modern-era professional player to become commissioner of his own sport, Deane
Beman brought a unique perspective to the office that forever changed the PGA
Tour. Named the Tour’s second commissioner in 1974 — at age 35 — Beman
maintained the sport’s traditions while infusing it with a financial savvy that
made the PGA Tour a television event. He also designed the first stadium course
and made golf friendly to both broadcast networks and fans, helping the sport’s
popularity to skyrocket in the process.
players in the professional golf tour should kneel down every day, face
wherever Deane is reposed, and thank the lord for the spadework he did in
making the Tour what it is today,” says legendary ABC/NBC producer/director Don
Ohlmeyer. “Deane really took golf in America to another level.”
becoming commissioner, Beman left his insurance-broker practice to pursue a
career as a golfer. Among other honors, he won two U.S. Amateur titles, The
Amateur Championship, and four PGA Tour titles. His experience on the course
instilled in him a love of tradition and respect for the game that shaped his
two decades in the commissioner’s office.
lot of golf tradition in Deane,” says Peter Lund, former president of CBS
Sports. “All good golfers want to birdie every hole, but Deane is thrilled if
you birdie every hole also. It is the same in business: he wanted to get every
last dime that was due him from you as a network, but once he got that, he wanted
you to do as well as he did. In some sports, me crushing you is standard, but
not in golf and not with Deane.”
created the Tournament Players’ Championship and the Senior (now Champions) and
Ben Hogan (now Nationwide)
But his most business-savvy accomplishment was finding a way to finance the
growth of televised golf at a time when a hard line was drawn between
advertising and television.
a wall,” Beman says. “The networks had policies against the mentioning of
commercial entities during the telecast. Only during the commercial breaks was
at the helm, however, that began to change. The commissioner developed
relationships with corporate entities, convincing them of the merits of
attaching their name to a sponsored golf tournament. By providing guarantees to
TV networks for both rights fees and production costs, those sponsors began to
support the production of golf on television.
there’s no line at all,” Beman says, “and corporately sponsored events are
sponsorship was a prerequisite for televising golf tournaments, as the cost of
putting golf on TV was about $250,000 — 10 times the price tag for a game
played indoors, in a confined space. Ratings were not factored into the
financial transactions Beman facilitated, but the networks were involved,
alongside sponsors and local charities. His genius was in finding ways for all
three parties to work with the Tour, and earn a profit in the process.
responsible for the Tour being where it is today in terms of national
popularity and as a television product,”
says. “The fact that televised golf is such a mainstay is because of what Deane
did for the Tour.”
just as much for fans who attended the Tour. Unlike most sports, where fans
enter a stadium and sit down, in order to really see a tournament, golf fans
walked up to 5 miles around the course and stood in rows behind one another.
The top-selling item on many courses was a periscope, to see over the heads of
courses were not built with spectators in mind,” Beman says. “The first row of
people got to see, the second row saw a little less, and the third row got
worse. Developing a golf course with enough room to accommodate both spectators
and the corporate sponsors was very important.”
In 1979, The
Players’ Championship needed a permanent home, and Beman wanted to build it as
a new type of course, a spectator-friendly site that would accommodate the
growing popularity of professional golf. He found 4,000 acres of swampland in
and persuaded its developer to sell 415 acres to the Tour for $1 — and the
promise that the course would increase the value of the surrounding land.
minted TPC Sawgrass, the first-ever stadium golf course, incorporated mounds,
high banks, and earthen amphitheaters, designed so that fans could see without
someone standing directly in front of them. The course was so successful that
it has since become a prototype for dozens of viewer-friendly golf courses
worldwide and gave Beman a new moniker: The Father of Stadium Golf.
wife, Judy, five children, and 10 grandchildren, Beman now has quite a few
golfers in his clan. The Commissioner retired in 1994 and continues to play —
though, in his words, "just once a day." His favorite place to tee up? Any of a half dozen stadium
courses across the country, none of which would have been built without the
determination, vision, and unique perspective that Deane Beman brought to the
office of PGA Tour Commissioner.