Deane Beman, PGA Tour commissioner from 1974-94, oversaw the most the Tour’s most dramatic period of growth.
Architect of the Tour’s business model, Beman still lives in Ponte Vedra Beach Fla., where the Tour is headquartered. Alan Schupak’s book, Deane Beman: Golf’s Driving Force, was recently hit bookstores.
Beman received the Byron Nelson Prize for philanthropic efforts during Tuesday’s opening ceremonies of the HP Byron Nelson Championship. He shared his opinions on a variety of golf topics, including technology, a world tour and Tiger Woods:
You often said you used Byron Nelson’s tournament as a model for other events. Why?
``First of all, they marketed their tournament better than any other tournament and they were the model for having a specific cause. Lots of our tournaments have raised money but very few of them have zeroed in on a major project in a community to really make a difference. ‘’
What’s it been like watching the PGA Tour from a distance?
``It’s more fun playing golf every day. The challenges of managing success are every bit as challenging as the challenges that you face in building something. I’m very pleased with the way the Tour has been managed.
Probably the greatest accomplishment of golf over the last several decades is to raise itself into the stratosphere of big-money sports and still maintain those values. I think that’s what sets golf apart.’’
``We failed to do a lot of things. For instance, the development of the all-exempt tour and the Nationwide Tour that we see today, well, it was the third time. We knew it was the right thing to do but we had to find the right way of doing it. My attitude is you don’t fail until you stop trying. Being a competitor helped me realize that no matter how poorly you play the first nine, there’s always the back nine. It depends on how steady your resolve is.’’
With the rise of European Tour players and golf’s broad development, are we headed for a world tour?
``I think we’ve been headed for a world tour a long time ago and we’re there. Now, I don’t think it’s anybody’s best interest, certainly not in the players’ interest, to have a world tour.
A single world tour would substantially restrict the opportunities for playing competitively worldwide. We three or four very strong tours right now, and the fact that players can orderly play around the world maintains the interest in golf regionally and makes us stronger internationally.‘’
What can be done to strengthen the fields of regular Tour events?
``Let me put it in a different perspective for you. No other sport has as many of the top players in the world as golf has on a week to week basis. When Dallas plays Green Bay, they are two of 32 teams in the league and so the fans are seeing 1/16th of the best players in football. Baseball’s the same way, basketball’s the same way. Any given day, you’re going to see more of the best players in a tournament. ‘’
Do you think Tiger Woods will ever regain his form?
``I believe Ben Hogan was a year or two older than Tiger Woods when the bus hit him. And after suffering injuries that almost killed him _ broken legs and pelvis bones and all that _ he won most of his major championships. I suspect that Tiger is a better athlete than Hogan ever was.
``I suspect, based on all he has accomplished in his life, that he has the stuff in him to overcome all of these things that have befallen him. He has not reached all of Nicklaus’ records. There’s no doubt in my mind that he will.’’
You’ve been a vocal critic of technology changing the game. Are you satisfied with the limits placed on equipment?
``No, I’m not satisfied. What do you think would happen if baseball allowed a metal bat? First of all, there would be some severely injured pitchers – might kill a couple of them – and then you’d move the pitcher’s mound back toward second base. Then, now that you gave the batter a little more time, they’d knock it right out of the park. Then, baseball and cities would spend billions of dollars to build new stadiums. That’s what’s happened in golf.
``Do you think baseball would be the same game if they allowed some NASA scientists to design a baseball around each pitcher’s best pitch? I thought golf had a great balance for decades between power and accuracy. To give a modern golfer a golf ball that doesn’t spin so it doesn’t curve, and to give him an implement that if he hits it a half inch, three-quarters of an inch off the center of the clubface it still goes straight and it costs him only five yards, it hasn’t ever made sense to me.’’