The Bishop Backgrounder —
My career in golf has spanned over six decades starting out at a par-3 course in Logansport, IN to building my own 45-hole golf facility to being the leader of the largest working sports organization in the world — the PGA of America. As PGA President, I built a strong relationship with the PGA Tour. I became the voice for those who opposed the USGA’s ban on the anchored stroke. I also resurrected the PGA’s relationship with Arnold Palmer.
During my presidency named public facilities such as Harding Park and Bethpage Black as sites for PGA Championships and a Ryder Cup. I also named Tom Watson 2014 Ryder Cup Captain. In 2016 I authored a book “Unfriended” and was inducted into the Indiana Golf Hall of Fame in 2013.
The Bishop Story —
As a kid, I bought a George Fazio 7-iron at a local hardware store. The first golf course I ever experienced was at a park near my house where my buddies and I played from lamp post to lamp post with one club and a ball. When I was 17 years old, I got a job as a groundskeeper at the Rolling Hills Par-3 course. It was there that my love for golf was truly born.
I have been very lucky to meet many great people through golf. After I graduated from Purdue University in 1976, I was the pro/superintendent at the Phil Harris Golf Course in Linton, IN. Phil was a great friend to Bing Crosby and many PGA Tour players. Because of my association with Phil Harris, I was introduced to people like Sam Snead, Byron Nelson and many of the greats in the game.
In 1991 I had the opportunity to build and partially own my own golf facility- The Legends of Indiana Golf Course which is about 25 minutes south of Indianapolis. I have spent the past 25 years here at The Legends as the General Manager. I’m proud of the fact that since 1992, our course has hosted more championship events than anyone in Indiana.
I got involved in PGA governance in 1988 when I became a Director for the Indiana PGA. I later served as President of my Section and went on to be a District Director and National Officer for the PGA of America. It was a wonderful run of being involved at the state and national levels trying to make golf a better game for everyone.
Some would say my PGA Presidency was one of the most eventful in the 100-year history of the Association. It was filled with many great accomplishments but it ended with an unceremonious removal from office after a gaffe on social media. While I would argue the punishment didn’t fit the crime, it taught me a lesson that words should always be chosen wisely. More importantly, moving on with my life and discarding adversity is what I hope has really defined me.
MW: You were pushed out as President of the PGA of America before your term ended. Any regrets on what you did to prompt others to push for your ouster?
TB: If I could relive my term as the 38th President of the PGA of America, I would do absolutely nothing any differently- other than I would not have called Ian Poulter “a lil girl” for his remarks about Tom Watson and Nick Faldo, two friends of mine. I do not apologize for being critical of what Poulter said about Tom and Nick. I do apologize for the choice of my words.
MW: Has time healed wounds or are you still bitter at how things ended?
TB: Honestly, I was never bitter. It was disappointing to me given my voluntary service and sacrifice to the PGA that it didn’t rally around me and help through my crisis. Anyone who knows me understands I have always been a champion for women in golf. That’s been true in the communities that I’ve lived in, my home state of Indiana and certainly at a national level with the things I did to promote women in my time as a PGA leader. I even criticized the R&A for its discrimination of women at Open Championship clubs while I was PGA President. But, I seemed to wipe all of that out with about 30 seconds of stupidity on social media.
The PGA of America could have diffused a lot of it and used me as a positive example, but they chose not to. Their choice- my consequences to live with. and most disconcerting to me is that as a PGA member in good standing, I have been stripped of two of my basic rights. I can no longer vote or hold office as dictated by the PGA of America Board in 2014.
MW: Given what you know — if you had a mulligan — would you have done anything differently?
TB: Knowing what I know now, I would have issued a public apology as soon as I knew I had a situation which was about 90 minutes after my social media posts. But, I acted on the advice of the PGA to “talk to no one in the media” and that only made my situation worse. I had plenty of friends in the media sitting back and waiting for something from me. I’m confident they would have helped me out if I would have just apologized immediately. But, the PGA put a gag order on me and that certainly made my situation worse.
MW: Have any of the key leaders of the PGA of America reached out to you since your forced retirement? Have you and Ian Poulter spoken since the brouhaha between the two of you?
TB: I have talked to Pete Bevacqua, PGA CEO a few of times in the last couple of years. But, I’ve had no substantial conversations with any PGA members who are elected leaders of my Association for a couple of years. Ian Poulter and I did speak about a month after the incident. I apologized and he accepted. Let me make this clear, I have always had a great amount of respect for Ian as a competitor. I’ve liked him despite the fact that he has been a thorn in the side of the US Ryder Cup team. I wish Poulter nothing but the best- always.
MW: You handpicked Tom Watson to serve as Captain of the 2014 American Ryder Cup Team for the second time. Was Larry Nelson, who has never been chosen Captain, ever seriously on your radar screen given his record on and off the course.
TB: Larry Nelson was certainly someone who had interest in being a Ryder Cup Captain. But, Tom Watson is still the last winning US Ryder Cup Captain on foreign soil going back to 1993 at The Belfry. Tom, like Larry, had an outstanding record as a Ryder Cup player. Given the fact that the 2014 Ryder Cup was being played in Scotland, a country that Watson had won four of his five Open Championships in, made him a good choice.
People forget that the US lost the ’14 Ryder Cup by over 30 shots in three days. Nothing that Tom did led to that defeat. Would Larry Nelson have been a good Ryder Cup Captain? Yes. He should have been the PGA of America’s choice in the mid-1990’s. So, you will need to talk to someone else about that.
MW: When you were pushed out from the PGA of America — who was the first person that called you after the situation happened? Who was the first person you called?
TB: It was either Tom Watson or Tim Finchem, I can’t remember which. Both reached out to me right away. I had so many calls it’s hard to remember them all. But, every single phone call, email, text or note that I got meant the world to me. And I received hundreds.
MW: Major golf organizations here in the States and even globally are trying to reach out to groups such as Millennials, women and minorities to actively choose golf as a recreation pastime. Given your involvement as a course owner — what’s your game plan on bringing more people into the game?
TB: We have always welcomed women and minorities at any facility I’ve been involved with. I’m intrigued by Millennials and we have had tremendous success in 2017 by offering a Millennial rate which is a reduced fee after 11 am daily. What I have seen is that these people love a quality golf course that fits their budget. They play fast, like to drink and gamble and they are fun to have around. Many Millennials are strapped with debt from student loans and their recreational time is limited because of that. We have added over 250 new customers to our database since April with this approach to Millennials.
MW: You can change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?
TB: I’m all for bifurcation of the Rules of Golf. I am totally convinced we need two sets of rules for Tour play and recreational play. People will never realize how close we came to getting that. I would say that Tim Finchem single-handedly kept this from happening in 2014. If the Tour would have decided to make its own rules that could have been the demise of the USGA. Finchem was in a position to make this happen and he didn’t think it “was worth falling on the sword of bifurcation because of anchoring.” It really was a monumental moment of time for the sport of golf.
MW: Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?
TB: My father told me the greatest compliment you can get is being taken for granted. He said it meant people knew they could count on you to get the job done.
MW: Curious to know — if you were in front of a class of 25-30 aspiring men and women looking to be part of the PGA of America and given what you know and have experienced how would you counsel them in order to build a career in the golf industry?
TB: Cultivate your verbal skills. I see so many young people who can’t look you in the eye and have a direct conversation. They can text, Tweet or email all day long, but have no verbal skills. Whether it’s golf or life, you have to be able to communicate verbally in order to be successful.WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?