From the outset, Ted Bishop was going to be a different type of president.
Call it trail blazing. Call it going rogue. However you view the only PGA of America president in 98 years to be ousted from office, he was true to his DNA until the bitter end.
Because from the outset, the dichotomy of Ted was there for all the golf world to see.
Just weeks into the job, Bishop discarded both baby and bathwater when he named then-63-year-old Tom Watson the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup captain, breaking numerous molds with a rare repeat performance from an aging leader. That he failed to notify either David Toms or Larry Nelson, among the other potential candidates for the ’14 gig, was just as telling.
“If they had made a decision a little earlier and let me know, if they had just called us and said, ‘We’re going another direction,’ I’d have been fine. I’m fine anyway,” Nelson said in December 2012.
“The way it’s come down and to have someone say that they did contact me when they didn’t, that didn’t make sense.”
Bishop would contact Nelson, as well as Toms, but not until the damage was done. It would become Bishop’s signature move - bold decisions followed by easily avoidable miscues.
So it was that with a familiar modus operandi that Bishop penned a 101-character tweet in response to Ian Poulter’s criticism of Nick Faldo in his new book “No Limits.”
“Faldo’s record stands by itself. Six majors and all-time [Ryder Cup] points. Yours vs. His? Lil Girl,” Bishop tweeted on Oct. 23.
It was the final blow for the Indiana golf course operator who once again found himself guilty of the wrong execution of the right idea.
Within 24 hours, Bishop was removed from office with less then a month remaining in his two-year term. It was a surreal ending to perhaps the most eventful presidency in the association’s history.
Along the way Bishop proved equally adept at creating enemies and allies alike.
Among the former you can count Peter Dawson, the R&A’s chief executive who squared off with Bishop during last year’s anchoring debate.
According to various reports, during one particularly heated exchange Dawson questioned Bishop’s decision to oppose the ban, telling the PGA president it was not his association’s responsibility to grow the game in America. In response, Bishop publically challenged the R&A’s male-only membership policy, which was discarded this year in an overwhelming vote.
As for the latter, a portion of Bishop’s legacy should note that relations between the PGA of America and PGA Tour have never been closer, a reality that was hammered home during the association’s annual meeting, when Tour commissioner Tim Finchem made an appearance in Indianapolis while executives from the game’s other association’s - the LPGA and USGA - sent taped video messages.
Bishop will be remembered as the PGA’s first, and likely last, activist president, leading the charge against the anchoring ban, sending the PGA Championship to bold new venues (2020 Harding Park) and even suggesting the association’s major could someday be played overseas.
Bishop was also the first, and likely last, PGA president to fully embrace social media, becoming the association’s de facto front-man, a move that he conceded alienated him from some of his internal support.
“One of the things I have been criticized for privately in PGA circles is my propensity to being with the media,” Bishop told your scribe in November. “Since Day 1 with the anchoring situation, because of (CEO) Pete Bevacqua’s former relationship with the U.S. Golf Association, I took the lead. Right out of the box, now the president of the PGA is the most visible spokesperson and that sort of set the stage for the role that I played.”
It also set the stage for the surreal turn of events that cost him his job and a permanent spot at the decision-making table as a past president.
Things began to unravel on Sunday at the Ryder Cup when the press and some players, most notably Phil Mickelson, began to criticize Watson’s captaincy and, by default, Bishop’s leadership. Before the American team boarded the charter flight home the battle lines had already been drawn.
“Tom gave his heart and soul to the Ryder Cup for two years, so when he got attacked in my mind it was standing up for a friend and someone who was serving a similar role as me,” Bishop said.
Less then a month later, Bishop was attending a junior event hosted by Faldo in West Virginia when Poulter’s criticism became public. Bishop crafted his infamous tweet while waiting for a ride a dinner and told GolfChannel.com in November he has regretted it every day since.
In a strange way, Bishop’s presidency had come full circle from those early days in 2012 when he mishandled the captain’s announcement, a high-minded concept that would land horribly off the mark.