September 24, 2017
|Suku Radia at the 2013 Solheim Cup in Germany|
|Suku and his wife Maria|
By R.J. SmileyThe saying goes, "If you want a job done well, give it to a busy person." That is exactly what the Board at Des Moines Golf and Country Club did when they selected Suku Radia, CEO of Bankers Trust, one of the largest banks in Iowa, to head a committee to secure the Solheim Cup. As he found out, the Committee was comprised of one person- Suku!
A novel could be written about Suku Radia's business success in Des Moines, Iowa. But the magical story of his life began long before he graduated from Iowa State.
Suku's face lights up as he highlights the story of his childhood. "I grew up living a life of leisure in Uganda, East Africa. My great grandfather and many others from India were brought to Uganda by the British to build a railroad in this primitive land. When the railroad was completed to the capital city of Kampala, the British told the railroad workers they had a choice, they could return home to India or, they could remain in Uganda. With nothing to return to in India, my great grandfather chose to remain in Uganda."
"With the new railroad Uganda's economy grew and the Indian immigrants who remained soon controlled about 90% of the new wealth in this prospering country. As a child we learned about the United States from Time Magazine. Oh, how I wanted to go to America."
During Suku's freshman year at Iowa State, Idi Amin, the brutal dictator, took control of Uganda and seized everything. Suku's parents were evicted from Uganda and fled to Great Britain, penniless.
"I graduated from Iowa State in 2½ years, but I was totally broke. I needed a job and a place to live. I was offered a good summer job in a small community near Des Moines. The parents of my friend in my dorm offered me a free room for the summer. Eighteen months later, after graduation, I married their daughter, who had graduated from high school earlier that year."
After graduation, Suku had a great 25-year career with KPMG, 8 years as CFO of Meredith Corporation, a NYSE company and was then recruited to become the CEO of Bankers Trust, where he has completed 9 years of service.
Tee Times asked: How were you chosen as chairman of the committee to secure the Solheim Cup?
Suku Radia: "I had been heavily involved with the 1999 U.S. Senior Open at our club. With my business background, I had developed an understanding of what makes these big golf events work. With the very successful Senior Open completed, the Club members were surveyed about hosting future professional golf events. Results of the survey revealed that the membership was willing to host major golf events every few years, but did not want an annual tournament. That is when the Solheim Cup came into focus."
"The Board of Directors of DMGCC asked me to chair a committee to secure the Solheim Cup. I had been a club member of DMGCC for 36 years; the Board knew I could do the job." Suku rolled his eyes as he said, "I quickly realized the committee to secure the Solheim Cup was a one man committee."
TT: What was the first step in the long process of DMGCC becoming the venue for Solheim Cup?
SR: "I took a very hands on approach to securing the Solheim Cup. I first flew to LPGA headquarters in Daytona Beach, FL and had a long visit with Michael Whan, Commissioner of the LPGA. I wanted to know exactly what the LPGA and Solheim Cup were looking for in a venue. I asked about past successes and visions for future events. When I returned to Des Moines, I knew what was needed to submit a winning bid."
TT: When you say winning bid, what does that mean?
SR: "Golf clubs across America that are interested in hosting a Solheim Cup submit a bid stating everything that the club and community can provide for the Solheim Cup. The bid application also states amenities and assets that would be beneficial to the Matches."
TT: How much did the success of the 1999 Senior Open at DMGCC have to do with approval of the Solheim Cup?
SR: "The success of the Senior Open was an important part of the initial bid process. The fact that the Senior Open drew a record crowd of over 250,000 was a big part. I put together a team of experts, each person was an integral part in completing the bid process."
TT: Was the LPGA worried that the golf market might be saturated with the Des Moines area annually hosting one established golf tournament?
SR: "Not really. We assured the LPGA that the sponsors of the Principal Charity Classic would act as marketing partners for the Solheim Cup."
TT: What was the next step in the process?
SR: "We submitted our bid to the LPGA and Solheim Cup and were chosen as one of the three finalists. A member of the selection committee makes a personal visit to the city and golf club of the finalists. That is when we blew them away. On the first day of the visit we had a personal meeting with the Governor. Terry Branstad let the Solheim Cup representative know that Iowa wanted the Solheim Cup. He assured them that he knows the people of Iowa and he understands the magnitude of the event. Lieutenant Governor, Kim Reynolds, cut through a lot of red tape for subsequent meetings with the right people. With a quality airport and an excellent interstate highway system access was not a problem. The fact that DMGCC was in the process of a total renovation of all 36-holes was frosting on the cake."
TT: As the countdown to the Solheim Cup continues, reflect on your personal feelings about the Matches.
SR: "I have attended two Solheim Cups, in 2013 at Colorado Golf Club and 2015 in Germany. As an immigrant to the United States, I am very proud of my country. The thing I love the most is the sense of patriotism that is on display during the Solheim Cup Matches. Everyone is dressed in red, white and blue. Chants of U-S-A, U-S-A - emotions run deep at Solheim Cup!
"From a personal standpoint, I am very much a supporter of women's issues. At my company 69.7% of the employees are women, with 20% of our employees as minorities. The Solheim Cup is a huge golf event that puts women athletes in the spotlight. I am very proud to have been a part of bringing the Solheim Cup to Iowa."
It has been a long journey for Suku Radia. From a childhood life of luxury in an East African country that nobody could find on a map, to the driving force behind the Des Moines edition of the Solheim Cup, Suku Radia is a true American success story. No matter the outcome of the Matches in August, Suku knows that he followed in his great grandfathers footsteps and brought the Solheim Cup train to the capital city of Des Moines.
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