Former Topgolf executive brings record of “innovation and growth” to PGA

FRISCO, Texas – The PGA of America recently announced that former Topgolf executive Craig Kessler has been named Chief Operating Officer. Kessler, who served as COO and Head of Emerging Concepts at Topgolf from 2016-21, will report to PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh.

Kessler, who begins his new duties on March 6, will be based at PGA Frisco, the new home of the PGA of America.

Most recently, Kessler served as Chief Executive Officer of Buff City Soap, a fast-growing, experiential retail company based in Dallas. Buff City has grown from 100 to 260 locations since Kessler joined as CEO. Today, the brand has stores in 32 states.

“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,” said Waugh. “We are 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.  

“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. I am 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.” 

Said PGA of America President John Lindert, “On behalf of the Officers and Board of Directors, we are pleased to welcome Craig to the PGA of America team. 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.”

Kessler brings a passion for golf and an extensive operating and financial background to the PGA of America. While at Topgolf, the company experienced explosive growth from 25 venues to 70, and to more than 25,000 employees. Kessler served as 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,” said Kessler. “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. He began his career with the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. 

From there, he became an operating partner at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) and Providence Equity Partners, two private equity firms, before joining Topgolf full-time in 2016.  During this phase of his career, Kessler worked to evaluate potential investment opportunities and he worked side-by-side with company management teams to improve company performance.

“The search process was thorough and inclusive with nearly 200 candidates vetted,” said PGA of America Past President M.G. Orender, who chaired the search committee. “Each of the finalists was exceptional, but Craig uniquely possesses all the elements we were looking for. He had been COO and presided over the exponential growth of Topgolf. 

“He then gained valuable experience at Buff City Soap bringing multiple operating teams across several office locations together under one roof while launching a very successful culture rebuild. He also committed to go through PGA Education to fully understand what our Members experience. Craig brings the total package.”

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