Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The First Day of the Rest of My Life

One British journalist called it the most rapid and unceremonious fall from grace in the history of golf. Jim Bishop, a deceased barber from Logansport, is probably looking down from his perch in Heaven and saying with a grin, “Ted that really was stupid.” But, Jim never shied away from an opinion either.  
It seems that everyone knows by now that I was impeached as President of the PGA of America on October 24 for comparing Ian Poulter, European Ryder Cup nemesis, to a little girl. It was a poor choice of words on my part. Some thought the remarks were sexist. My intent was to say that Poulter’s recent remarks about Tom Watson and Nick Faldo were childish. 
Sexist? Honestly, that thought never occurred to me. Less than two hours after my Facebook and Twitter comments  it was apparent to me that I had made a huge mistake. I immediately removed the social media posts. The PGA of America released a rather impersonal and vanilla statement that included no apology and my fate was sealed. I wanted to deeply apologize, but the PGA denied me the opportunity to make two appearances on Golf Channel early the following morning.
Ted Bishop became the latest casualty to PC- political correctness. Funny because two weeks ago I though PC was a personal computer. But, as President of the largest working sports organization in the world I had to be smarter. The PGA gave me plenty of media training. It afforded me the freedom to openly speak and express opinions. My term was scheduled to end on November 22, itself an infamous day. I shot myself 29 days ahead of schedule. 
Some have said my punishment did not fit the crime. Not only was I removed as President, but I lost my Honorary President status and was told that I would never have the rights and privileges of a PGA Past President. is  a subsidiary of Sport Illustrated and it ran a poll this week. The question: “Did Ted Bishop deserve to lose his job?”  77 percent responded “No” and 23 percent said “Yes.” It doesn’t really matter because the PGA said yes. I was a volunteer in a non-profit Association. I did not get paid and spent over 370 days on the road in the past 23 months. Those who play golf at The Legends Golf Club can testify to that. PGA Officers only get reimbursed for travel and incidental expenses.  I took this on because I loved the PGA and what it stands for.
Do I still love the PGA? Honestly, not as much. Do I still believe what it stands for? I do, which is getting more people to play golf as well as promoting diversity and inclusion. In my 38-year golf career I have been an advocate for women in golf.
I am proud to say that I have two daughters who chose golf as a career. My 7-year stint as a volunteer assistant golf coach for the Franklin High School girls’ team was so much fun. We started the Indiana Women’s Open at The Legends and hosted it for 10 years. We were the home to the IHSAA Girls State Finals for 15 years. The list of girl’s and women’s events that The Legends has hosted is too long to list. The Central Indiana Chapter of the Executive Women’s Golf Association began at my course.
During my time as PGA President I called out the R&A for its exclusion of women as members. The PGA started a wonderful PGA Reach with the PGA Tour Wives Association at the last two PGA Championships which supported Habitat for Humanity and Blessings in a Backpack. The most gratifying thing I did this summer was coach my PGA Junior league team at The Legends, which included five little girls.
Sophia Bunker, mother of 6-year old Ava Bunker, who was on that PGA Junior League team sent me the following email last week. “I just wanted to send you and your family a major sincere Thank You for letting Ava be a part of the PGA Jr. League. When we moved to Indiana from Missouri with the Military it was really hard on Ava. When she heard she would be able to play in the PGA Jr. League she was so excited! We are so blessed that we had the opportunity to be part of an amazing team with such encouraging leaders! Thank you for all you did for Ava and believing in her! We SUPPORT you 100% and Ava can’t wait to play on your team next season! PS- Today was career day at her school, she dressed up as a Professional Golfer and says someday she dreams to be a LPGA President.”
The inspiration for this piece of writing came from Glen Nager, former USGA President. He called me Tuesday and offered friendship, encouragement and consolation. Ironically, Nager’s departure from the USGA was nearly as tumultuous as mine with the PGA. Both of us won’t be seen at future events for our respective Associations. Neither care. We were outspoken and progressive leaders for organizations we once loved.
Glen and I locked horns on the anchoring debate. We became public rivals and at times we were very combative as we argued for opposing stances that we sincerely believed in. We played golf together at Augusta National during the highly publicized “comment period” in the winter of 2013. As Nager departed a van we were riding in, my hand accidentally brushed his face and his glasses were knocked to the ground.
Nager smiled in the dark and said, “Wait until the press gets a hold of this.”
His advice to me was simple. Turn the corner and look forward. Appreciate my wonderful family and enjoy going to work every day at my golf course. He wisely advised me that you don’t get “do overs” in life. 
“Those who are fearful of mistakes don’t take the opportunity to make change,” Nager told me. “You should be proud of what you accomplished and the lives that you impacted. You have a forum in your writing and I encourage you to stay public and use it for the betterment of everyone who enjoys golf.”

