PGA of America Taps Former Topgolf Exec as its New Chief Operations Officer

Craig Kessler brings experience in "off-course golf" to the PGA from his years as COO of Dallas-based Topgolf. He most recently served as CEO of Dallas' Buff City Soap.

Former Topgolf executive Craig Kessler has been appointed chief operations officer of the Frisco-based PGA of America. He assumes his new duties on March 6.

Kessler served as COO and head of emerging concepts at Dallas-based Topgolf from 2016 to 2021. He will report to PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh.

“I always admired Craig’s knowledge and love of the game, appreciated his partnership while he was at Topgolf and was thrilled when his name surfaced through the search committee,” Waugh said in a statement. “We’re all grateful that he is excited to bring his passion and expertise back to the game and our members. For the first time in history there are now more off-course golfers than on-course, so his track record of innovation and growth has never been more relevant or welcome.”

Waugh touted Kessler’s background as making him a good fit.

“His proven success as a culture builder and broad operating experience across the game and varied businesses will bring a fresh perspective to the enormous strides we have made on behalf of our members and the game at large over the past few years,” Waugh said. “I’m grateful to M.G. [Orender] and the search committee for surfacing and vetting such an impressive group of extremely talented executives and settling on such an ideal choice from a very long list.”

Joins the PGA from his post as CEO of Buff City Soap

Most recently, Kessler was CEO of Buff City Soap, a fast-growing, Dallas-based experiential retail company. Buff City has grown from 100 to 260 locations since Kessler joined as CEO. It has stores in 32 states.

“On behalf of the officers and board of directors, we’re pleased to welcome Craig to the PGA of America team,” PGA of America President John Lindert said in a statement. “We would like to thank the members of the search committee and look forward to working alongside Craig as we continue to grow the game and impact the lives of our members.”

The PGA of America said that Kessler brings a passion for golf and an extensive operating and financial background.

It said that while at Topgolf, the company experienced explosive growth from 25 venues to 70, and to more than 25,000 employees. Kessler was the primary point of contact between Topgolf and the PGA, and during his tenure Topgolf employed more than 60 PGA Members.

“PGA Professionals have had a significant impact on my life,” Kessler said in a statement. “They’ve taught me, my wife, and our boys how to play the game we love. The opportunity to play a part in helping the PGA of America serve our members and grow the game is both exciting and meaningful.”

Kessler earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University.

His career started with the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. From there, he became an operating partner at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and Providence Equity Partners, two private equity firms, before joining Topgolf full time in 2016.

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