As the commissioner of the Professional Golfers Association, Deane Beman is a sort of ultimate middle man, constantly torn between the interest of players, sponsors, advertisers and television executives.
"I can't imagine a tougher job," said Jack Nicklaus.
It is the nature of Beman's position that he can never risk pleasing anyone too much. That would mean that another of his constituencies was getting the short end of the stick.
Only one subject lights up Beman's face and allows him to indulge in unfretted enthusiasm -- the Players Club.
"Sometimes I feel like Bobby Jones must have when he was getting his hands dirty in the soil of Augusta," said Beman. "We are in the midst of trying to build the finest tournament golf course in the world."
The Tournament Players Championship has been Beman's fondest brain child during his six years as commissioner -- a rich, model tournament run by, and for, the tour players.
Next year, the TPC will move across Route A1A from barren, windy Sawgrass -- a homely chamber of horrors -- to the new swampy tropical, impenetrably wooded Players Club.
That Players Club -- now two-thirds complete under the gifted hand of achitect Pete Dye -- will either be Beman's greatest triumph to date, or his biggest bust. The commissioner has invested an enormous amount of prestige in the project. It is his "Judge Me On This" statement.
The wilderness course -- hewn from the forbidding home of a thousand alligators and countless water moccasins -- has grown vitally important to Beman because he has searched in vain for other areas of golf that he can truly control.
No one has ever been able to regulate the PGA players -- those one-man corporations who answer to no man. Beman can't guarantee the appearance of his top players to his sponsors, although he would love to be able to. Golf pros are harder to boss than oil sheiks. Beman strikes, deals, twists arms, scratches backs and begs to keep folks happy.
The four major tournaments of the year -- Master, PGA, U.S. Open and British Open -- are all out of Beman's sphere of influence. Golf is a fragmented, hierarchical world and Beman's purview is that gypsy caravan called The Tour.
Out of this collection of indistinguishable Desert Classics, Greater Greensboros and Tallahassee Opens, Beman has tried to elevate two Tour stops -- the TPC and the World Series of Golf -- to an exalted status by hint of huge prize money.
Beman's greatest success has been his knack as a TV contract negotiator. He has raised the Tour's annual tab from under $3 million to over $10 million.
Even here, however, Beman's job has its inevitable two-steps-forward and one-step-back quality. The big TV pact with CBS cost the Tour the excellent week-to-week coverage of ABC. Beman priced Abc out of the market, then watched the PGA's TV ratings drop when they went head to head with ABC's "Wide World of Sports."
Naturally, Beman longs to excape his essentially limiting middle-man role, to break the chains of always being a compromser and a Mr. Fix-It.
The Players Club is his answer.
Every golf idea that Beman has collected and cherished since his days at Bethesda Country Culb, when he caught the bug and went from being a 120 shooter to scratch in one year, have been incorporated in the Players Club.
"First, you want an almost unlimited tract of wilderness land so that, for once, a course can be built that isn't cramped. The only goal is beauty," said Beman, sitting in the Kitchen nook of his appropriately czarlike home at Sawgrass.
"We have 320 acres for 18 holes. Every hole -- almost every shot -- will be a separate experience. No course has ever had so much room. We'll also have the largest parking areas ever -- 100 acres.
"We will be able to accommodate 40,000 people (more even than the Masters).
The Players Club will be a spectator's dream.
"This will be a short target-style golf course -- about 6,700 yards -- where rewards and punishments will both be dramatic. You either make birdie or have a disaster," Beman said with a grin.
"Almost every hold will have a tiered amphitheater effect so that viewing should be the best and the least crowded anywhere. Golf should create the illusion that it is being played and watched downhill. It'll be that way here."
The contrast between Sawgrass and the Players Club, even in its barebones stage, is like that between Mars and Monte Carlo.
Somebody, somewhere probably thinks Sawgrass is pretty. On the other hand, at least one person exists who thinks it's a flat, treeless, condo-littered eyesore that ought to be given back to the gators.
Just a few hundred yards away, the Players Club is another world.
Breathes there a golfer who doesn't think he is an architect? Beman, for one can't keep his hands off Dye's project. He's constantly bumping about the terrain, meddling, suggesting or marveling at Dye's methods.
A canal, dredged around the entire course, has lowered the swamp's water table to six feet and makes it possible to drain the course quickly after after storms.
On a piece of flat terrain that didn't vary more than a few feet from level at any point, huge mounds have been created to give a gently rolling illusion.
"If nothing else," Beman said with a laugh, "we've proved that you can bury the bottom 40 feet of a 100-foot palm tree and still have it live. Those palms will look like they've been growing on those hills for years."
Dye, perhaps the most daring, yet painstaking, of current course builders, will have a layout that looks like every player should carry a machete as a 15th club. Next to the gently tropicality of Hilton Head (another Dye creation), the Players Club may feel like the Amazon.
In a year, will the encircling canal still stink? Will the gnarled undergrowth look exotic or just cluttered? Will the isolated holes be humid and claustrophobic, or transportingly beautiful? Will an old-fashioned target course be a refreshing test, or will it just seem like a gimmick course?
And, will the surrounding tree cover kill the Sawgrass winds? If it doesn't, the Players Club will be a disaster. If heavy winds prevail on the jewel hacked out of the jungle, nobody will finish.
Deane Beman has many nagging problems. He needs a resurgent Jack Nicklaus to buoy TV ratings until some new charismatic star appears. He needs somebody to put a sock in the mouth of Tom Weiskopf, the fading star who has been on an anti-Beman kick for two-months, calling the commissioner a second-rater at every stop on the Tour. t
"I have no comment on Weiskopf," said Beman.
He doesn't need one. Weiskopf has never been able to cope with discipline.
At age 37, he is not able to swallow the slaps on the wrist that he has received from the little 41-year-old commissioner whom he still remembers as the short-hitter he always beat on the links.
"There's no need to consider what Tom has said," said Nicklaus bluntly. "If somebody else says the same things, then I'd address myself to it. But I'm sure nobody has.
"Deane has grown with the job. He doesn't need defending."
Beman has always grown. "I discovered the game when I was 14," said Beman. "I stopped growing and couldn't compete equally with my two brothers in football. I just had to find something I could beat them at.
"I got up at 5 a.m. to hit balls for three hours. Then, when school let out at 1 p.m., I played until sundown," said Beman. "In less than a year, I'd gone from shooting 112 in my first tournament to winning the area junior (18-and-under) title with a 69 when I was 15."
Now, Beman is up with the sun again, getting his hands soiled with the dirt from his creation of a lifetime.
A year from now, the golf world will see what is now still only heaps of earth and stakes in the ground.
Then Beman can truly say, "Judge me on this."