Club Pro Guy on his PGA of America CEO candidacy, giving a voice to the common man and changing the PGA Championship to net scoring
The exodus of CEO Pete Bevacqua to NBC Sports has left a sizable void at the PGA of America. While Bevacqua's tenure was one marked by success, his departure comes at a precarious time, with TV rights deals and a possible headquarter relocation on the table. That the organization's flagship enterprise, the PGA Championship, is two weeks away could add a curious element to the proceedings at Bellerive. In short, the PGA of America is in desperate need of a leader. And who better to captain the PGA's ship than one of its own: Club Pro Guy.
For Club Pro Guy is a living embodiment of the ideals and ethics the PGA of America promotes. A mini-tour legend, CPG eschewed the temptation of fame for teaching, his Learning Center becoming golf's Lyceum, a place where 65-and-older women's leagues can practice the proper punch-out technique in peace. His acumen is not confined to instruction. CPG is also a savvy businessman, owning an inherent perception of what the weekend warrior wants. How else can one explain his clubhouse devoid of $500 drivers and performance gear, instead stocking his shop with Snake Eyes and PowerBilt clubs and walls adorned with Tabasco polos? And his crusade to deflate the pretentious stigma that engulfs the sport cannot be overlooked, with his "No shirt, no shoes, no problem" Thursdays garnering universal acclaim.
Like all geniuses, some consider his guidance divisive—like when Phil Mickelson used CPG's patented quick-rake method at this year's U.S. Open—and you'll never see him self-promoting his works on Golf Channel (mostly due to Damon Hack's restraining order). Nevertheless, if the PGA of America is searching for a enlightened mind that keeps the people's voice in his heart, CPG is the perfect candidate.
Don't just take our word. Here from the man himself. (DISCLAIMER: This is satire. We promise. At least we think it is.)
GOLF DIGEST: You're not one to sugarcoat things, so let's get into it. What's one of the first items your administration plans on addressing?
CLUB PRO GUY: To me, it's all about giving rank-and-file club pros the recognition they deserve. Communication is everything. The average golfer needs to better understand how difficult this job is in order for club pros to get the credit they deserve. Just this morning I listened to a 45 minute story in astonishing detail from one of my members about his "buddies" trip to Harbour Town. I stood there and just took it. Round by round, virtually shot by shot. This is the type of sacrifice me and my brothers make on a daily basis and it's time we are recognized for it.
GD: It's that type of fortitude that makes you a favorite for the job. Speaking of Bevacqua, he was instrumental in shepherding the PGA Championship’s move to May. With this new calendar date, the PGA of America has hinted at the idea of the Wanamaker Trophy visiting new venues. What other changes would you implement ?
CPG: I think we all thought Mark Brooks winning in ’96 would elevate the status of the event but it just didn’t happen. Y.E. Yang winning in ’09 is the only thing that has kept the event a tick ahead of the Players Championship, but that boost won’t last forever. I say we stop trying to act like the other majors when we’re clearly not. Instead of venue changes, I'd rather see format tweaks. I don’t want to get bogged down in specifics in this interview but I think a modified scramble format could make sense, perhaps some version of the old Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge would work, maybe even a marriage of "Big Break XXVII" meets "Shotmakers" meets Senior Skins Game meets "Battle at Big Horn" could be done. You get the idea. I have lots of innovative thoughts that we will be vetting immediately after I’m sworn in.
GD: Speaking of which, there are whispers that you plan on reviving the PGA Championship’s match-play format, adding the caveat of net scoring. Any truth to those rumors?
CPG: I think the success and raw emotion of the Tavistock Cup has proved once and for all that matchplay is a much more exciting format from a fan perspective. So making the change from stroke play to match play is a no-brainer and one that I would implement rather quickly. Now, converting the PGA Championship to a ‘net’ event is a bit more controversial, but it really shouldn’t be. The reality is that there are players on the PGA Tour who are more talented than others. We need to accept that fact and deal with it accordingly. The handicap system was created so that players of different abilities are able to compete on a level playing field. Why shouldn’t this apply to a major championship? If Alex Cjeka is battling Dustin Johnson down the stretch on Sunday, Alex is gonna need his pops. I don’t understand why this is so controversial. What could be more exciting than a 4 net 3 on the 72nd hole to win a major championship? There are some logistical issues to overcome (dotting scorecards, etc.) but overall I think the change is needed and something you will eventually see under my leadership.
