Book Review of Deane Beman: Golf’s Driving Force (Part 2 of 2)

“Chapter 2: First Commissioner,” is like a flashback in a movie. It takes us back to the PGA Tour’s split from the PGA of America in 1968. That was the source of the “Statement of Principles” that Deane had discovered and led to the stopping of his being fired in 1983. And to understand that crisis, we have to briefly consider how the PGA Tour came into existence and what the PGA of America had to do with it.

The PGA of America’s headquarters are located in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Its website describes it as “the world’s largest working sports organization, comprised of 27,000 men and women golf Professionals who are the recognized experts in growing, teaching and managing the game of golf, while serving millions of people throughout its 41 PGA Sections nationwide. Since its founding in 1916, The PGA of America has enhanced its leadership position by growing the game of golf.”

The general public often is confused by the names of the two different organizations the PGA Tour and the PGA of America, with PGA in both cases being an abbreviation for Professional Golfers of America. Notice in the above PGA of America statement that its members are called “golf Professionals.” In American professional golf, members of the PGA of America are called “golf professionals,” whereas members of the PGA Tour generally call themselves “professional golfers.” What is the difference? Members of the PGA of America are “club professionals” who are employed at a particular golf course to sell golf equipment and soft goods in the “pro shop” at the golf course and perhaps offer golf lessons to especially that golf club’s members for a fee. Thus, golf professional have a steady job, like most people, and get to go home at night and perhaps be with their family. In contrast, members of the PGA Tour play golf at a very high level in many golf tournaments throughout the year which are staged throughout the U.S., thus requiring constant travel and being away from home. Nearly all members of the PGA Tour are also members of the PGA of America in a separate category.

Many golf courses in the U.S. must be closed during a portion of the winter season due to cold and perhaps snowy weather. Of course, this is especially true of the northern U.S. So, during the winter period golf professionals usually are not working in their pro shop. Most golf professional like to play golf, and many of them excel at it. Thus, during the winter months during the early 20th century, some golf professionals, especially those in the northeastern states, would go south to Florida to be in the warm weather and play golf. The newly-formed PGA of America began to stage some tournaments there in which these pros could compete. Most of them offered some prized money, so that the tournaments were restricted to professionals. The prize money was very meager at first, so that no one could expect to make a living playing only in these golf tournaments. But during the 1930s and 1940s the prize money increased, so that these tournaments became more lucrative, and they multiplied. The PGA of America created the PGA Tour for these tournaments. Thus, the PGA Tour was owned by the PGA of America. In the 1950s, many of the regular players on the PGA Tour were now able to financially play a full schedule of PGA Tour tournaments without also having to have a club job. Thus, the distinction between golf professionals and professional golfers was becoming more acute.

During the 1960s, members of the PGA Tour were increasingly complaining to the PGA of America about certain issues. One was that they thought too many club pros were entering and playing in their PGA Tour tournaments, thus restricting the number of spots for them. Tournament fields could only accommodate about 150 entrants due to the number of hours of daylight and the fact that an 18-hole round of golf takes about four hours to play. Some of these fulltime PGA Tour pros, who weren’t stars such as Nelson, Hogan, and Snead, thought it wasn’t fair that they might not get in tournaments, or would make less prize money, because there were several club pros playing in them who had steady jobs at home. By this time, there was a restriction on how many local club pros could enter PGA Tour tournaments, which was about a dozen. But Touring pros wanted this number reduced and eventually eliminated. Thus, members of the PGA Tour were increasingly resenting the PGA of America because these Touring pros wanted to operate their own business. And there were several other issues like this.

This disagreement between the PGA Tour and the PGA of America became a crisis situation during my third year on the PGA Tour, in the summer of 1968. Some of the best players on the Tour began meeting to discuss trying to split from the PGA of America because its three officers—President, Vice President, and Treasurer, who were golf professional at outstanding golf clubs—were opposed to rectifying these Tour players’ grievances. That summer, at the American Golf Classic at Akron, Ohio, about one hundred PGA Tour pros met and voted unanimously to secede from the PGA of America to form their own organization. I was one of these rebels.

Schupak writes of this meeting, “Julius Boros, Billy Casper, Bob Goalby, Lee Trevino and Nicklaus were among the most vocal supporters. On Aug. 14, 1968, at a press conference in New York City, the fight between America’s pros and the PGA administration broke out into a full-fledge civil war. The players announced that beginning with the 1969 season, they would form their own tour, the Association of Professional Golfers (APG).” (pp. 40-41).

