It’s time for golf’s version of “Hail to the Chief.”
Today, Ted Bishop, general manager and director of golf at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin, will be sworn in as the 38th president of The PGA of America.
Bishop’s elevation to the presidency isn’t a surprise, though. There were no Election Night jitters as he awaited results.
Rather, his installation is the result of a four-year process that included two-year terms as the PGA’s secretary and, most recently, its vice president.
“You prepare yourself for this,” the 58-year-old Bishop said. “I can’t wait. Its the most exciting time in decades for the PGA.”
He said he sees his leadership style as his greatest strength.
“I believe in trying to lead by consensus, and I’ve never been afraid to surround myself with people who are smarter than I am,” Bishop said. “It’s a good leadership team we have here. This is the most exciting time to be going into my position. I’m really looking forward to it.”
The ceremony will take place at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore on the Inner Harbor, site of the PGA Annual Meeting, the largest governance event for The PGA of America. Baltimore is home to outgoing PGA president Allen Wronowski, director of golf at Hillendale Country Club in Phoenix, Md.
Current PGA secretary Derek Sprague is expected to become vice president by acclimation. Also, a new PGA secretary will be selected from a pool of seven candidates who have been nominated by PGA sections.
Sprague, who served as a member of the PGA of America’s Executive Committee the past two years, says he has complete confidence in Bishop.
“Ted is just an outstanding PGA professional and an outstanding leader. He always wants to make sure everyone is fully involved before making his decision,” said Sprague, general manager and head pro at Malone (N.Y.) Golf Club. “Ted has no personal agenda on any issue. That’s one of his strongest qualities.”
An ability to budget his time is another. Bishop expects to be spread thin during his two-year presidency as he’ll also be tending to the day-to-day operations associated with The Legends.
Good thing he’s got a seasoned staff he can depend on. Bishop’s daughter, Ashely Davidson, The Legends’ event coordinator, will find herself juggling more responsibilities. Moreover, Bishop’s wife, Cindy, is food and beverage director, while the couple’s son-in-law, Ted Davidson, manages the golf shop. Other staff members will chip in, too.
“My role had already started evolving even when my dad became secretary. I have picked up more responsibilities at work. We’re handling pretty much everything while he’s not here,” Ashely Davidson said. “People will make the remark to me, ‘Oh, your dad is going to be gone more often,’ and I don’t think that’s necessarily true. He really does try to be conscientious of what we’re doing here. It will be interesting to see how he juggles the two because both are so important to him.”
Like his predecessors, Bishop will face an abundance of issues in what is the world’s largest working sports organization with about 27,000 members.
Among the first items on his agenda is the announcement of the next captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Scheduled for Sept. 26-28, 2014, in Gleneagles, Scotland, the Americans will seek a triumph on foreign soil for the first time since 1993.
“I’ve talked to a lot of former Ryder Cup captains, and we value their opinion. It will be interesting,” Bishop said.
Asked if he has a front-runner in mind, Bishop can only offer, “I think it will rock the golf world. Having been up close to two Ryder Cups, I think without question these are two entirely different entities. The scheduling, the unfamiliarity. It makes it very hard for us to win over there. It’s a whole different set of circumstances when you’re playing domestically. You have to have a captain experienced in playing in those weather conditions, too.”
Recent conversations Bishop has had with former U.S. Ryder Cup captains Curtis Strange (2002) and Davis Love III (2012) reinforced the importance of selecting someone who is older and a proven motivator with Ryder Cup playing experience.
“We need to make a statement with our next captain,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to be where (Americans) are going to love it or hate it. Everyone is going to love it. Like I said, it’s going to rock the golf world.”
Another of the hot-button topics during Bishop’s tenure, which concludes November 2014, is the controversy surrounding use of long putters on the PGA Tour.
Those opposed, such as three-time major champion Padraig Harrington, have become louder in voicing their displeasure after three of the four major tournaments this year were won by golfers using long putters — Keegan Bradley (PGA Championship), Webb Simpson (U.S. Open) and Ernie Els (British Open). Only Masters champion Bubba Watson used a conventional putter while winning a major in the past year.
The argument made is that the long putter can be anchored against one’s body, thus creating an unfair advantage in terms of putter stability.
“The speculation is that it will eventually be outlawed,” Bishop said, adding that any rules changes wouldn’t go into effect until 2016.
Such a change could signal the beginning of the end of the Champions Tour (golfers 50 and older). A higher percentage of Champions participants use long putters compared to the younger professional golfers. If outlawed, it could create a plunge in the quality of the Champions product, which, in turn, likely would affect tournament attendance as well as sponsorship.
This is merely one of the subjects Bishop will address these next 24 months.
There will be others. All of which doesn’t concern former PGA president Jim Remy. Remy and Bishop are, according to the former, like brothers. He realizes the capable hands the PGA of America is in.
“With Ted, the most important thing is he has a responsibility to represent 27,000 members. You have to be able to weigh out what’s best for everyone. You have to listen, you have to evaluate, and Ted does a great job. He’s a grass-roots guy running a public facility,” said the Vermont-based Remy, the PGA president in 2009-10. “When Ted sees a task, he attacks it and succeeds. He’s risen to the top.”
So how will being president hurt Bishop’s 3.2 golf handicap?
“I’ll probably play less, but I’ll have to play better,” he said. “In the past four years you get a lot of chances to play with a number of (PGA) Tour players. Honestly, it’s helped my nerves, and I’ve tried to work on my game.”