With the help of hand-me-down clubs from uncles on his mother’s side of the family, and a father-son bonding trip to Ontario during his junior high years, David Graham developed a fascination with golf.
Still, he said, he never would have guessed he would one day work in the industry.
Later as a career path involved high-tech problem solving for software, cellular companies and others, golf was a favorite activity as well as a conduit for conducting business.
Yet, he said, he still considered the game a lifelong hobby.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I will become a golf administrator,” he said. “Then it happened. I was in the right place at the right time. I was in my career a problem-solver, and what brought me to the Golf Association of Michigan (GAM) were some challenging problems. It turned out to be a wonderful opportunity to use what I had learned and solve problems with an incredible team of staff, volunteers, and a leadership team of past presidents and officers who love the game.”
The GAM had problems in 1999 and was on the brink of bankruptcy. Enter Graham, who retired in 2019 as the sixth and the longest-serving executive director in GAM history.
He took on bankruptcy first with the pursuit of loans and timely dues payments. Among other early business moves was the creation of more member benefits like the “Swing and Save” program, and the forging of relationships with multiple companies to provide a wide range of services spanning bottled water to member travel and published and internet communications.
Graham decided early that a big part of the association’s role was to get more Michigan golfers to play more golf. GAM Golf Days, Net tournaments and the GAM Scramble were added to serve the non-elite players.
He also helped the association look to the future with a long-range planning committee that created the GAM Foundation. Out of the foundation came the popular Youth on Course program he had discovered at a conference of golf leaders.
Other missions included protecting tax benefits to golf facility operators for land contributions, expanding fundraising for the Evans Scholar Foundation, fundraising for the Michigan Turfgrass Foundation, fundraising and finding a home for the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame, and taking part with the Michigan Golf Alliance, which brings together six major golf associations in the state.
During his tenure GAM membership of clubs and courses increased to high marks of almost 450 clubs/courses and 60,000 golfers.