Guess who named it? Yours truly! We players had hired a New York City lawyer named Sam Gates as our acting commissioner. Schupak writes, “Gates declared he had 205 clients…. Gates rolled out a 13-man steering committee composed of some of the brightest stars: Nicklaus, Casper, Ford, Goalby, Jerry Barber, Frank Beard, Dave Eichelberger, Lionel Hebert, Dave Marr, Bob Rosburg, Dan Sikes, and Kermit Zarley. Gardner Dickinson Jr., was named the APG’s president” (p. 41). It was either Dickinson or Goalby who asked me to join this steering committee as its youngest member. At one of our meetings, at Westchester C.C., we discussed what the name of the new organization should be. Suggestions were made, and I proposed the “Association of Professional Golfers.” A vote was then taken, and that was the choice.

When I read this portion of Schupak’s book, I wrote the following note in the book concerning this split, “It was the professional golfers’ version of the American Revolution without the fireworks.” In a few days, the PGA of America convinced a judge to issue a temporary restraining order until a hearing could be held. The tournament sponsors were beginning to side with the players in this dispute. Nicklaus became the APG’s vice president. PGA of America Leo Fraser publicly stated that Nicklaus disseminated “false information designed to mislead the public” and “mouthed clichés that have distorted the truth” (p. 43). Nicklaus told Sports Illustrated in rebuttal, “The verbal attack recently unleashed on me by Leo Fraser … was, on the whole, inaccurate” and “a personal insult” (pp. 43-44). So, it was turning into a war of words. Both the venerable Bobby Jones and golfing icon Walter Hagen sided against the PGA Tour.

Schupak writes that Dickinson then told Golf World magazine, “What we want is the right to cast the deciding vote over such matters as where, how, and under what conditions we will play” (p. 41). Arnold Palmer adamantly refused to join the rebellion, explaining that as a son of a PGA of America member, he wanted more negotiations. He then proposed that the players be allowed a one-year trial in running the PGA Tour. The PGA of America Executive Committee refused. Arnie then joined the APG.

It seems that the PGA of America soon realized that this split was inevitable no mater what they tried to do about it. Yet Schupak writes, “a truce was called. On Dec. 13, 1968, the PGA and APG hammered out an agreement entitled the ‘Statement of Principles,’ which has been modified through the years, but remains the basis for the PGA and Tour’s operating agreement, even today. It kept professional golf competition under one umbrella. The touring pros were given a say in the policy-making decisions of the tour. The new entity, the Tournament Players Division of the PGA, was born under the governance of a 10-member board consisting of tour players, three independent directors and three officers of the PGA. The development of an impartial party on the Tournament Policy Board was key to the agreement. Appointment of three businessmen or ‘independent directors’ … assured that the tour could avoid factional stalemates” (p. 45).

Despite the settling of this disagreement, the public image of the PGA Tour was suffering somewhat from it. The players thought that their reputation could be healed somewhat by hiring a commissioner with a stellar reputation in golf. Many agreed that would be Joe Dey (pronounced “die.”) He was the long-time executive director of the USGA. Many people in golf called Joe “Mr. Golf” because of his unsurpassed penchant for knowing the Rules of Golf, yet implementing them as a fair judge with a most pleasant demeanor. Jack Nicklaus regarded him as “a second father.”

When the players asked Joe Dey to be their commissioner, to their surprise he accepted the five-year offer at age 62. Schupak writes, “During his five-year reign, Dey healed a relationship riddled with tension and distrust” (p. 47).

Schupak’s book amply documents the so-called “square groove controversy” concerning the grooves on PING EYE2 irons made by Karsten Manufacturing during the 1980s. (See post “Karsten Solheim [Part 2].”) In my opinion, this was a distraction for both the PGA Tour and Karsten Solheim which should never have happened. Karsten was a dear friend of mine, and I played EYE2 irons, without the controversial grooves, throughout most of my career on the Senior/Champions Tour.

Deane’s major accomplishments as commissioner are as follows: (1) he converted the PGA Tour into a 501 (c)(6) non-profit organization which providing much savings in taxes; (2) he created the Players’ Championship, which became almost a fifth major; (3) he brought the stadium golf concept to PGA Tour tournaments and thus the world of golf, which has been such an improvement for tournament fans, and he did it by creating Tournament Players Clubs (TPCs), which the PGA Tour owns; (4) he made the interim Tour for younger players happen after some failures (now the Tour); (5) he helped make the Senior Tour a reality; (6) he created the Tour’s two pension plans for members; (7) total Tour purses went from $8 million to over $100 million (although this figure is for the three tours), and total Tour assets went from $400,000 to $260 million, during his twenty-year career; and (8) Tour charitable contributions went from $1 million per year to $30 million per year during his tenure.

I tip my cap to former PGA Tour Commission Deane Beman for a job very well done. But club/teaching pro Carl Loren–my Jewish Christian friend and Deane Beman’s college golf teammate and swing instructor–says PGA Tour pros should take it a step further. Loren declares concerning Touring pros and Deane Beman, “All the money these guys are making, they ought to bow down and kiss his feet–every last one of them” (p. 63).

(Monetary figures in this last paragraph are gleaned from the Wikipedia article entitled “Deane Beman,” accessed 10/28/13.)

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