Brian Graham prefers to talk shop at a disc golf course instead of one with sand traps and putting greens. Perhaps that’s why it is so fitting an avid disc golfer and Graham’s mentor, Pete May, was able to lure Graham from the Professional Disc Golf Association
to Morris Communications after 10 years as PDGA’s executive director. While Graham’s title changed Jan. 1 to director of corporate events at Morris, he remains in the sports tourism world. In fact, one of Graham’s responsibilities will be to oversee the National Collegiate Disc Golf Championships
. The Augusta, Georgia-based Graham discusses his new job, his accomplishments at PDGA and why disc golf should only continue to grow.
Why leave PDGA after a decade to work at Morris?
I wasn’t looking, but Pete May, whom I’ve known for 20 years, approached me to fill his spot when he retires this year. The timing felt right. PDGA is in such good shape now and is financially sound. I’m lucky to train under him. He’s been a friend and mentor and was on the PDGA board of directors before I became executive director.
Can you put into perspective PDGA’s growth since you took over?
At a time when established sports are declining or struggling, disc golf has grown close to 20 percent the past three years. Before that, it was a steady 15 percent increase. Since I started, our members grew by 285 percent (32,000 to 90,000). The total number of events PDGA sanctioned was 732; in 2016 it was almost 3,100, a 420 percent increase. We’re looking at between 3,500 and 3,600 events in 2017.
Is that surge sustainable?
I don’t think so at 20 percent. There are only 52 weeks in a year and a certain number of courses. But I see growth continuing for another decade.
It’s funny you are leaving PDGA but will now run the collegiate championship.
That was part of the attraction to me. I can go on to a new business and new challenges but stay involved in disc golf, which is a sport I love very much.
Tell us more about Morris and what other events you’ll oversee.
Morris is primarily a media company—it owns newspapers, TV stations and media guides, and its headquarters are here in Augusta. But they are a diverse company; they own farms and sporting entities. They own the National Barrel Horse Association, which runs Augusta Futurity, the largest cutting horse event east of the Mississippi. The association sanctioned 2,000 events last year.
What strengths will you bring to Morris?
I think something I’ve always been good at is quality control and giving things a professional look. I also think I bring a fresh perspective, especially with equine events. It’s always good to have an outside person looking at an organization.