Long Islander Seth Waugh runs the huge financial firm that sponsors the PGA Tour’s Deutsche Bank Championship, a FedEx Cup playoff event held in Boston each September. Waugh is also one of the few corporate executives brave enough to speak out against members of Congress who, in the midst of the financial crisis late last year, criticized corporate sponsorships of pro golf events. Waugh’s retort: Pro golf events contribute millions of dollars to charity each year and stimulate local economies—none of which would be possible without the corporate sponsors.
As memorable as 2008 was for Waugh as it pertained to golf, 2009 was even better for him on a personal level. This past June, he and his son Clancy recorded eagles on consecutive shots on the 375-yard 17th hole at National Golf Links in Southampton. Waugh later told GolfWeek that the moment was surreal in that “it had everything: a perfect course, a setting sun, long shadows.”
On that hole, Clancy hit his approach first, a wedge from less than 100 yards. Then dad hit wedge, too. “After Clancy hit, we weren’t sure how good it was,” he says. “Then I hit and we weren’t sure about that one, either. But when we came up and saw them both in the hole, it was an unbelievable feeling.”
GM: Congrats on you and your son’s amazing feat.
Waugh: Well, thanks for your interest in it. It was pretty special moment for Clancy and me. It’s definitely my all-time golf highlight, given the setting, who my partner was, and the thrill we felt at that moment.
GM: Where do you live, and where you like to play on Long Island?
Waugh: We live in Quogue now, but we lived in Garden City for almost 20 years; it’s where my wife grew up in and where my son started life. I was born outside Boston and grew up mostly in New Jersey.
We are members of National, and our favorite golf courses in the entire world are on Long Island: Garden City, Deepdale, Shinnecock, Friar's Head, to name just a few. We love so many of them here.
GM: How did you and your son get into golf?
Waugh: I fooled around with golf as a kid but didn't really play much because I played other sports through college. My father coached me in basketball and baseball in high school, and I picked up golf in a more serious way only after college. On the other hand, Clancy has played and competed in golf from a very early age. He is a highly competitive junior player today. I am a 6 handicap, and he is actually around scratch. He’s only 14 years old.
GM: At the pro event your company sponsors, do you get to enjoy yourself during the week, or are you just running all over the place to meet and greet your firm’s clients? Basically, is it as much fun as we think it might be, or is it just a lot of work?
Waugh: Yes, it’s fun, but it is an awful lot of work. When you invest as much as we do into the event and want it to be special, we need to take responsibility for every detail. That means making every stakeholder in the event feel special; the players, our guests, the fans, the media, the caddies, the wives, etc. I do my best to put a lot into it personally, in the hopes that the event has personality; both a world-class feel and a happy atmosphere.
It is also a hugely important week for us in terms of branding, bonding with clients, the charities (we raise $18 million), and bringing revenue to the region (an estimated $60 million). To achieve what we want on these fronts, we have to invest a lot of sweat equity and passion.
But even with all that, I do have a lot of fun. We have wonderful people on site, great special events, an amazing venue where it’s all held, and a great atmosphere. Golf is supposed to be fun, and we make sure it is.