SI Vault
Alfred Wright
August 09, 1965
Touring golfers may be enviably prosperous, but they are fed up. They feel they are chaotically administered by a badly out-of-date organization, and they are clamoring for reform in six major areas
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
August 09, 1965

The Revolt Of The Golf Pros

Touring golfers may be enviably prosperous, but they are fed up. They feel they are chaotically administered by a badly out-of-date organization, and they are clamoring for reform in six major areas

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3

The most absurd conflict of all, however, is caused by a 36-hole television show called the World Series of Golf that was started three years ago without the sanction of the players' tournament committee. A Chicago television impresario named Walter Schwimmer got the idea of staging a two-day TV contest among the winners of the four major tournaments open to professionals—the Masters, the U.S. and British opens and the PGA championship. It happened that in that first year of the World Series all four titles were won by Palmer, Nicklaus and Player. Even though a regular PGA tournament was already scheduled for Denver on that same September weekend, the PGA executive committee authorized the World Series in exchange for a gift of $7,500 to its treasury. Naturally, the sponsors of the Denver Open were furious, not just over losing the three big stars but also at having to play opposite the national TV show. Denver has since withdrawn from the PGA tour.

But that is only part of the story. The PGA executive committee, which numbers only one tournament player among its 14 members, kept the entire $7,500 for itself instead of turning it over to the tournament bureau, which runs the finances of the tour.

Therein lies the major bone of contention between the players and the PGA. The parent organization is run by the executive committee, which has the ultimate authority over all PGA personnel including James Gaquin, the tournament manager, who is in charge of arranging the entire tournament schedule from year to year. Although the players themselves pay all the salaries and expenses of their tournament staff—including Gaquin's—out of the money collected from their entry fees at each tournament, Gaquin works in Florida with the regular PGA staff and sides with it in the disputes with the players.

It is such ridiculous inconsistencies and arrangements as these that make the tournament sponsors restless, the players unhappy and the future of tournament golf insecure. It takes little imagination to foresee what would happen to the tour if Palmer, Nicklaus, Player and, say, Tony Lema, Ken Venturi and Casper should start a rival circuit of their own. They have no present intention of doing so, but there is general agreement among them and other top pros that their game needs half a dozen reforms—and they intend to see that it gets all of them.

First, they want a strong managing director who will be responsible to them alone. Joseph C. Dey Jr., the executive director of the USGA, is most often mentioned as their first choice, but there probably is not enough money in golf (or anywhere else) to make Dey give up the security and dignity of his present job to fight the battle that will have to be waged to put tournament golf on the tack the pros want.

Some of the players have suggested Ben Hogan for the job, but Hogan is too unswerving and controversial a personality to be acceptable to all. Another suggestion has been General Thomas S. Power, recently retired from the Air Force after having commanded the Strategic Air Command for seven years. General Power is a low-handicap golfer and a man with enough experience in command decisions to be able to impress his authority on a group of untamed individualists like the touring golfers.

The only other authority the pros want is their own. They propose to set up a seven-man supervisory committee, large enough to be representative and small enough to be incisive. Members would be asked to serve at least two and probably three years on the committee in order to become familiar with the problems of the business. The committee membership would rotate in such a way that there would be a couple of new men each year to replace those who were completing their terms. In the committee and the executive director would lie the ultimate authority over tournament golf.

The next order of business on the pros' agenda is to formalize the pro tour. There are 48 tournaments on the PGA schedule this year, with eight open weeks on which no tournament is scheduled. Of the 48 tournaments, 11 are unofficial, which means that their results do not count in PGA statistics—that is, towards points for the Ryder Cup team or the Vardon Cup or leading money winner. At the beginning of the year, the official tournaments fall in dribs and drabs, a couple here, one there, a couple more someplace else and so on. Then come the official tournaments in stretches of eight or nine weeks without a break. Towards the end of the year they will again come in dribs and drabs. Almost to a man, the pros claim there is no possible way they can play their best golf for eight or nine weeks running. On the other hand, it is simply not practical for them to traipse around the country playing a week here, going home for a week or two, then playing a week somewhere else.

They want official tournaments to come in groups of five or, preferably, six with a few weeks separating each string of tournaments so that they can go home and rest, see their families and attend to their private affairs. The tour, as they see it, might start at the first of the year in California and Arizona, with all tournaments official. As it is now, neither the Bing Crosby pro-am nor the Bob Hope Classic at Palm Springs falls into that category. The next string of official tournaments would have to be in the Florida area, leading up to the Masters, for it is then that the Florida courses are in their best condition. Five such strings of official tournaments would provide 30 official tournaments a year. That is a lot of golf for any one man to play but it can be done, the pros say, if the tournaments are properly spaced.

The players also want to place tougher restrictions on their own activities. When an official tournament is in progress, no player who is licensed to play in it would be permitted to appear publicly elsewhere in the role of golfer. Further, accredited players would be required to play in most, if not all, the official events, thus guaranteeing a sponsor who puts up $100,000 or more in prize money that he will have all the stars who attract the spectators and that he won't be left holding the bag as sponsors in Hartford, Denver and the Western Open were.

Continue Story
1 2 3