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Original Issue


Pro golf, having survived its civil war, is still faced with many problems that its new tour commissioner, Joe Dey, must solve. Questioned about some of the more pressing ones last week, Dey offers his views

Q. Why did you take the job of commissioner of the Professional Golfers' Association tour?

A. There are two principal agencies in golf—the USGA and the PGA. The USGA seemed to be in good shape, but the PGA has had a long period of trial and tribulation. At one point the split between the PGA administration and the touring players looked almost irreconcilable. When the breach recently was healed it seemed to me there was an opportunity to help the game of golf by attempting to contribute to the new solidity of the PGA. It seemed another way of serving golf.

Q. Who is your boss in the PGA?

A. The Tournament Policy Board, which consists of four touring professionals, the three officers of the PGA and three noted businessmen. To me, the businessmen are very important in the setup. You had, formerly, just the two antagonists—the PGA administration and the players. The pros had their personal interests. The PGA had its direct interests. And they both should have. But now you have a balancing factor, the businessmen, who I believe will be able to see an issue in a well-rounded way and make a fair, practical decision. I think the players and the PGA will have the same attitude. I think they are all going to get caught up in something that is really transcendental—something that says the game is the thing, and the better the game the better our thing. I talked with one of the businessmen [they are Coca-Cola President Paul Austin; George Love, chairman of Consolidation Coal Company; and John Murchison, a Texas financier] and he said he would be surprised if we have any division on doctrinal lines. I feel the same way.

Q. In other words, you feel what might be called the philosophy of the buck will no longer be the dominating attitude?

A. You want the fellows to earn as much as they can. The worker is worthy of his hire, and I don't derogate fellows getting all the money they are entitled to. But to me quality is going to produce more money. You do a thing in the right way and everything needful follows. I believe that, and my hope is to put the emphasis on quality and let the money follow.

Q. Sponsors risk hundreds of thousands of dollars on tour events with almost no guarantee that any of the tour's stars will show up. Should there be a PGA policy to guarantee a certain percentage of the top 10 players in each event?

A. There is some sort of requirement now, and until I can review how it works—or does not work—I'd rather not make any definite statement. But, as a general proposition, I have observed the discomfiture of sponsors in the past when some leading players have not appeared, and it does seem that some measure of assurance ought to be given to sponsors that they will have X number of leading players. Remember, though, that the players are independent contractors. They are not on somebody's payroll. You can't force a fellow to go somewhere he doesn't want to go. But there is a happy medium somewhere. Certainly a lot of attention should be given to the sponsors' need for an attractive field, a representative field. They deserve it.

Q. The pros often complain of fatigue and about the year-round tour schedule. Do you think there ought to be a limit to the number of tournaments in a year?

A. I have felt for many years there should be two divisions of tournament golf. There is a satellite tour developing now. I think there will be four or five such satellite events this year. It could be that eventually you will have a limited number of so-called big-money tournaments, with the second tour feeding talent into the major tour. It seems to me if you have the incentive and ability to move up from a $50,000 tournament class to a $200,000 tournament class, then God bless you.

Q. Your determination to speed up play caused a celebrated hassle at several U.S. Opens. Are you going to try to quicken play on the pro tour?

A. I intend to investigate the possibility.

Q. Do you think the prestige of the PGA Championship might be raised by going back to the old format of match play?

A. The best test of professional golfers is medal play—stroke play—where every shot counts. If you are trying to determine the champion among all professional golfers, the event should be medal play. However, I think one major match-play competition a year would be an excellent thing to have on the pro tour, and I think the pros would welcome it. But it should not be the PGA Championship.

Q. Are you satisfied with the present methods of televising golf tournaments?

A. I have no specific ideas in this area as yet, but it is a provocative field. For example, is television time properly used? You have a television program of an hour and a half. How many shots do you see in that hour and a half? Could you see more? I don't know. Technically it will soon be possible to show more than the last few holes of a tournament. There has been a limitation because of the tremendous cost of physical facilities for broadcasting companies, but now they are developing ways to better use mobile cameras. That, plus more taping of early holes or unusual shots, might make for more action and excitement for the TV viewer.

Q. Do you feel that the professional golfer has an effect on the amateur game?

A. The effect of the touring professional is profound, and this is one of the things that influenced me in my decision to take this job. The example set by the pros is the one followed by the amateurs. Take a rule, any rule of golf. I say this with feeling—the USGA can publish a rules book and put out hundreds of thousands of copies of it, but one pro star obeying that rule can exert a stronger influence than any words in a book. Since this power to set a good example exists, I would hope that in every aspect it could be turned to constructive use for the whole game of golf. Certainly the pros could help improve the pace of play. They can also display little matters of etiquette—making a point of things that many people in this country don't know about. Golf in the U.S. is largely a first-generation game. It isn't as if we've soaked in all the traditions that some of our friends in other countries have. There are things about the niceties, the manners of golf, that make it a distinctive sport. I think the professionals have in the past, and might increasingly in the future, shore up this etiquette of golf. I am conscious of the usefulness of the pro golfers' behavior.

Q. What do you feel is the status of golf as a sport in America today, and what future do you see for it?

A. There are about 9,000 golf courses in the U.S., which means there are more in this country than in the rest of the world put together. My guess is that within 20 years you will have twice as many courses and twice as many golfers. I think the increased interest will be reflected in the professional tour. The two things parallel each other—the growth of recreational golf and the professional sport. We sit here in Golf House and the walls in this room are hung with clubs made 100 to 200 years ago. Over there are feather balls. To say that the game is not going to change is flying in the face of history. What we are seeing today is not what we are going to be seeing a decade from now. The potential for worldwide growth in golf is staggering. As class consciousness disappears in golf—it is an upper-class sport except in the English-speaking countries—and as other countries develop a middle class that can afford to have recreation, you are going to see more and more people turning to golf.

Q. Will there be any change in the PGA's views toward international golf—to help rather than, as has seemed the policy in the past, hinder its development?

A. I start with a special consideration for national championships—the PGA, the British Open, the U.S. Open; these are the main focal points. I would hate to see these impaired, because I think they serve a very special purpose in golf. I can see leading players—Palmer, Nicklaus, Casper, Player, fellows like that—wanting to play in the British Open. Some others don't want to, because of the expense, so they ought to be able to play in a $120,000 or $150,000 tour tournament in the U.S. that same week. I don't think these events hurt each other. I think there is room for both. Essentially, I am for international golf. It's almost like Charlie (Engine) Wilson, who said what's good for General Motors is good for the country. It seems to me the more good golf there is anywhere in the world the more it is going to benefit the good players, those who play professional tour golf. I tend to take the broad view, by instinct.

Q. Do you have any immediate plans for major changes in the tour?

A. When it comes to innovations in something as basically successful as the pro tour, the best plan of all is to make haste slowly.


Posed beneath a portrait of Bobby Jones in his office, Dey wears a look of authority.