GAO Executive Director Dave Mills Announces Retirement

Dave Mills had an incredible impact on golf in Ontario. (Photo: GAO)
Dave Mills had an incredible impact on golf in Ontario. (Photo: GAO)

The man who reshaped the Golf Association of Ontario forever will be stepping down.

Jim King, GAO President, announced today that Dave Mills, the former Ontario Hydro Manager who oversaw amalgamation of the former Ontario Golf Association and Ontario Ladies Golf Association into a non-gender specific organization in November of 2001, will be retiring from his role as GAO Executive Director at the end of January, 2014.

Mills, born in England but raised in the Peterborough area, first got involved in the Ontario Golf Association as a Club Representative for the Bay of Quinte Golf & Country Club when he and his family was living in the Belleville area.  Coincidentally that is where he and wife Judy moved back to last year in preparation for retirement, having made stops in Deep River and Brooklin, Ontario over the years while raising daughter Jennifer and sons Jeff and Jon.

It was in the “Friendly City”, at Bay of Quinte G&CC, where Mills became progressively more embedded in the Ontario golf scene as his sons climbed the ladder as top amateurs, and ultimately, as professionals.  (Jeff is now a PGA of Canada Head Professional while Jon is a member of the Tour)

Within a year of taking on the club rep role he found himself on the Board of Directors of the OGA as the Junior Chairman.

As his time at Ontario Hydro was coming to a close, Dave had found himself more involved in OGA activities then ever. He was spending most of his free time and vacations either watching the boys play in tournaments or being involved in OGA tournaments and events in some capacity. It was a time of turmoil for the burgeoning OGA, which had grown significantly but was struggling with its direction and structure, Dave told Flagstick during an interview for a profile story in the summer of 2005.
After the departure of Skip Williams, the OGA’s long- time Executive Director in the early 1990’s, the organization went through a variety of people at the helm and for a number of reasons that didn’t work out. When the position opened up again Dave (who was still serving on the Board of Directors and about to become President the next year) said he would resign from the board if he would be considered for the vacant Executive Director position. “It worked out,” he says of the transition that brought him into the lead role for male golfers in Canada’s most populated province in the fall of 1997.

Dave says it took him at least a month in his new position to grasp all the issues that faced the group. Analysing the situation he realized that there was a need for real re-organization in the OGA. Within a few years many new staff members were in place and long range planning was a major priority. What was a tournament organization addressing the needs of 3-5% of its members transitioned into to a more professional golf association that looked at the needs of all its members. “We were working hard to build a better association,” says Dave not from the perspective of the head of the group but more from the direction of someone who loves the game and wanted to see it prosper.

With his own house in a little more order, the biggest event to ever happen for golf in Ontario was looming in the distance for Dave and the OGA. At the time the OGA took care of the male golfers of Ontario while the Ontario Ladies Golf Association (OLGA) was responsible for the women. Talk of amalgamation had come up for almost two decades but nothing had ever come to fruition. Things started to move in 1998 and 1999 and Dave said it reflected the world at the time. “Corporations were merging and amalgamations were starting to be a more common thing.” Early meetings ensued between Dave and Honey Crossley, the head of the OLGA.

The amalgamation was a complicated process involving a committee with members from both sides who had to address all sorts of issues from job security to finances. It all culminated in November of 2001 when the Golf Association of Ontario was born, what will likely be the greatest moment of Dave’s tenure.

In the following years, Dave continued to utilize his vast administrative skills to move the association forward in a professional manner. He is proud of the team they have assembled and the initiatives they have created.

It’s a legacy that will extend long past his retirement.

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