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Connect, December 2011 - Alumni: James B. Hyler, Jr. - USGA President - EY - United States

A conversation with James B. Hyler, Jr.Rethinking green

     
  James B. Hyler, Jr.  
  Current position:
President of the US Golf Association (USGA)
 
  Last EY office:
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
 
  Born in:
Danville, Virginia
 
  Board/community involvement:
Director at Progress Energy; Trustee of Rex Healthcare; and past Chairman of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, the North Carolina Chamber and the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority
 
  Career highlights:
Served eight years on the USGA's Executive Committee; spent 28 years at First Citizens Bank, retiring as Vice Chairman and COO
 
  Most recent read:
Decision Points by George W. Bush
 
     

The USGA President is intent on raising environmental awareness.

"Take time to understand the company and the people. Sometimes the best way to go fast is to go slow. If you can do that, your chances of success are much greater."

While Jim Hyler is nearing the end of his term as President of the United States Golf Association (USGA), he remains passionate about the game and about bringing sustainability practices to the course.

Many people envision mornings on the golf course as a key aspect of retirement. USGA President Jim Hyler, who “retired” from corporate life in 2008, thinks about golf all day long, but in a far different way.

The USGA, founded more than a century ago, is dedicated to maintaining its leadership role regarding rules, equipment standards, its handicapping and course-rating system, and of course, its championships. But Hyler is using his position to address environmental issues as well.

In his inaugural address in February 2010,Hyler called on the golf community to recognize “how brown can become the new green.” He reminded his audience that water is one of the most significant issues facing the future of golf.

With the Southwest facing unprecedented drought conditions and the impact of a lingering economic slowdown, the USGA has been promoting a focus on “playability” rather than lush conditions. There are multiple benefits: improved turf health, better drought resistance, reduced costs, lower environmental impact and a playing surface that is more fun to play.

Understand yourself

After graduating from Virginia Tech in 1970, Hyler joined Ernst & Young LLP in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He chose that office partly because one of his closest childhood friends, Rodger Holley (now a retired partner), had joined it the year before. Also, despite its relatively small size, Hyler thought the office had a “dynamite” client roster.

He served clients in a variety of industries but spent most of his time on the audit of Wachovia Bank. He recalls his audit service to Wachovia as an outstanding learning experience, particularly when meeting with the bank’s audit committee. “The committee was composed of a lot of very sharp people,” Hyler recalls.

“So we had to prepare well and be on our toes in that meeting room.” He names retired partners Dave Bodenhamer and Jim Smith as major influences.

As a consequence of his experience serving Wachovia, Hyler became a “go-to” instructor of workshops on banking audit software. According to Hyler, EY was at the cutting edge of the then-new area of audit software. It was an exciting time. So Hyler was well prepared to assume the role of CFO at First Citizens Bank in 1980. He stayed there for 28 years, moving up the executive track to become Vice Chairman and COO.

In addition to learning the banking business, Hyler says that his experience at EY taught him how to interact effectively with people. “As an auditor, you are, in a sense, intrusive,” he notes. “How can you make the best of the situation and work with clients in a non-threatening, cooperative way?”

Hyler advises recent college graduates that getting along with people is the most important quality for success in business. He adds, “If you can understand yourself, you will find effective ways to connect with people.”

A double eagle

One of Hyler’s fondest memories goes back to his initial involvement with the USGA in 1999. He had volunteered to chair the President’s Council, a group of North Carolina business leaders tasked with selling the U.S. Open at the Pinehurst Resort. Since the resort was located in a small community far from any major population centers, many were skeptical.

Ultimately, the campaign and the event at Pinehurst were “successful beyond our wildest dreams,” he recalls. Subsequently, the USGA asked Hyler to join its executive committee.

Inside the ropes

Hyler appreciates the USGA culture, which maintains consistent priorities even though presidents change every two years. The association is focused on continuous improvement with a particular emphasis “both inside and outside the ropes” of the U.S. Open. As mentioned, Hyler and his colleagues speak frequently about policies that try to bring a better balance between golf and the environment.

He cautions, “It’s my view that we over-water golf courses in this country … and that comes with a cost.”

Today, Hyler spends about half his time on USGA matters and is on the road more than 100 days a year. “It’s a big commitment, but an incredible experience. I travel through the US and internationally, meeting many wonderful people. I’m very fortunate to have been able to do this.”

Hyler notes that his wife, Natalie, is incredibly supportive of his USGA activities despite the fact that it’s meant postponing vacations for the last few years. “She’s been great, but frankly, I think she’ll be glad when things get a bit more back to normal,” he laughs.

All in the family

Golf holds a special place in the Hyler family. Hyler’s son, Brad, started playing at age seven and went on to join the golf teams at Virginia Tech and the University of North Carolina. “Watching him develop from just a young kid into a good college player, and then traveling with him all over the country to events, that was a wonderful time,”

Hyler reminisces. Hyler’s daughter, Lori, played golf (and soccer) at the junior level. She now has four children, ages three through eight.

For those individuals choosing to leave professional service for the corporate world, Hyler is a stellar example. He offers this advice: “Take time to understand the company and the people. Sometimes the best way to go fast is to go slow. If you can do that, your chances of success are much greater.” .

Teeing up for the digital age

While steeped in legend and tradition, the USGA is making significant investments in digital media, and, according to Hyler, to great effect. During the 2008 U.S. Open playoff round between Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines, usopen.com served more than
2.5 million video streams, including an all-time record of 600,000 concurrent streams during Monday’s playoff.

The demand has prompted the creation of a new video internet console, designed to allow more fans to watch future playoffs with “higher quality and more stability.” .

An “incredible experience”: United States Golf Association President and EY alumnus Jim Hyler spends about 100 days a year on the road for the USGA. He is working to persuade clubs and golfers that when it comes to turf, “brown is the new green.”

About the USGA

  • Together with the R&A, the USGA governs the game worldwide
  • Conducts three Open championships each year — Men’s, Senior Men’s and Women’s — and 10 Amateur championships
  • Writes and interprets the Rules of Golf
  • Regulates and tests all golf equipment for conformance to the Rules of Golf
  • Maintains the USGA handicap and course-rating systems

 

Dcember 2011

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