President of PGA of America removed from office

Ted Bishop, the President of the 27,000 member Professional Golfers Association of America was ousted from his position just one month short of the end of his two year term over insensitive comments on social media.  He choose to involve himself into the controversy between Nick Faldo and Ian Poulter and called Poulter a “lil girl” and stated “(he) sounds like a little school girl squealing during recess.”  The Executive Board of the PGA acted quickly and decisively, first asking for his resignation, and when Bishop refused, they voted him out of office.  As a PGA member for over 40 years, I applaud the PGA’s actions. The PGA issued a statement that Bishop’s remarks were inconsistent with association’s policies.  I would like to address three topics with regard to his termination.  First, the role of the president of the PGA; second, need to involve himself into a controversy between Faldo and Poulter; and third the politically incorrect use of terms.

The president of the PGA of America is not on par with the commissioners of Major League Baseball, National Football League, the National Basketball Association or the PGA Tour.  The commissioners of these sports earn millions of dollars in salaries and preside over revenues in the billions.  The president of the PGA of America earns no salary and is only compensated in costs associated with his duties for the association.  The real power is the Executive Director of the PGA, who manages the day to day operations of the PGA.  The president serves a two year term and he and the board of directors establish goals and provide direction for the association.  The mission of the PGA is to promote the enjoyment and involvement in the game of golf and to contribute to its growth by providing services to golf professionals, consumers and the golf industry.  The president of the PGA is relatively unknown, except for two events, the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup.  At the PGA Championship, he is interviewed on national television and gets to present the Wannamaker Trophy to the winner.  At the Ryder Cup, which is played every two years, this president was very visible giving many interviews and participating joint interviews with Tom Watson.  It is the job of the PGA to select the Captain of the USA squad, and Ted Bishop was the leading advocate for Tom Watson to be selected captain.  It would’ve been a great accomplishment to end his presidency with a public relations Ryder Cup win and a validation of his pick for captain.  As it turns out it was the reverse and much of the blame, right or wrong, was directed at Ted Bishop. The job of the president of the PGA is to direct the association for the betterment of the members and the game of golf.  When in public, he represents the PGA and the association’s interests.  I think he lost sight of his main duty as president.

The controversy between Nick Faldo and Ian Poulter started with Faldo saying on national television that Sergio Garcia was “unless” in 2008 when Nick was Captain of the European side during the Ryder Cup.  "Sergio puts a brave face on it, but the rest of the guys are fuming," Poulter writes. "I'm shocked that he has said it. It's highly disrespectful. It's a cheap shot and it's the worst possible timing.”  Nick apologized almost immediately after making the remark.  Poulter’s comment came out in his book about the Ryder Cup a few weeks later.  Garcia’s attitude and behavior have come into question before.  My guess is that he was having one of those episodes and being difficult, but Nick didn’t have to disclose this to the public.  When Ted Bishop tweeted his remarks about Poulter, he was at the Greenbrier with Nick as his host.  I am sure they had private conversations and discussed many topics.  Bishop was criticized for his strong handed role in selecting Tom Watson.  Faldo was criticized by Poulter for his “useless” comment and being the only European captain to lose the Ryder Cup in recent history.  I bet both didn’t like being picked upon and probably vented a bit to each other.  In that context, Ted Bishop, the individual thought he had the right to defend his friend and went to social media to make his feelings know.  Unfortunately everything that you post on social media will be instantly read and spread.  Ted Bishop wanted to right a perceived wrong, but he took a platform not as an individual, but as a head of a large association and therefore was speaking for 27,000 people. 

Calling Ian Poulter a “lil girl” and stated “(he) sounds like a little school girl squealing during recess”, is just childish.  When is name-calling a way to make a point or win an argument?  Is this the way a mature professional adult that has achieved the highest rank in his profession, tries to make a point?  Maybe many years ago calling someone a “lil girl” would not have caused an uproar.  But we have grown and our tolerance to insensitive statements has heightened.   Words have meaning and consequences.  The connotation of the term and statement is demeaning.  Ted Bishop’s daughters have come out in defense of their father.  I don’t think Ted Bishop meant for his remarks to be taken as a slam on women.  He just wanted put Ian Poulter down and he chose the wrong words.

As a leader, there are certain expectations and guidelines you need to follow.  Unfortunately, the PGA of America had to “right a wrong” when their leader crossed the line.  Hopefully future leaders will know their place and work for the best interests of the association and the game of golf.


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