He’ll take over the reins of European Golf in April, but who is Guy Kinnings? We take a look at his career
Guy Kinnings is to become the new king of European golf.
The experienced industry figure will take over as chief executive of the European Tour Group in April, after current incumbent Keith Pelley announced he would be leaving to become President and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment in Toronto.
He said of his upcoming appointment: “It has been a privilege to work closely with Keith since I joined the Tour in 2018. He set out to transform the European Tour group, and unquestionably he has done that.
“It will be a huge honour to take on this role in April and I am immensely proud to have been given this responsibility. I will continue to work closely with Keith, Eric and the Board over the next three months to ensure a seamless transition.
“I look forward to working with our players, staff and partners in the game, as well as our very impressive Executive Leadership and Senior Management Teams, to continue to build upon everything our Tour has achieved in recent years.”
Kinnings steps into an interesting brief with the DP World Tour’s global position unclear in the ongoing negotiations between the PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund.
With some critics arguing the tour’s influence has become blunted in the wake of its strategic alliance with the PGA Tour, Kinnings will play a key role in its future.
But who is he and how has his career led to this point?
Who is Guy Kinnings?
Born in Wolverhampton, Guy Kinnings was educated at Shrewsbury School before gaining a law degree from Oxford University,
“My brother and I were incredibly lucky,” Kinnings told John Hopkins and Global Golf Post of his education. “Our parents drove 120 miles a day on some of the busiest roads in Europe so that Max and I could go to Shrewsbury.”
He started his career as a solicitor with London firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. But it wasn’t long before he moved into the golf world, joining IMG in 1989 – first in the legal department – before becoming an agent in its golf division two years later.
Kinnings would work at IMG for 29 years, rising to senior vice president, global head of golf, and Global Co-Managing Director – leading the huge company’s golf business.
He also created and developed sponsorship programmes with a host of worldwide brands, including Rolex, HSBC, Canon, and Volvo, and reorganised and grew the company’s golf events business.
Ahead of the Ryder Cup in Rome last September, he told Lux Magazine of his grounding: “I learned the ropes from the legendary Mark McCormack at IMG, who managed the likes of Arnold Palmer and Gary Player and basically invented the role of a modern sports agent.
“I could not have asked for a better mentor.”
Most notably, Kinnings was Colin Montgomerie’s manager during the Scot’s great heights in the 1990s and early 2000s.
“He understood me and I understood him,” Montgomerie told Hopkins. “We went together, similarly educated, university educated, that type of thing. It was an easy fit.”
He added: “He always felt I employed him. He was very aware of that and that was a good thing. A lot of agents and client managers feel they are in charge. He felt it was the other way round and he was right.”
Kinnings became renowned in tour circles as someone you could rely on, and who could manage the relationships that make the golf world go round. From Paul McGinley, to Jay Monahan, to Chubby Chandler, they all said the same thing. He’s a guy they respect.
Having become a fixture at IMG, Kinnings then moved in the spring of 2018 to the European Tour and has since served as Deputy CEO at HQ in Wentworth, and also as Ryder Cup director.
In the latter role, he has been tasked with overseeing the biennial team event and driving the commercial success of the competition between Europe and the USA. The last edition, in Rome, was the largest ever held in Europe,
“When I moved away from the management side of events and clients and everything IMG, it was in large part because of the opportunity to work on this event,” he told the PGA.
“Literally within a couple of months, I was lucky enough to be there dealing with the Ryder Cup in Paris in 2018, which I thought was exceptional. And I was lucky enough to work with an old friend, Thomas Bjorn, who I’d worked with as his manager.”
He added of his plans ahead of Rome: “What we want to do is to try and increase the experience, both for those who are there and those who are watching.
“The Ryder Cup is the one moment when everyone in sport, and even people outside it, wants to watch. You’ve got to remember, we do what we do as a tour to feed the money through to the members. That’s our job.”
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