U.S.G.A. President Tom O'Toole, Executive Director Mike Davis and First Vice-President Dan Burton at a U.S. Open press conference.

Dan Burton, Lancaster Country Club member, on running Opens and rising in U.S.G.A

Posted: June 17, 2014 6:15 pm

PINEHURST, N.C. – Someday soon Dan Burton is a near-lock to be president of the United States Golf Association.

Which isn’t as big a deal, to Burton, as what he’s doing right now.

As First Vice-President of the U.S.G.A., Burton is chair of the Competition Committee, which means he’s Tournament Director of the U.S. Men’s and Women’s Opens, the Men’s and Women’s Amateur Championships, and the U.S. Senior Open.

“I was hoping for this,’’ Burton said Tuesday at the media center at Pinehurst Country Club.

“This is all I want to do, the most fun thing, the thing I’ve always wanted to do most. If I never get to do anything else in my career with U.S.G.A., I’m happy.’’

He’s happy running golf tournaments. He’s in charge of everything inside the ropes at Pinehurst for the Women’s Open this week, and the Men’s Open last week.

He’s also been a rules official, this week, and at the Masters and British Open, the Players’ Championship and the World Amateur Team Championship, which will be played this summer in Japan. He was the referee walking along with the second-last group (Erik Compton and Henrik Stenson) in Sunday final round.

He expects to have the same gigs when the Women’s Open comes to Lancaster next year.

“Obviously I’m excited about a national championship coming to the place I live, and a club I’m a member of,’’ he said. “I think the course is one the ladies will love to play, and they’ll love the way the community embraces them.’’

The U.S.G.A. is on a bit of a roll. Since current executive director Mike Davis began running Opens and setting up their venues in 2005, the organization has won praise throughout golf for a more reasoned, less severely penal approach.

Recently, there was the supposed gamble of holding the Men’s Open at Merion, in Ardmore, a supposed antiquated venue. That one worked, by all accounts.

This year’s experiment, holding the Men’s and Women’s Opens back-to-back at Pinehurst, on a course essentially without rough, is arguably riskier.

“If you’d have asked us a year ago, we’d have been not just happy, but ecstatic, to have to work this well,’’ Burton said. “We like to reward great shots. (Martin Kaymer, who won the Men’s Open) hit a lot of them.’’

The U.S.G.A.’s hierarchy is not unlike that of, for example, the PIAA. There’s a full-time staff, headed since 2011 by Davis. There’s an executive committee (think PIAA Board of Directors), headed by the President, followed by a First and Second VP.

Tom O’Toole was named president last year, meaning Burton rose from Second to First VP, and to the competition committee chair. At a press conference the other day, Davis referred to Burton as “the next president,’’ presumably for a two-year term that would begin in 2016.

He is a good player, although better before the U.S.G.A. began devouring his time. He won the Pennsylvania Golf Association Mid-Amateur in 1994.

It was his handling of a couple controversial incidents in his quarterfinal and semifinal matches (“I wanted to win with my clubs, rather than other stuff,’’ he said) at the Mid-Am that brought him to the attention of golf administrators. He started with the state association in ‘95, moved to the Golf Association of Philadelphia in ‘97, and to the U.S.G.A. in 2009.

His “real’’ job, as Managing Director of RBC Capital Markets, allows for the massive time commitment. When the Women’s Open ends Sunday, he’ll head to Washington, where he and Davis will walk Chambers Bay, the 2016 Men’s Open site.

Then he’ll be home for a few days before heading to the Senior Open at Oak Tree in Oklahoma, followed by the British Open, at Royal Liverpool in England.

Playing golf is for the winter, in Florida.

“I can’t believe I get to do this,’’ Burton said. “There’s nothing I’d rather do in golf, other than maybe if I was a good enough player to win one of those championships.’’