When the phone rang in Craig Parry's hotel room on Monday, July 15, his heart jumped. David Graham had already left one message, and when Parry picked up the receiver and recognized Graham's voice, he knew he was about to experience the most uncomfortable moment of his life.
Earlier that evening Parry had been part of a 2½-hour meeting in the conference room of the Grand Hotel in the English town of St. Annes. In attendance were 10 players eligible for the International team, which would play the U.S. in the Presidents Cup. All were there to compete in that week's British Open at Royal Lytham. Overseeing the meeting were three officials representing the South African, Australasian and U.S. tours. In a move many of them would come to regret, the players, with one abstention, had unanimously voted to oust Graham as their captain less than two months before the Presidents Cup was to be played. At meeting's end the players had agreed to reconvene in two days to give PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who was arriving from the U.S. on Tuesday, a chance to talk them out of what they were clearly determined to do. All parties had also agreed to keep silent about what had transpired.
From his home in Dallas, Graham, who knew that the players' meeting had been scheduled but had no idea that his fate would top the agenda, was returning Parry's call from several days earlier. "Hello, Craig," said Graham, his voice upbeat. "How did the meeting go?"
Parry swallowed hard. "My first thought was, I've got to tell him," Parry says. "I'm not going to lie about it or keep it from him."
"David," Parry heard himself say, "the players would like a new captain."
With those words, any hope of gracefully salvaging what turned into one of the most embarrassing and regrettable incidents in the recent history of golf was gone. The following evening, when he resigned during a phone conversation with Finchem, Graham became the first captain of a national or international golf team to be fired by a vote of the players.
Everyone came out looking bad. Graham was humiliated. The stated reasons for his removal—that he had failed to communicate with the players and was unable to bring them together as a team—suggested that he had been a dysfunctional leader in 1994 when he captained the International team in the first Presidents Cup. Graham's highly emotional response to his removal and his subsequent threat to take legal action only reinforced that perception.
Finchem, who created the Presidents Cup and directed the event from Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., saw his aura as a masterly administrator diminished. Not only was he unaware of Graham's problematic relationship with his players when he approved Graham for a second term, but Finchem was also powerless—because of a threat of a boycott—to overrule the mutinous players.
The Presidents Cup was damaged. Despite a successful debut in '94, the fledgling biennial match, in which a 12-man side from the PGA Tour takes on a team composed of players from all parts of the world except Europe, is still seen as a knockoff of the Ryder Cup. For an event seeking to establish instant tradition, doing something that flies in the face of tradition is a step backward.
Greg Norman was once again held responsible for a rash and ill-conceived decision. Although Norman contends that he was not the ringleader behind Graham's dismissal, he played an integral role, displaying the same impetuousness that marked his actions when he was promoting the failed World tour in 1994 and when he accused Mark McCumber of cheating at the 1995 World Series of Golf.