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'Deane Beman, Golf's Driving Force' by Adam Schupak
Although it's certainly too early to be picking a winner for any sports book of the year awards, golf writer Adam Schupak stands a terrific chance of having to clear out space on his trophy case for some end-of-the-year hardware. His excellent new book, "Deane Beman - Golf's Driving Force," is a detailed review of the monumental accomplishments of the PGA Tour commissioner who transformed the organization from an also-ran in the sports world to a powerhouse.
Cover of New Dean Beman Book
It's simply the best glimpse into the business side of the PGA Tour ever written.
Golf certainly has come a long way from the days of hickory-shafted clubs and gutta percha balls, ties and tweed, and brassies and niblicks. For decades, pros and caddies drove with each other en masse to tournaments, in caravans much like Grateful Dead fans, crisscrossing the nation from one tour stop to the next. Heck, sometimes they even let sports journalists ride with them.
Describing those heady halcyon days, James Bond creator Ian Fleming wrote that pro golfers were among the most stoic of men. They neither smoked nor drank - knowing the cold sweat of the poor house on their own and their families' backs, and that's why the player with the least imagination usually won.
Times certainly have changed. Back in the day, you never saw pro golfers with caviar, champagne and masseuses. Now, you never find pro golfers without them. Private jets are the transportation of choice, and players can live their entire lives without ever winning a golf tournament yet still own mansions and exist in rarified air.
They all have Deane Beman to thank. When he took over the Tour, the total purses for a season amounted to roughly $8 million. Twenty years later, that figure swelled to an eye-popping $58 million. But Beman's legacy is much more than just money. He completely transformed the PGA from merely the Tour players' arm of the PGA of America into its own business entity, with divisions for marketing, a network of golf courses around the country, and the ability to negotiate highly lucrative TV deals.
Everyone knew of Beman's achievements, but it's Schupak's painstaking attention to detail and the depth of his story-telling, tapping hundreds of first-person accounts from players to captains of golf industry to rivals at various sports organizations, that result in not just a rich tapestry of a story, but a blueprint of each business battle fought by Beman.
The details are so intricate that colleges, business schools and law schools could use the book as a text for the study of sports business and law. Yet golf fans can read the book as easily as bedtime or bathroom reading and grasp a remarkably astute understanding of the inside workings of business dealings in the sports world. Far more than just a biography of a great golf commissioner, this is the critically important book that the sports world has needed as a vehicle to peer inside the inner workings of the industry.
No book in golf history breaks down the business side of the PGA Tour so succinctly.
Moreover, we get a glimpse into the heart, mind and soul of a man entrusted with the protection - indeed survival - of the Tour, but one who also struggled to maintain his legacy as a good and kind-hearted man; a man who deftly combined business tycoon with a kind, considerate human being, and a golfer with a Victorian soul. They just don't make them like Deane Beman anymore; he's a man who could "get to yes" under the most trying of situations with the most hard-hearted and egotistical of opponents.
Heck, the story of how he beat back a furious mutiny led by Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer is worth the price alone. Moreover, the chapters devoted to the creation of TPC Sawgrass, including Old Prunes the Goat and the other animals that cut the grass the old-fashioned way, break down the creation of one of the world's greatest golf courses like a fraction.
If there is a drawback, perhaps Schupak could have explored some tough questions such as why none of the other TPC courses have risen to the level of Sawgrass, and whether there was another solution to the club grooves debate with Karsten Solheim rather than the capitulation that has changed the face of professional golf for the worse.
Still, no other sports book in history takes as detailed a look into the contractual, business and television side of sports.
The only book that may stand a chance of vying for the sports journalism awards may be the ESPN tell-all, which we'll review later this year. Until then, Adam Schupak is the leader in the clubhouse . . . and the greens just got faster, the wind kicked up and a Tiger Woods is nowhere in sight.
Get the engraver ready and warm up the fat lady. She may be singing soon.
"Deane Beman, Golf's Driving Force," by Adam Schupak, East Cottage Press, $27.95, 365 pages, ISBN 780615 458793.
Since launching his first golf writing website in 2004, http://www.jayflemma.thegolfspace.com, Jay Flemma's comparative analysis of golf designs and knowledge of golf course architecture and golf travel have garnered wide industry respect. In researching his book on America's great public golf courses (and whether they're worth the money), Jay, an associate editor of Cybergolf, has played over 220 nationally ranked public golf courses in 37 different states. Jay has played about 1,649,000 yards of golf - or roughly 938 miles. His pieces on travel and architecture appear in Golf Observer (www.golfobserver.com), Cybergolf and other print magazines. When not researching golf courses for design, value and excitement, Jay is an entertainment, copyright, Internet and trademark lawyer and an Entertainment and Internet Law professor in Manhattan. His clients have been nominated for Grammy and Emmy awards, won a Sundance Film Festival Best Director award, performed on stage and screen, and designed pop art for museums and collectors. Jay lives in Forest Hills, N.Y., and is fiercely loyal to his alma maters, Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and Trinity College in Connecticut.