The commissioner of the PGA tour is part salesman, statesman, idea juggler, lightning rod, administrator, historian and seer. He must be flexible enough to allow a Jack Nicklaus to drive deeper into golf history at his pleasure, firm enough to hit a Tom Weiskopf over the head with a financial five-iron now and then and inventive enough to find a way for a Lance Ten Broeck to eat Regularly.

Is there anything else? How does the commissioner see himself?

"I wouldn't know," said Deane Beman. "I don't have enough time to see him."

If Beman had his druthers, this week's tour stop, at Congressional, still would be called the Kemper Open in future years but in reality would be the Kemper Closed. He wanted to create two tour circuits, separate and nearly equal, a sort of National and American League of golf where as many decent players as possible could earn a decent living.

It was too futuristic to suit the players. They were so loud in defeating it one would have thought Beman had been some goose honking during their collective backswing. Many players rarely think beyond their next tee ball, although the notion did sound suspiciously like the National Football League's legislated mediocrity.

But Beman fielded a good deal more flack than he deserved. What so many people fail to realize is that he is steward over a sick, though hardly dying, sport, that he is suposed to be a maverick trying to steal dollars wherever possible from other pro games.

Golf may be the sport of snobs, but football and baseball are the snob sports. And there are only so many television and fan dollars for all of them. So the slightly built Beman is scrambling as much in the role he assumed seven years ago as he ever did on the sinfully long par 5s of the world.

He has been commissioner long enough to realize that, to his constituency, an off the wall idea today might seem wonderful in a few years.

"I've got an example," he said. "In 1974, this office thought it was time to tackle the system of Monday qualifying, that it was not efficient. Well, it was totally rejected by the players. Two years later, the (tournament policy) board considered it -- and it had a lot of interest. The bottom line, though, was that the players still did not support it.

"Within the last 30 to 60 days, players have come to the board and said they wanted to eliminate Monday qualifying. That's the perfect evolutionary process."

For several years, Beman and others close to the tour have realized the major reason for declining interest: few beyond golf addicts know enough to care about more than a dozen or so players. If it ain't jack or Johnny, Hale, Tom or Ben, tune in something else.

Even more important, golf is the only sport where a fan pays a great deal of money and then is forced to work for what he sees. He must sweat and strain his senses to get close to anyone more than vaguely familiar, and learn by word of mouth in the seven-deep galleries what Nicklaus did.

In baseball and football, the entire action is spread in front of every fan.

In golf, anyone following one player usually is missing 143 others. By the time he endures traffic, a mob scene near his favorite player and a course that was not built with spectators in mind, he is ready to scream, "Take me to tennis."

For all the fussing the commissioner and the players have been doing lately, what they have done quietly over the past 18 months makes sense. They are trying to bridge the ignorance gap with a weekly statistical listing that goes far beyond who won how much money. As baseball publicizes its best stealers and savers, golf now trumpets its leaders in several areas: who drives best for show and who putts best for dough.

That way a 90 shooter this week can check the latest tour stats in the paper and perhaps follow a relatively obscure player at Congressional who in fact is quite good in one special phase, a Dan Pohl or a Mike Reid.

Congressional will not be equipped with another PGA experiment -- computer terminals, large and small, at assorted heavily traveled areas about the courses at several tournaments and near every tee. The ones close to each tee tell a bit about who's inside those double knits as each group gets ready to drive.

The heart of the PGA fan campaign is kids. Beman knows that his fan base now still is relatively large, that galleries are up although television ratings and general interest in golf is down. That base is old, though, so the tour is working hard to create golf fans from kids scarcely taller than a pitching wedge.

At every tour stop, Congressional included, youngsters under 18 will be admitted for half price. They they will be given booklets about how the game is played and how to watch a tournament. Soon, in convenience stores, there will b pro golfer trading cards. Beman does not especially want to develop young golfers, although that would be nice. He desperately needs youngsters to become golf fans, to want to see Bruce Lietzke as often as Bruse Sutter.

"Anyone who thinks there s not problem," Beman admits, "is not looking realistically. But we do have some time, though if we don't do something in 10 or so years there'll be significant trouble."

In several years, we might see Beman's split tour idea come to pass. We probably will see some sort of system that will eliminate the nomadic life of the Monday qualifier. We undoubtedly will see Beman willing to push anything that will lure an extra dollar or extra fan to the tour.

And, yes, now that you asked, he does have one prediction:

"In 15 or 20 years, I think that at least half the tournaments will be played on courses not yet built, and that those (new) courses will be designed with spectators in mind, to accomodate 100,000 fans and let 40,000 of them be able to see the final hole.

"Keep in mind that 25 years ago there were only a few decent football and baseball stadiums. Thirty years or so ago, 80 percent of all golf courses were private; now 84 percent of all play is for a daily fee or on municipal courses. I believe these new courses could make money, be self-sustaining at the very least, a place for a tournament once a year and for the public to use the rest of the time.

"Here in Jacksonville, for a fairly nominal fee, anyone can play the same course we use for the Tournament Players Championship."

Given the state of the economy, so many new courses for a currently sagging sport seems an almost ludicrous forecast. But who knows for sure? Part of Beman's job is to stir the nation's imagination, to make us at least consider the impossible. He is being paid handsomely by the world's best golfers to keep them out of life's rough.