And thanks to Glen Nager, of all people. He has helped me turn the corner and start the rest of my life.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

2014 PGA Championship

When I arrived at Valhalla on Sunday night I told the audience of PGA 
Championship Committee Chairs that this week's PGA would be the greatest week of professional golf in 2014 and nothing has happened to defuse that point.

This week the PGA of America established a new PGA Championship ticket sales record. We expect 45,000 spectators each day from Thursday through Sunday when the tournament takes place. Valhalla, which was renovated in 2011, is in perfect condition. It's a big championship venue and many are saying that it is the best presentation of a major in recent years. 

Tuesday night was the annual Champions Dinner hosted by defending champ, Jason Dufner and his wife, Amanda. Many are saying that it was the best Champions Dinner in years because of Dufner's speech and the humbleness that he showed throughout the evening. He grew up in modest surroundings. His dad was an assistant manager of a grocery store.

"My grandfather played golf and belonged to a country club. I loved playing with him when I was a kid because the course was nice and I could ride in a golf cart," recalled Dufner. "My dad didn't have a lot of money and when we played together it was always at a beat down 9-hole course where I had to carry my clubs."

Dufner continued, "When I was younger I always liked playing with my grandfather better because of the course and the cart. But, now if I had one round of golf left to play it would be with my dad (now deceased) on that beat down 9-hole course."

Dufner is battling a neck injury and if he does play well enough to make the Ryder Cup team on points this week, he will shut it down through theFedEx Cup playoffs. The most notable injury of the week belongs to Tiger Woods.

In the most heralded practice round entrance of all-time, Woods showed up at Valhalla shortly after Noon on Wednesday. The world had been waiting for word on whether or not he would be in the field. The Golf Channel televised nearly every minute of the 2 p.m. round which Woods was joined by Steve Stricker, Davis Love III and Harris English. 

Around 12:30 p.m. On Wednesday, Rory McIlroy exited the clubhouse and headed to his Mercedes courtesy vehicle. There were 25-30 reporters and photographers standing near Rory's parking spot. The media herd was guarding Tiger's spot in the past champions parking lot. McIlroy was carrying the Claret Jug, the hoist from the Open Championship, and not one reporter or photographer acknowledged this special moment. Talk about the Number One player in the world flying under 
the radar......

At the same time Tom Watson was starting his Ryder Cup press conference. During that time he announced Stricker as the third Vice Captain to join his Ryder Cup staff. Stricker is suffering from a hip ailment and it was a smart move by Watson to name a contemporary vice captain to join Andy North and Raymond Floyd.

On Thursday morning,  Matt Kuchar who has a guaranteed spot on the Ryder Cup team withdrew from the competition due to a back injury. This further raises questions about the U.S. Ryder Cup team which has many health issues. The Europeans, on the other hand, are in top form with McIlroy, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia playing as well as anybody in the world.

Another great storyline to this PGA is Kenny Perry playing in what could be the final major of his career in his home state of Kentucky. It was my privilege to offer Kenny the special exemption from the PGA back in May. I had the chance to play here at Valhalla with Kenny back in June and we had a great time. He won the Champions Tour event last week in Minnesota and comes here as a sentimental favorite. 

Finally, on Wednesday night the PGA of America presented President Bill Clinton with our Distinguished Service Award. It was a special night to honor a man who has made golf a major part of his life. the Clinton Foundation has raised $88 billion dollars for people worldwide. 

Clinton has resurrected the Humana Challenge, the former Bob Hope Classic, and his impact with humanitarian deeds through golf is incredible. What a thrill it was for me to present him with the DSA. 

Lots of drama and many intriguing plots here at Valhalla.