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Throwback Thursday: History could indicate how power will change at the PGA of America

October 30, 2014

Will November 22 see Derek Sprague become a modern-day Joe Dey? In the wake of the PGA of America's Pete Rose-like banishment of its 38th president, Ted Bishop, we might very well see a style switch similar to what happened 40 years ago when the PGA Tour had a change in power.


It was in 1974 that Dey, the then tour commissioner and a future World Golf Hall of Famer, was succeeded by Deane Beman, an amateur champion who had decided to end a modestly successful pro career at age 35. Dey, the executive director of the USGA for more than 30 years, moved into the commissioner job in 1969. He is one of golf history's most distinguished administrators, who governed with a low-key, but firm by-the-book style that was well respected. The rules column he wrote for Golf Digest was one of the most popular reads in the magazine's history. And since 1996, the USGA has recognized a volunteer each year with the Joe Dey Award for meritorious service to the game.

Dey helped smooth the strife that had developed between the club pro and tour pro sides of the PGA of America; the Tournament Players Division was created, and later became the PGA Tour. Dey was 66 when he stepped down, and his fatherly presence was a stark lead-in to the much younger Beman, who faced some opposition by players who didn't like the idea of a fellow professional now at the helm of the ship and determining their livelihood.

When Dey retired, he responded to a question about what were the best and worst parts of the job. In true Dey disciplinarian style he said the best was seeing how well players police themselves and call penalties because it's the nature of the game and expected of them. The worst part was having to impose sanctions or penalties on a player.

Beman came into office with the task of governing the career direction of players he just spent several years playing against. One of the first issues he had to deal with was the new policy of "designated tournaments," which, in essence, was where leading players were told three "must events" they had to put on their schedule. That peer dynamic Beman dealt with hit Bishop full in the face in the waning weeks of his presidency. After being removed last week from office due to "insensitive gender-based statements" on social media, it's now being seen how much Bishop had a segment of his fellow club professionals against the way he operated as perhaps the most visible, vocal and outspoken PGA president ever. His maverick style created great animosity and was a vast departure from the traditional president whose only public persona was as the plaid-coated figure at the PGA Championship awards ceremony.

Sprague, general manager and director of golf at Malone (N.Y.) Golf Club, was in line to be elected PGA president in November, but got moved up to interim president after Bishop's firing. When Sprague, a Malone native, is officially elected at the meeting in Indianapolis -- in the state Bishop is located as director of golf at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin -- his contrast to Bishop's style should be a distinction the PGA of America will be relieved to see.