“Did You Know”
The modern version of the PGA Tour was formed at Whitemarsh Valley CC in 1968!
The PGA of America came into being in 1916. In the early days of what became known as the PGA Tour it was a loose arrangement of professional golf tournaments. To create interest in hosting tournaments, wives of PGA professionals would write letters to the Chamber of Commerce of large cities, golf resorts and regional golf associations. It became obvious to the PGA professionals that it would be better if it was organized by someone.
In 1930 the PGA hired it first tournament manager, Bob Harlow, a former newspaper man who was managing exhibitions for Walter Hagen and Joe Kirkwood. His job was to sell and promote the tournaments as well as manage them. He set up the starting times and fined the players if they were late. The players were often displeased with how the tournaments were managed by Harlow.
The PGA Tour usually lost money and some years nearly one quarter of the PGA members’ dues had to go to operating the Tour. Many of the home professionals were unhappy as well. Harlow reported to the PGA officers and board. On the side Harlow managed some of the players, which led to his demise in late 1936 due to complaints about favoritism and not spending his full time on tournaments.
He was followed by Fred Corcoran, another manager of athletes, who proved to be no more satisfactory. He was hired and fired several times but due to World War II, he lasted until late 1947. On more than one occasion Corcoran was punched in the nose by a disgruntled playing professional. During Corcoran’s tenure, Ben Hogan, as the leader of a players group, made an unannounced appearance at the 1946 annual meeting of the PGA. He presented a proposal for establishment of a seven-man player constituted board. The board would arrange schedules, control the PGA Tournament Bureau and punish absenteeism. Eventually much of that was accepted to various degrees.
George Schneider, who would also play the PGA Tour at the same time, followed Corcoran. The players were happy, but the PGA felt he sided with the players on most issues, so he was let go in early 1950. That year a Players Board constituted by four players and the three PGA officers was instituted. Schneider was followed by men who were either accused of playing favorites in making rulings or were successful but unhappy with life on the road. In 1964 the PGA hired Jack Tuthill, an ex FBI man, who handled the position to the satisfaction of the PGA and the players.
When a player signed an entry form to play in a PGA Tour event, a paragraph in the form committed him to play his next tournament on the PGA Tour, unless it was a tournament in his PGA Section. As an example, a member of the Philadelphia Section PGA like Art Wall or Al Besselink could play in the Section Championship or Philadelphia Open at the same time a PGA Tour tournament was being played in another part of the country.
In February 1951 Jimmy Demaret and eight other PGA professionals, which included Al Besselink, Stan Dudas and Willie Polumbo from the Philadelphia PGA, played in the Mexican Open which was being held at the same time as the PGA Tour’s Rio Grande Valley Open in Harlingen, Texas. Demaret had a $500 guarantee from the Mexican Open. The PGA fined Demaret $500, and most of the others $200, and stated they were suspended until the fines were paid. The next PGA Tour event was the Houston Open, Demaret’s home town. The chairman of the Houston Open threatened to cancel the tournament unless Demaret was in the starting field. Demaret threatened to sue the PGA for all the money it had and threatened to punch PGA President Horton Smith in the nose. In the end a wealthy oilman gave Demaret a check to cover the fines of Demaret and the others who wished to play at Houston. Demaret handed the check over to the PGA and played under protest. Demaret teed off wearing a Mexican sombrero.
More money began coming to professional golf in the mid 60s due to television. Frank Sinatra offered to sponsor a $200,000 tournament in Las Vegas in 1968. Not wanting to be associated with gambling, although legal, the PGA of America turned it down, which incensed the players. Many of the Tour’s players now had college educations. They presented the PGA with a list of grievances over the day-to-day operation of the tournaments. When not much changed the players stated they wanted complete control of what was now a $5.6 million tour. In 1950 the professionals had played for $541,950.
The players put together a 13-man organizing committee and hired a lawyer. They called themselves the “American Professional Golfers Inc.” The evening before the first round of the Philadelphia Golf Classic, August 21, 1968, the players held their first official meeting at the Whitemarsh Valley Country Club. All players were invited. Gardner Dickenson was elected president, with Jack Nicklaus vice president, and Billy Casper treasurer. 205 players agreed to join.
The new organization announced that they would honor all PGA Tour contracts for the rest of the year but had begun negotiating for tournaments and television contracts for 1969. The PGA of America and the new players’ organization were both scheduling tournaments for 1969 and both ran qualifying tournaments for new players.
In November Atlantic City Country Club owner/professional Leo Fraser was elected president of the PGA of America. Led by Fraser, the PGA of America made peace with the players in December. The Tournament Players Division of the PGA was created. Its Board was made up of the three PGA officers, four tournament players and three non-PGA independent directors.
The players have owned and managed the PGA Tour for 54 years. There was a time when the lesser players were organizing for more money, like paying everyone in the starting field each week. Now in 2022 the players own the PGA Tour, Champions Tour, Korn Ferry Tour and Latinoamerica Tour. Prize money on the PGA Tour has increased from $5.6 million to $427 million, along with bonus money and a profit sharing plan, but there are some who are dissatisfied, even though it is their tour, and there are millions of dollars to be made.
Pete; Always enjoy your column.