Jon Mays: New ED of the MGA

The Jefferson High School alum returns to Minnesota after a career as Athletic Director at the University of New Haven.

October 30, 2023 | 1 min.

On September 22, the Minnesota Golf Association announced Jon Mays as its newly hired executive director and chief operating officer. Mays, 34, is the seventh executive director in the association’s 122-year history, succeeding Tom Ryan, who announced his retirement earlier this year. Mays will lead the MGA staff in serving the association’s 90,000 associate members, more than 400 member golf clubs and 14 allied golf industry associations.

“My family and I are thrilled to be stepping into a role that will allow me to serve the game and our members in my home state,” says Mays, adding, “Golf has played an important role in my life both personally and professionally, and I look forward to using this platform to enact change for other Minnesota golfers. I want to thank Ede [Rice] and the other members of the search committee for putting their faith in me to succeed Tom. Golf in Minnesota is in a better place because of his leadership, and I look forward to working with our experienced staff to carry on his legacy.”

Mays, who is a Bloomington native, returns to Minnesota after a five-year stint with the University of New Haven, first as an associate director of athletics before he was promoted to overseeing the department of athletics as its director. Under his leadership, the department received record levels of funding, the UNH Charger Athletics Fund flourished and the athletics center underwent key facility upgrades. In Mays’ time, the Chargers football and basketball programs have achieved success on the field and court, including consecutive trips to the NCAA Playoffs and an appearance in the Elite Eight for the men’s basketball team. While at New Haven, Mays was instrumental in establishing new men’s and women’s varsity golf programs in 2022. 

“Succeeding a legacy leader like Tom Ryan is no small task,” says Ede Rice, MGA president. “We at the MGA are delighted to begin working with Jon. With his Minnesota roots and passion for golf, he has the perfect skill set and leadership experience to guide our talented staff into the future,” adds Rice. 

Mays is an accomplished scholar having earned his Ph.D. in sport management from the University of Kansas. He is a graduate of Lawrence University where he excelled as a student athlete and served as captain for both the basketball and golf teams. Mays will assume his new duties with the MGA full time beginning Nov. 1, and anticipates moving his wife, Alicia, and their young family to Minnesota over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Meet the MGA’s New Executive Director and COO, Jon Mays

Q. What do you look forward to in returning to Minnesota?
A. Even as my family and I have moved across the country, Minnesota has always been “home” to me. It will be great to be back around family and friends and to raise our children as Minnesotans. Beyond that, the opportunity to serve golfers in Minnesota and to help grow the game in my home state will be deeply rewarding. Golf has given me so much in my life and I look forward to giving back to the game in any way I can. 

Q.  What is your vision for the MGA in your first year?
A. Tom Ryan and the rest of the MGA staff have done so much to grow the game and establish the MGA as one of the premier state golf associations in the country. In my first year, I plan to be an active listener and learner while also leaning on my experience to identify areas for growth. I expect this next year to be an opportunity to work with our Board of Directors and staff to outline and begin a comprehensive strategic planning process that will guide our organization for the next 3-5 years. It will also be an opportunity for me to meet and hear from as many of our members as possible and to use that information to identify the priorities for us to focus on moving forward. 

Q. Where do you see the future of amateur golf in Minnesota and the MGA heading?
A. In my opinion, amateur golf is the purest form of sport in our society. At the MGA we will continue to uphold the values and traditions that make amateur golf so special while also seeking ways to enhance the experience for all our members. My vision for amateur golf in Minnesota includes greater opportunity and exposure for women’s golfers and more emphasis on making golf accessible to all. Traditionally, golf has been perceived as an exclusive sport, and by breaking down those barriers the MGA can broaden its appeal and ensure its relevance for future generations. Further, my expectation is to host our men’s and women’s amateur championships at the best courses throughout the state to ensure that they continue to be a destination for the best amateur players and the gold standard for amateur championships nationwide. 

Q. Given your background in collegiate athletics, what experiences do you feel will translate well in support of the MGA mission?
A. There are many similarities between leading an athletic department and leading a state golf association. Both roles require the ability to take input from a wide array of stakeholders—often with competing priorities—and identify the solution that most closely aligns with the mission of the organization. I also have experience working closely with a board to develop the strategic priorities and vision for the organization and then communicating that to a staff to execute. The most important experience that will translate is my tendency toward a service mindset. As an A.D., I have served our student-athletes as they pursue excellence in competition, in the classroom and in the community. With the MGA, we will serve the game and our members to ensure that golf continues to flourish in Minnesota. 

Q. What inspires you about leadership?
A. When I think about leadership I am reminded of the quote, “True power is the power to empower others.” I am fortunate to have a skilled and experienced staff at the MGA that understands and embraces our mission. I will empower them to utilize their skillsets and be at the forefront of innovation in our industry. Our golfers, especially those representing under-served communities throughout the state, should also be empowered to have a voice regarding the future of golf in our state. I am inspired when I am around people who are passionate about a cause, and I know for certain that Minnesotans are passionate about golf. 

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