More than nine months after being removed as the 38th PGA of America president, Ted Bishop is about to get his send-off.
What’s been dubbed “An Intimate Evening With Golf Legends” will take place Tuesday at the Legends Golf Club in Franklin, where Bishop has been director of golf since its launch in 1991.
Headlining the event is Tom Watson, winner of eight major championships and the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup captain. Other dignitaries include current PGA Tour player Steve Stricker, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and “Golf Week” senior writer Alex Miceli, who will serve as emcee.
“The whole reason this event is taking place is because there is a group of local guys who approached me back in December about doing something to commemorate my time as the 38th president of the PGA of America,” Bishop said.
Bishop made headlines in October when the PGA of America board of directors ousted him as president after he posted what were deemed insensitive posts on Twitter and Facebook. Both were in response to excerpts in “No Limits,” a book written by English golfer Ian Poulter.
Bishop, who had one month remaining on his two-year term, said he was simply defending Watson and Nick Faldo, both of whom were criticized in the book.
All in all, an unforgettable year for Bishop, who recently sat down with the Daily Journal for a Q&A:
Looking back, how do you view your tenure as PGA president given that your term concluded a month early?
I’m really proud of everything that we accomplished. I think that history will be the judge on how significant those two years were. I think history will look on those two years very favorably. It started with the position we took on anchoring, which was not really meant to be an adversarial position with the USGA. It was more a stance where we felt like the condition of the game was and where it needed to go going into the future. I felt proud me being a public golf course operator my entire career that during my time as presidency we announced PGA Championships at Bethpage Black (2019) and Harding Park (2020), which are both public golf courses.
And the relationship the PGA of America had during those two years with the PGA Tour was something really unprecedented. I don’t know if it’s as good today as it was during those two years when I was president. Finchem and I kind of hit it off from the very beginning. Almost on a monthly or quarterly basis he and I were able to put together partnerships or cooperative efforts that were advantageous to both of our associations. I think it was a very good two years.
Tom Watson being here is somewhat self-explanatory. What is the significance of Steve Stricker coming to the Legends Golf Club?
Of all the Tour players, I’ve probably had the closest relationship with Steve. He’s always been a guy who if I had any questions or wanted input from a player who was a good, objective viewpoint I could always count on Stricker to give me that kind of opinion. Steve was a confidant during the Ryder Cup captain selection with Tom Watson. He was the first player that I called. I knew he was a guy I could trust and is a guy you’re really pleased to call a good friend because he’s probably the most well-thought-of PGA player out there.
Are you still on Twitter?
Yes. I think you have to be if you’re going to be relevant in today’s world. The thing that’s tough about Twitter is the word count is so small and you try to be brief and … sarcasm doesn’t play out well on Twitter. You really just have to watch what you do.
Now that you’ve had more time to reflect, are you at all bitter about how your presidency ended?
No, I’m not bitter. There’s a stack on my (office) floor of close to 1,500 or more correspondences, and I quit printing them out, people would send me who supported me. I probably got more support at the end of my term from people than I did for anything I ever did while I was with the PGA of America. I’m not bitter. I don’t feel the same way about the PGA of America that I once did. It has really … it’s made diversity and inclusion a primary focus of what it does. Hey, there is not a golf professional in the country that doesn’t get up every day, go to their facility, open the doors and welcome anybody to their facility.
I would use as an example what they did to (Donald) Trump three weeks ago where they take one leg of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf away for the remarks he made on illegal immigration. It was a confusing reaction to me because if they were so offended by Trump’s remarks and they’ve got six events, why wouldn’t you take all six away? The reason is really simple. There’s a lot of sponsorship dollars at stake, and to me that was the PGA of America basically saying, “Well, we feel like we need to do something because we’ve done things in the past on diversity and inclusion. But when it gets right down to it we’re not really willing to walk away from all the money. We’re not willing to make that strong of a statement.” There are things I have observed over the past 10 months that would lead me to think it’s an organization that’s a little bit hypocritical based on how they handled my circumstances.
How much damage, if any, do you feel your Twitter post about Ian Poulter inflicted on your reputation in the golf industry?
Given the demographics of the people that play here at my facility, there is not a week that goes by that I don’t have several people say to me, “You really got a bad deal by the PGA of America.” My reaction to Poulter’s comments really was a defense of Tom Watson. Somebody I had a lot of respect for. Somebody who I knew how hard he worked to do everything we could do to try to win the Ryder Cup. I felt compelled to defend Tom Watson in some way, shape or form.
Now was the way that I did it the best way that I could have done it? Unquestionably, it wasn’t. That being said, I really don’t regret that part of it. I think there are a lot of ways that whole situation could have been handled between me and the PGA of America that obviously didn’t happen.
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IF YOU GO
What: The Mulligan Open
When: Tuesday and Aug. 4
Where: The Legends Golf Club
Events: Charity dinner banquet and silent auction (Tuesday); full day of golf for all skill levels (Aug. 4)