This has been Deane Beman's week.
It isn't often that the king leads a palace revolt, but that's what Beman is doing. The revolution he's been pushing for years is coming to a head.
The little commissioner of golf, who looks so deceptively conventional in his button-down blue shirts, has had a different surprise up his blazer sleeve every day.
In a season already marked by orange, yellow and lime golf balls, Hubert Green's white knickers, electronic scoreboards on every hole, tour statistics, baseball-style cards of players and TV interviews between shots, this week has been the apotheosis of change in golf. All week, Beman has looked like the commissioner who just ate the canary.
When he isn't glowing with pride over the stunningly radical new Players Club course here that he first envisioned, then he's trying to look modest while taking bows for the marvelous notion of "stadium golf."
Beman's central idea is to gamble on all fronts at once to try to make his sport more exciting, modern and appealing to the public. "Our job is to reach the 210 million people in America who don't play golf, not the 13 million who do," he said. "We have to turn golf into a spectator sport.
"For 20 years, golf grew at a comfortable rate. Then, a few years ago, it stopped. We (on the tour) couldn't stop growing just because the game stopped. Our studies show that young people have been staying away from golf in droves. We have to change that. I've told our players that they're not just golfers, they're entertainers. Just hitting great golf shots is not enough. It was for Hogan, but it's not today."
Perhaps Pete Dye, architect of the Players Club, put the new code best: "Deane said golf needed more excitement. So, we built a course for excitement. When people go to an auto race, they want to see a great race. But, you're always looking for a crash . . . We've put the crash in golf. Every hole has a chance for a disaster. Once the fan has seen one player blast from a trap across the green into the water, he'll wait all day to see it happen again."
Friday, Dye sat anonymously in the gallery behind the 13th hole--the most wildly undulating of all his severe greens--and "heard 'em call me everything." Dye tried to sympathize, but concluded, "I have no sympathy for 'em."
That's good, because Beman doesn't want him to show any, especially around those much-maligned greens.
"Everybody says that watching 50-foot lag putts on TV is the dullest thing in golf," said Beman. "Well, almost half the shots in golf are putts, so you better make watching them a treat, not a chore."
So, as Dye admitted, "we have, to some degree, eliminated the lag putt on this course . . . It's more entertaining to watch a guy trying to invent a shot from a pot bunker with one leg up in the air from 20 feet from the hole than it is to watch another routine two-putt from 40 feet."
However, what good is all this excitment if nobody sees it? That's Beman's other breakthrough: stadium golf.
Golf's best kept secret is that it is a pain in the neck to watch in person. You either stake out one choice seat on one good hole, then protect it with your life, or you wander the course, standing on tiptoe to see over the gallery. Any sport that has to sell periscopes has a problem.
Now, thousands can follow the leaders for the entire 18 holes, and everyone has a superb seat for every shot. You can walk and sit.
"When we were building all these (36) spectator mounds, I had my doubts," said Dye. "I went out there yesterday and said, 'My God, they work. Honest to John, you can see out there.' They even look nice esthetically, almost like God put 'em there . . . there's still a wealth of landscaping and manicuring to do in the next few years. But when we're finished, this course'll be as appealing (to the eye) as Augusta, perhaps more dramatic, with more contrasts."
This is a surrealist layout with little demons hidden in every corner of the tableau. Much of the course already is goose-pimplingly gorgeous. When manicuring and maturation are complete, this may well be one of the half-dozen most photogenic courses in the United States.
Already, Beman said, the tour is negotiating for "three new stadium golf facilities, to be built from scratch, in towns where we have tour events. We took all the risks here. Now that the concept's been proven, you'll see a lot more stadium golf, maybe a dozen courses in the next 10 years."
If the Players Club and its pre-Columbian-looking mounds are this week's leap forward, there have been many other signs of Beman's work.
One day, Beman unveiled a new Seiko Grand Prix point system, like the Volvo Grand Prix system in men's tennis. The system will divvy up $350,000 of Seiko's cash among the top eight players of each season.
Who cares, you say, whether a Watson or a Kite gets a $150,000 bonus at year's end? Well, if those Watsons and Kites enter a couple more tournaments a season, for the sake of Grand Prix points and bonus money, it will help the tour measurably. After all, one of golf's problems is that its best players take too much vacation, preferring lazy, yet lucrative exhibitions to tournament competition.
After the Grand Prix unveiling, Beman was back, delighted that the feuding between the pro tour and the PGA (made up of club pros) has been settled after 15 years of bad blood. As a result, in 1983, golf will have a Tournament Players Series of 10 new tournaments, each worth $100,000.
Doesn't golf, with its 10-month season, already have more tournaments than anybody could want? Not if you see the whole shape of golf the way Beman thinks he does.
First, the new series, subsidized on a five-year experimental basis by the PGA Tour, will offer 50 exempt spots each event to club pros. That's the $5 million sop that helped smooth the way to the PGA versus PGA Tour reconciliation. Now, the club pros can play against second-line tour pros, even if they win little cash.
Next, the 10-tournament series dovetails perfectly with another Beman notion: the all-exempt tour that begins in 1983. The exempt tour, made up of the top 125 money winners of the previous year, plus the top 50 players from the tour qualifying school, will eliminate the current inhumane system of "rabbits" running around the country for Monday qualifying rounds.
The Tournament Players Series, Beman points out, will offer chances for "the (tour) players who have been set adrift by the exempt tour to have somewhere to compete while they wait for the next qualifying school. Also, it will be a good way station for all the players in their 40s who don't want the pressure cooker of the tour anymore, but want to keep their game sharp until they join the seniors tour.
Oh, yes. The seniors tour, doing nicely, thanks to Arnold Palmer's presence, is another Beman concoction.
As a quid pro quo for letting all those club pros into the Tournament Players Series, Beman gets plenty back. First, the PGA Tour is now called the PGA Tour again; for six months, in a play for leverage, Beman changed the name of pro golf to the TPA Tour.
It was his way of showing the PGA he could live without it. More important, the two organizations--PGA and PGA Tour--have been brought much closer together in all marketing, advertising and promotional ventures. "We now have 13,000 new ambassadors for the tour," said Beman, speaking of those club pros whose shops can, potentially, become that many promotion outlets for the tour.
"We are part of a tradition-bound game," said Hale Irwin. "With all the changes that fans are seing now, we are not breaking with tradition, but we are seeking more freedom within it. We have not unleashed the tether, but we have lengthened it."
"Most of this started about three years ago," said veteran Dave Stockton. "Golf was complacent. Our TV ratings were going down. We acted like we thought public relations and fan interest didn't matter. What you're seeing now is a brilliant, and deliberate, p.r. effort. Beman and his group have, essentially, stepped away from the traditional powers in the sport (i.e., the USGA and PGA) and said, 'We'll show 'em what we can do.' The guy is sharp."