PGA Tour Commissioner and Professional Golfer
If Yankee Stadium is the House that Ruth built, then the World Golf Hall of Fame is the House that Beman built, and now he will live there as a permanent resident. Deane Beman was a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame’s Class of 2000, selected by the World Golf Foundation board of directors for his Lifetime Achievement in golf.
While Beman is certainly best remembered for his work as the commissioner of the PGA TOUR, his resume as a player isn’t too shabby, either. Beman, who left a successful practice as an insurance broker to pursue the tour, won four PGA TOUR titles, a pair of U.S. Amateurs, The Amateur Championship and competed on four U.S. Walker Cup teams.
“As an amateur, I’d like to be remembered as being at the top of my competition,” Beman says. “I was right there with the best of them.”
After succeeding Joe Dey as commissioner in 1974, Beman grew the tour’s assets from approximately $500,000-$700,000 in 1974 to an estimated $500 million-$800 million when he retired in 1994. Much of this new profit and growth was due to television. A direct result of the popularity of golf on television was the escalating tournament purses that made players millionaires many times over and raised the profile of professional golf to new heights.
During his tenure, Beman ushered in the creation of the SENIOR PGA TOUR (now called the Champions Tour). No sport has bottled nostalgia as successfully as golf’s SENIOR TOUR, considered by many the sports success story of the 1980s. The SENIOR TOUR arrived just in time to encompass the magnetism of Arnold Palmer. What started as a gathering of old friends blossomed into a circuit with seemingly limitless potential. Two tournaments and a total purse of $250,000 evolved into a schedule of 45 events with prize money in excess of $54 million. “When we started, the players didn’t want to play more than 10 tournaments a year. They wanted to play a little bit to get out of the house. Then, when they started playing, they found out how much they missed it-the competition, the camaraderie. They said, ‘Let’s play more,’ and here we are,” Beman said.
In 1989, Beman created the Ben Hogan Tour (now called the Web.com Tour) as a proving ground for young professionals that also took the sport into 30 additional markets and created a launching pad for the careers of John Daly, Tom Lehman and David Duval, just to name a few. Beman is also referred to as “the Father of Stadium Golf.” The TPC Stadium Course at Sawgrass was the first product born of Beman’s dream to build a network of spectator-friendly courses to accommodate the growing popularity of professional golf. As the permanent home of the PGA TOUR’s PLAYERS Championship, it was the first of its kind, featuring mounds, high banks and earthen amphitheaters specifically designed to handle larger crowds. “That first concept was routed literally on the back of a placemat where he (course architect Pete Dye) first sketched out the layout of the holes,” Beman fondly recalls.
DEANE BEMAN BOUGHT THE 415-ACRE SWAMP THAT WOULD BECOME THE TPC AT SAWGRASS IN 1978 FOR THE SUM OF $1.
The Stadium Course has become a prototype for other viewer-friendly courses. Today, the Tournament Players Club network has sprouted up across the country as well as internationally.
In May of 1998, another of Beman’s ideas became reality when the World Golf Village, home of the World Golf Hall of Fame, opened. Beman had the idea of constructing a PGA TOUR Hall of Fame somewhere in Northeast Florida, near tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra and near Interstate 95. However, the concept grew in scope as golf organizations, such as the LPGA and others around the world, learned of the project and asked to participate. “It was too big for just the PGA TOUR,” said Beman. “We had to ask the rest of the world to join us.”
In 1994, Beman retired as commissioner, leaving his successor, Tim Finchem, with a successful company to run. “I like the Peter Jacobsen quote,” said Finchem, referring to the player and former PGA TOUR Policy Board member’s take on Beman’s success. “He said, ‘Deane built a Mercedes; all Tim has to do is keep his foot on the gas.’ Anyone in our sport owes him a debt of gratitude.”