David L. Stivers is president of Pebble Beach Company, which owns and operates the world-famous Pebble Beach Resorts and operates four renowned golf courses on California’s Monterey Peninsula. Previously, he was executive vice president and chief administrative officer, overseeing all legal affairs, serving as general counsel to the Board, and managing the company’s human resources and information services divisions. Prior to that, he served as Pebble Beach’s executive vice president, brand management, in charge of all sales, marketing, sponsorship, and licensing matters for the company.
THE STIVERS STORY —
I was playing golf with Peter Ueberroth in 1994, after the initial public offering of Doubletree Hotels, where Peter was co-chairman. Peter and Dick Ferris are co-chairmen of Pebble Beach today. At the time, I was the outside securities lawyer for Doubletree. I wasn’t a very good golfer, but was playing really well through the first four holes. On the fifth tee, Peter asked me to join his company. I proceeded to launch my tee shot deep into the woods, but it also launched my career in the hotel and golf business.
You wake up in the morning – what is the driving passion?
I get to work at one of the most beautiful and historic resorts in the world. Pebble Beach is a special place, with special employees. My passion is to make a positive impact for this team every day.
Pebble Beach will be the site for this year’s U.S. Amateur – the last time came in ’99 and the one that preceded that event came in ’61 won by Jack Nicklaus – why the desire to host the event?
The U.S. Amateur is our nation’s oldest golf championship. It’s a very special opportunity to be involved with that kind of history and heritage. When you look at some of the championship’s past winners – Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and many others – it’s a great opportunity for today’s rising stars to compete on a national stage, and on two of America’s greatest golf courses. We could not be more proud to be hosting it for the fifth time.
We first hosted the championship in 1929 at Pebble Beach Golf Links, when our golf course was just 10 years old, and it was also the first time that the USGA brought a championship to the western United States. That was the beginning of what has since become a special 90-year relationship with the USGA. The U.S. Amateur helped make Pebble Beach what it is today.
Clearly, golf fans around the world are very much aware of the history of the course. Given your position and insider status, what is something about Pebble Beach that most people are likely not aware of?
Before it was a golf course, Pebble Beach Golf Links sits was almost developed into home lots – 3,200- to 4,000-square-foot lots similar to what you see in many coastal communities. Instead, our company founder, Samuel F. B. Morse, convinced the owners to build Pebble Beach Golf Links by assuring them it would help increase interest in the development of the area. Pebble Beach opened to the public in 1919, and the rest is history. Interestingly, Mr. Morse’s original plan was to use sheep to maintain the golf course!
Curious to know – what is the total number of rounds played at Pebble Beach annually?
Over 60,000 rounds per year are played at Pebble Beach. We are blessed with mild weather year-round.
Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of Pebble Beach. What do you guess Samuel F. B. Morse would think of today’s property versus the one he originated nearly a century ago?
Mr. Morse would be proud of the way that Pebble Beach Company has honored his commitment to the environment and his forward thinking in business and development. Pebble Beach Resorts today includes three hotels, four golf courses, shopping, dining, tennis, an equestrian center, hiking trails and more – all done in a way that we feel aligns with his vision for the Del Monte Forest. I think he would also respect our company values of continuing to improve our property to maximize the experience for our guests, who visit from all over the world. Pebble Beach is open to the public, and always will be. We pride ourselves in being stewards of our beautiful area, and maintaining it so generations of guests can continue to enjoy it for the next century.
In your estimation, what is the most underrated hole at Pebble Beach?
The 1st hole at Pebble Beach – one of the most nerve-racking tee shots in golf, since it’s the first shot of what is often a highly anticipated round. There’s a lot running through a player’s mind when stepping up to the first tee at Pebble Beach – the spectators who may be watching, the fact that you are teeing off on the same course as some of the world’s greatest players, or that after watching Pebble Beach on TV for so many years you are finally here in person.
What is the biggest short- and long-term challenge facing the facility?
To keep improving – one of our core values. Our team believes that you are either getting better or getting worse; nothing stays the same. So we are constantly looking for ways to improve our resort, our level of service, and the overall guest experience. For example, we are close to completing a resort-wide renovation of all hotel rooms, we opened the new Fairway One complex at The Lodge last September, and we recently opened a new visitor center to welcome day guests who visit Pebble Beach from all over the world.
The major golf organizations – USGA, R&A, PGA of America, PGA TOUR, LPGA – are all seeking ways to attract new players to the game. This is especially so for Millennials, women and minorities. If you were advising them, what would you recommend be done?
The golf industry is doing a lot already to grow the game – The First Tee, Drive, Chip & Putt, and Youth on Course (based out of the Northern California Golf Association headquarters here in Pebble Beach) are all great programs and opportunities for new golfers to enter the game. Golf is a game that you can play for your entire life. If we expose young people to the game and teach them basic fundamentals, they’ll be hooked for life. They may not play a lot in their youth, but they’ll come back to the game at a later age and play it for decades. So my advice is keep doing what you are doing.
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally, what would it be and why?
Focusing on my own game, I would allow golfers to throw out their worst score on one hole. I always seem to fall apart on one or two holes.
Best advice you ever received – what was it and who from? Also, best advice you can provide someone looking to be involved in the golf industry.
Always strive to improve. It is something our CEO, Bill Perocchi, teaches, and it’s advice I’ve received throughout my life – starting with my parents. I truly believe you can keep getting better through hard work, commitment and a positive approach to business and life. We look for candidates with those same values.
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