Wade ending 26-year run at PGA Tour
One of the PGA Tour’s longest-tenured executives will retire on Dec. 31, as chief commercial officer Tom Wade steps down after 26 years with the property.
Wade joined the tour in 1993 as vice president of corporate marketing, worked as chief marketing officer and was appointed chief commercial officer in 2014. He has been involved in virtually all of the tour’s sponsorship and other major business initiatives during his nearly three decades on the job.
Wade began his career with Procter & Gamble in research and development. Before joining the tour, he wrote the two-part application as part of the bid to bring the NFL’s Jaguars to Jacksonville while working for the Touchdown Jacksonville ownership group in Florida.
“It’s been a crazy route,” Wade said. “I was a math and science geek, and the idea that I’m heading up corporate partnerships and sponsorships and at one time media for the tour shows that anything can happen.”
Wade has been primarily responsible for the massive run-up in the tour’s sponsorship business since the early 1990s. He helped craft the tour’s long-term deal with FedEx in creating the FedEx Cup playoffs and led the charge in creating the tour’s deal with Schwab that sponsors the Charles Schwab Cup Championship on the PGA Tour Champions. Both are among the property’s most valuable partnerships.
“Tom has been a tremendously important member of the PGA Tour family for more than a quarter-century, developing our sponsorship portfolio and securing historic long-term partnerships such as the one with FedEx that helped to reshape the PGA Tour structure with the introduction of the FedEx Cup,” said Jay Monahan, PGA Tour commissioner. “Tom has been recognized internally for his valuable perspective and unique insights on enhancing value to the PGA Tour, our partners and constituents. His contributions to the tour cannot be overstated, and we are truly grateful for all he has done.”
Much has changed since Wade started working for the tour.
“When I started, we didn’t do any title sponsorship deals and we had a very small marketing partnership business,” he said. “We have grown that to a $900 million business. Golf is an individual sport, but the business of golf is a team sport and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Wade said that while the FedEx and Schwab sponsorships stand as some of his team’s biggest accomplishments, another major achievement was continuing to grow the tour’s sponsorship business in the face of the Great Recession beginning in 2008 that had the golf industry reeling.
“A lot of people predicted the demise of the tour, but we got through it,” he said. “There was never a year we didn’t grow. It was a tough time. I was proud to be a part of getting through it when the tour was under threat.”
No replacement in title has been named for Wade, who for years favored a military haircut until the past two years when he began sporting the long-haired, pony-tailed look that seemed to fly in the face of the buttoned-down golf business.
Brian Oliver, executive vice president of PGA Tour corporate partnerships, will head up the bulk of the tour’s sponsorship duties. But Wade still plans to be involved in the industry in some manner after he retires.
“I’ll continue to have a relationship with the tour,” Wade said. “I am exploring different options. But I want to take some time. I’ve never done nothing. I might like it. Then again, I might not.”