GD: You’ve mentioned that you and your brethren are often overlooked for the sacrifices and contributions made to the game. How do you plan on raising the PGA of America’s profile so that club pros are given their proper due?
CPG: I’m not saying that being a club pro is on par with being a POW or a famous religious martyr, but it’s pretty close. Before you disagree, ask yourself: Have you ever given a group lesson to five housewives who thought it might be “fun” to take up the game? Have you ever been asked what the radar looks like in the age of smart phones? Have you ever had a 26 handicap ask you for a ball fitting? Have you ever found yourself re-gripping a set of RAM Accubars at 8:30 on a Saturday night? Have you ever had to endure stories from a member about how just four bad swings and three burned edges cost him a chance to break 90?
I plan on raising the PGA's profile by traveling around on the PGA’s private jet to tell these stories to anyone who’s willing to listen. And I won’t stop until every single person in Las Vegas and Cabo has heard what I have to say.
GD: Not to bring up the elephant in the room, but there are concerns that your sponsorship deals could present a conflict of interest. Do you care to respond to those worries?
CPG: I don’t know what kind of salary Bevacqua was making, but I’m not about to take a pay cut and I think most people will understand that. To be totally transparent, I have a well publicized multi-month equipment deal with Strata that’s set to expire next month and most likely won’t be renewed. My arrangement with Chili’s is a (non-monetary) free ‘appetizer only' deal, so I don’t see a conflict there. The only potential issue may be my plastic club tube deal with JEF Golf that has five years remaining on it. If it helps alleviate any concerns, I can promise right now that during my time as CEO, I will recuse myself on any issue or decision that comes across my desk dealing with plastic club tubes.
GD: You've built a winning team around your club, and often you've expressed your fidelity towards them. Do you plan on bringing your caddie Ernesto, marshal Darrel and, um, "girlfriend" Tawny along for this new endeavor?
CPG: This is a package deal, so yes. The fact that the PGA headquarters might be moving from Palm Beach Gardens to Frisco, TX later this year is a huge break for Darrel. He has two outstanding warrants in Florida for road rage arrests and is understandably skittish about returning. I envision Darrel leading a task force that legislates pace of play issues on tour along with new enforcement guidelines that may or may not include a physical component. Trust me, 3:45 rounds are about to be the norm.
As for Tawny, she worked several clubs in the Dallas/Austin corridor back in the early 2000s and still has many contacts in that area so finding a job won’t be difficult for her. It also doesn’t hurt that she knows Ezekiel Elliot personally. Furthermore, the Assistant GM at Pandora’s Men’s Club near Frisco has already reached out to her and expressed interest. So she’s obviously excited.
Ernesto will love being a little bit closer to home and will obviously serve as my right hand man. Although he has never served in an administrative capacity, Ernesto will most likely represent the PGA of America in contract negotiations with all the major networks and digital/streaming platforms. He recently negotiated the deal for our club when we hired a Hall & Oates cover band to play at our member/guest Saturday night party, so he has some experience in this area.
In closing, what do you want to say to the 29,000 professionals across this country that will now look to you for leadership?
CPG: I want to say hold tight, because help is on the way. I want them to know I’ve been where they're at. I’m just like they are. I’ve shot 94 with a group of members who mistakenly assumed I was good, I’ve been busted watching porn on the GHIN computer, I’ve gained 20 pounds in the last three years, I’ve made on-course rulings when I had absolutely no idea what I was talking about, I’ve "mailed it in” during the last seven member/guests. There isn’t another person being considered for this position that can identify with the rank-and-file club pro like I can and I look forward to representing them.