Glen D. Nager knows the importance of a
good approach shot.
In golf, the approach is the relatively
short intermediary shot where the golfer
attempts to land the ball onto the putting
green. It’s not as flashy as the drive or
dramatic as the putt, but it’s critically
important, and one of the trickier facets of
the game to master.
The same might be said for practicing law.
“In both the law and in golf, the great
ones hit the ball straight and up the
middle,” he says. “Advocacy is best when
it’s simple and direct and straightforward.
Golf is best when played from short grass
to short grass and into the hole.”
In February, at the picturesque Pinehurst
Resort & Country Club in North Carolina,
Nager officially completed his term
as president of the United States Golf
Association, the influential governing body
and national association of golf in the U.S.
and Mexico. It’s a weighty, one-year term
that Nager somehow juggled two years in a
row while chairing the national issues and
appeals practice out of the Washington,
D.C., office of Jones Day.
While it’s safe to say Nager hasn’t had
much time to perfect his own approach
shot during the last few years, his steady
influence at the nexus of golf and law has
yielded big results in both worlds.
The USGA is charged with interpreting,
maintaining and amending the rules
of golf. It also regulates equipment
standards, provides the national handicap
system for golfers and conducts 13 national
championships, including the U.S. Open.
GLEN D. NAGER IS BACK IN THE SWING OF THINGS AFTER HIS STINT AS PRESIDENT OF THE
UNITED STATES GOLF ASSOCIATION BY MATT AMIS
During Nager’s term as president, the
organization spearheaded a controversial
rule change, which, beginning in 2016,
prohibits golfers from “anchoring,” in
which the club or hand gripping the club
is held directly against the player’s body
during a putt. The organization also signed
off on a 12-year TV deal with Fox Sports.
For Nager, such initiatives are the
culmination of eight years of involvement
with the USGA. He picked up golf relatively
late in life, but the hobby quickly evolved
into a passion, and by 2005, USGA reps
approached him and asked if he’d join the
ranks as volunteer general counsel, a title
he held from 2006 to 2008. He eventually
ascended to the executive committee,
becoming its vice president and chairman
of the Rules of Golf Committee.
Meanwhile, Nager tinkered with the
Jones Day rule book, too.
While many firms build their practice
around a small number of powerful, big-
name attorneys who carry the brunt of
important Supreme Court cases, Nager
has steered Jones Day’s issues and appeals
division through what he refers to as the
“The service we offer to clients is to
find the best lawyer, no matter what
office, no matter what practice area,” he
says. “In order to fulfill that, what we’ve
done is not build the practice around one
high-profile lawyer but try to develop
newcomers into stars.”
Over the past 10 years, the multiple-star
system has paved the way for 19 Jones
Day lawyers to present oral arguments in
32 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We have a deep bench,” Nager says,
“and we get a lot of different lawyers
that experience so we can service a lot of
Nager himself has made 13 SCOTUS
appearances during his 30-year career, in
his wheelhouse subject areas of antitrust,
civil rights, employment, environmental
law, government contracts and intellectual
property. He argued the much-publicized
American Needle Inc. v. National Football
League antitrust case of 2010, in which the
court held that NFL teams are separate
and independent businesses (and not
united as a single, league-wide entity) and
therefore subject to scrutiny under the
Sherman Antitrust Act.
A newcomer in 1983, Nager found
himself clerking for another relative
newcomer, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor,
who two years prior had joined the U.S.
Supreme Court. The two remain close to
this day. “We golfed together,” Nager says.
“She even sponsored my membership at