As a former PGA Tour winner who then went on to spend 20 years as PGA Tour Commissioner, Deane Beman has seen it all in professional golf.
Beman, 84, who ran the Tour from 1974 to 1994, was the architect behind making the Tour a billion-dollar business. He developed much of the business model still in use today, and while now devoted to enjoying retirement, playing golf as he likes to joke only on days ending in ‘Y,’ he remains is one of the brightest minds in golf. He still has plenty of opinions, especially on the PGA Tour and LIV Golf controversy. Here’s a short conversation held recently on the subject with Beman, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
GWK: Given that you created the playbook that the PGA Tour has been running all these years later since your retirement in 1994, I imagine you must be a tad bit annoyed at what’s happening in the world of professional golf with star players defecting to LIV Golf?
Deane Beman and course architect Pete Dye during TPC Sawgrass construction in 1980. (Photo by Bill Knight/PGA Tour)
DB: I’m not emotionally involved there. I can understand some of the older guys that aren’t looking forward to their career getting better but only worse. I can see them grabbing the money. It’s not something I probably would do myself. Hell, I took a cut in pay to turn pro and I took a cut in pay to become Commissioner. I was making more as a touring pro when I took the job as Commissioner. But everybody’s not me.
Sergio (Garcia) and players like that are grabbing the money and going, that’s fine. Overall, I don’t think the people putting up the money give a damn about the game of golf. They are trying to use what we built over decades, what I think is the most courageous and responsible sport that there is and that has integrity and respect for the rules and respect for the game and respect for competition, I don’t think the people putting up the money give a damn about any of that. They are putting up money for their own personal benefit. I don’t think it is good for the game of golf. I think what the head of the R&A (Martin Slumbers) said (during the British Open) is exactly right. He got it spot on. They’ve got all the money in the world. I don’t think what they are doing is sustainable financially unless they keep throwing money at it.
GWK: Did you fear something like this ever happening?
Then PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman talks to Gary Player at an event at TPC Prestancia in Sarasota, Florida.
DB: There are certain players that have gone over there that I think have made a mistake for their career but maybe they don’t care as much as I thought they did about what it stands for and what it means to be a champion golfer. A lot of them are just thinking about the money. If you’re just worried about money, there are a helluva lot of easier ways to get a lot of money than to play golf, I can tell you that. They should’ve thought about that a long time ago.
GWK: Should professional golfers receive guaranteed money?
Former PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman speaks at the opening ceremony prior to the first round of the Live And Work In Maine Open held at Falmouth Country Club on June 24, 2021 in Falmouth, Maine. (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)
DB: I think the system is awfully good. I don’t think the game of golf should subsidize a modestly good player. If you don’t have what it takes to be a high performer, you ought to find that out early and go get an honest job someplace else and let somebody else develop the skills to be as good as you need to be to stay on Tour. I don’t believe the Tour should finance anymore mediocrity in performance. Why should they?
I have been concerned for years for the development tours that there is too much money involved. It allows a guy to play modestly and still sustain himself when he ought to go home and get an honest job and do something that he can really excel at, because he damn sure isn’t excelling in golf. We’re just financing his mediocrity. Is that too harsh? We’ve got guys that are recycling two or three times. They don’t want to go home and really work for a living. I’m all for a guy being able to take a little longer to perform at a high level and really contribute but I’m not for a guy who makes $5-10-15 million and never wins a tournament.
GWK: What do you think Jay could’ve done differently to prevent all these players from leaving?
Deane Beman driving heavy equipment during construction of TPC Sawgrass (PGA Tour Archives)
DB: I don’t think he could’ve done anything differently. I think he’s done as good a job as possibly could have been done. I’ve thought about it a lot. I don’t think he could have done anything other than what he’s done. He’s done an exemplary job.
GWK: Did you build too good of a model for the PGA Tour that players don’t appreciate it?
Ty Votaw, left, of the PGA Tour and Deane Beman, former PGA Tou commissioner, at the 2014 Golfweek Architecture Summit (Golfweek Photos)
DB: You don’t build loyalty and appreciation into a model like we built for the Tour. That’s up to the integrity of the individual and the appreciation of what’s been done for them.
I don’t think there’s anything you can do about that. The model is exemplary in all of sports. We’ve raised more money than all other sports combined for charity. The model is exemplary in business and sports and has been carried on wonderfully by Tim and by Jay. The future is really bright. You’ve got somebody like the Saudis that has more money than brains and integrity that are going to destroy something that is really positive in the world. There’s nothing more positive and has more integrity than the game of golf and the PGA Tour and what it’s done for all these communities that have helped us be successful. The players have benefited, the communities have benefited and I don’t know a better model.
GWK: Has there been anything positive from the Saudi-backed league?
Deane Beman and Pete Dye at TPC Sawgrass (PGA Tour Archive)
DB: Not that I see. Maybe demasking the integrity of some individuals. Their real stripes are showing. Some of the people who have benefited enormously from what the Tour has put together are fully disclosing their integrity.
It’s a money grab. I don’t see anything good about it. If they are reasonably responsible people, there is enough money in being successful on the PGA Tour to satisfy anybody. If you have $50 million, $75 million, $100 million, what do you need another $50-75-100 million? It’s all about money. Playing the PGA Tour and being recognized as a champion on the PGA Tour is not about money. Sure, you ought to be rewarded and be able to make a good living and live your later years in damn-near luxury, but it’s not about money. Again the R&A guy, go look at his press conference again, he nailed it.
It will be interesting to see what happens with the World Rankings. That’s a big deal. And then what happens when they crank up their lawyers. Then you’ll really see that they don’t care about anything but themselves. They don’t care about the game of golf and they are out to destroy anything that gets in their way. They couldn’t care less about the game of golf and that’s where it all starts.
GWK: Do you think the threat of LIV has allowed Jay to get approved some policies that may have otherwise taken longer?
Deane Beman at the 2005 John Deere Classic (PGA Tour)
DB: I agree with that. I think we’re going to end up seeing the integrity of the majors come into focus in the future and some of the decisions they’re going to have to make and whether they really are interested in the success of their tournament versus the good of the game for the long haul. We’re going to find that out, aren’t we?
GWK: What is your reaction to the temporary restraining order filed by three LIV players to compete in the FedEx Cup Playoffs?
Former PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman and Vernon Kelly at the groundbreaking of TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (PGA Tour Archives)
DB: I don’t know the numbers, OK? The three players that are trying to get into the Playoffs, do you know how much they were paid to go over there and play?
GWK: Not officially.
DB: My semi-reaction is if you knew how much they were paid up front and you knew how much they had made in the three tournaments they played, it’s possible they have already made more money than they could make it they did pretty well in the Playoffs. So, they are trying to have their cake and eat it too.
If they are saying that they are losing money by not being able to play, they violated the regulations and probably got more money then they are able to make. That’s one of the points I’d make. And they didn’t even have to compete for it, right? But I don’t know what they got so I don’t know if that is true or not.