September 11, 1961
Don't look now, but Deane Beman has his thousand-mile stare going again. This time Beman, the visionary former PGA Tour commissioner, has his eyes set on Fredericksburg, Va., where he and a local developer are building a moderately priced 54-hole public golf playground (greens fee: $50) not far from the hills where Lee's Army of Northern Virginia thrashed a charging Army of the Potomac. "You'll be a five-minute drive from Civil War battlefields and 40 from the monuments in Washington," says the 62-year-old Beman of the resort that's scheduled to break ground next year. The project, called Celebrate Virginia, will be a rarity in these days of pricey private golf communities and soaring greens fees.
Beman, a former Tour player and two-time U.S. Amateur champion, was five years into his tenure as commissioner in 1979 when the previously skeptical Tour players overwhelmingly approved his plan to have the PGA Tour build a course to host the five-year-old Tournament Players Championship. Beman had found a 4,000-acre piece of swampland in Ponte Vedra, Fla., and persuaded the developer to sell the Tour 415 acres for $1 and the promise that Beman's dream course would make the surrounding land valuable. Under Beman's guidance, the Tour then borrowed $3.5 million and raised another $1 million through membership fees to finance the building of what is today the TPC at Sawgrass, the first of 17 existing TPC courses. (Three more will open this summer.) "I've always tried to see things the way they could be," says Beman.
Beman also helped create the Senior and the Ben Hogan (now Buy.com) tours, but he wasn't a beloved commissioner. Known for his brusque manner and obsessive leadership style, he was vilified in the press for greatly expanding corporate sponsorship of golf and was criticized by top players for doing away with Monday qualifying and instituting the all-exempt tour in 1983. "I'm not particularly close with a lot of players," he says. "Still, I'm proud that golf is the business powerhouse it is today."
Beman, who has five children and 10 grandchildren, lives in Ponte Vedra with his second wife, Judy. He infrequently competes on the Senior Tour, but since resigning as Tour commissioner in 1994, other than an occasional motorcycle odyssey with Judy, his focus now is on golf-business-related consulting, including Celebrate Virginia. "I worked with Pete Dye on the TPCs," says Beman, who will design one of the three new courses. "Now I want to try it myself."