There was a small, select group of people involved in the merger we now see between the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour, and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.
One of them was Jimmy Dunne, a man who might not be an instantly recognisable face to golf fans despite his key role on the PGA Tour.
Dunne, the PGA Tour Policy Board’s vice-chairman, was the man to break the news to Rory McIlroy at 6.30am on the morning of June 6, describing the situation as going for the green from 280 yards over water.
Along with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley, PGA Tour Policy Board member Ed Herhily and PIF Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the fine details of the deal were thrashed out over seven weeks.
Dunne was a key cog behind the scenes of the machine that produced what could be professional golf’s most ground-breaking deal, but who is he?
Who is PGA Tour Board member Jimmy Dunne?
Dunne began his career in the hustle and bustle of Wall Street after graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a bachelor’s degree in economics.
He has gone on to become the vice chairman and senior managing principal of investment bank Piper Sandler, and he was one of the founders of Sandler O’Neill and Partners L.P.
Sandler O’Neill went on to become the largest independent full-service investment banking firm that had a focus on the financial services sector.
He is based in Palm Beach and plays an active role in Piper Sandler’s client relationships and advises on mergers and acquisitions.
Dunne has been a regular industry commentator on CNBC and Bloomberg TV, speaking on leadership and management issues.
In terms of sport, many fans and even players can only dream of the Jimmy Dunne golf membership list, which comprises Augusta National, Shinnecock Hills, and Pine Valley.
He is also the president of Seminole Golf Club – a club that hosts the Seminole Pro-Member that features the best players the sport has to offer.
The 65-year-old was asked to join the PGA Tour Policy Board in 2022 and one of his main jobs in the last 12 months was to convince players not to leave the circuit to join LIV Golf.
In an interview with Golf Central, Dunne addressed a number of key topics to do with the PGA Tour’s U-turn in collaborating with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.
One of them was 9/11 and the links of Saudi Arabia’s association with the terrorist attacks in New York in 2001 – a day very close to Dunne’s heart.
At the time of the attacks, Dunne was trying to qualify for the US Mid Amateur when he lost 66 employees on the 104th floor in the south tower of the World Trade Centre.
“Every day the first thing I think about is that, several times during the day, I think about it and the last thing I think about at night is that,” Dunne said.
“That has not changed since that day and I’m not alone in that. I would guarantee you that every one of those family members has that same condition. It’s just a reality of how unbelievably sad and awful that day was.
“I am quite certain and have had conversations with a lot of knowledgeable people that the people that I’m dealing with (the PIF) had nothing to do with (the Sept 11 2001 attacks).
“And if someone can find someone that unequivocally was involved with it, I’ll kill him myself. We don’t have to wait around.”
Dunne believes it was important to work with the PIF and Al-Rumayyan to “unite the game” and overcome their differences in the discussions.
Despite Al-Rumayyan’s role as chairman of the new entity, Dunne asserted the PGA Tour hasn’t given up control of its own circuit and it will endeavour to look after the players who remained loyal in the last 12 months.
“By definition, as much as I liked the people I dealt with, the game of golf is too important, the legacy of the PGA Tour is too important,” he added.”
“The people that we have in place have too much experience that we have no desire, no need – there is no way on god’s green earth we’re going to give up control.
“We have to make sure that whatever it is that we finalise, they (the PGA Tour loyalists) feel good about their decisions.
“I think we can get there. I don’t think it’s going to be easy and I don’t think we’re all going to agree, but I think we can get there.”
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