice was interested. PGA Tour players were incredibly interested. Many felt wronged by the secretive nature of the deal. Rory McIlroy, a friend of Dunne’s, said he felt like a sacrificial lamb. Tour players demanded answers from Monahan and didn’t receive many declarative ones. Dec. 31, 2023, was set as the initial deadline for a Definitive Agreement, but little, if any, progress was made. Only the Policy Board — the highest ranking role in PGA Tour governance — began to feel a bit like musical chairs. 

At the end of July, Tiger Woods was hastily added in what amounted to a coup. Forty-one of the best players on Tour demanded so in a middle-of-the-night letter to Monahan, and a day later it was enacted. They wanted equal representation between players and independent directors on the board and they got it. Woods remains the only player without a fixed term. In November, the head of Valero Energy, Joe Gorder, filled the empty board seat left by Randall Stephenson, who resigned in July saying he could not “in good conscience support” a deal.

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That same mid-November day, it was announced McIlroy resigned his seat. Jordan Spieth came aboard. Charley Hoffman saw his term end on Jan. 1 and Adam Scott saw his begin. Monahan was added as a voting member in early March. Former player Joe Ogilvie was, too, as a player liaison. There seems to have been more movement in and out of the board than definitiveness of any of its decisions. 

Dunne noted in his letter that he has had zero involvement with the PIF negotiations since June 2023, but noted during his testimony that he would back the players in the event of an agreement with the PIF. Are we closer to that happening? It depends on whom you ask. Dunne feels his role as master negotiator has become moot. DP World Tour CEO Guy Kinnings noted in April that all three parties of the original agreement had still not been in the same room together. Only in March did player directors all congregate in the Bahamas for a meet-and-greet with Al-Rumayyan, a move that Dunne himself made happen 11 months prior. 

It has become clear that differences of opinion have slowed the board’s movement in recent months. Webb Simpson recently made clear he wanted to resign his position, but only in the event that it could be filled by McIlroy, who now felt ready to be involved again. That, Monahan noted, was not in accordance with the Tour’s governance policies, and was barred from happening. McIlroy has instead been deemed worthy of a position on the Transactions subcommittee of PGA Tour Enterprises, the for-profit company created in January when the Tour accepted an investment of $1.5 billion from Strategic Sports Group. 

“Since there was no exclusivity clause, the players had a full range of options to seek outside investors,” Dunne mentioned in his resignation letter. “That resulted in a multi-billion-dollar commitment from the Strategic Sports Group. I believe that history will look favorably on this outcome and the very real opportunities now afforded the Tour.”

Just when that outcome delivers real opportunities — like official investment from the PIF — remains to be seen. Potential agreements feel much more down the road than on the doorstep. Pro golf moves on with the second men’s major championship of the season this week at the PGA Championship in Kentucky. Dunne moves on from official PGA Tour meetings to a still sizable role behind the scenes, as a friend and mentor of many of the game’s most important people. He is a member at many of the true institutions of the sport — Augusta National, Shinnecock Hills, National Golf Links and Pine Valley — and will no doubt continue connecting people in the game. But he will not be casting a vote or negotiating the Tour toward a reunited future, despite all the work he did to make happen. He ended his letter with this note:

“I want to express my sincere gratitude to all of the Directors that I have served with over the past year and half. Thank you all for your hard work and dedication during a challenging period. I want you to know that no one will be pulling harder for your success than me. Golf has given much more to me than I could ever give back, and for that, I will always be grateful.”

You can read the entire letter below.

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