That verbal attack recently unleashed on me by Leo Fraser, the secretary of the Professional Golfers Association, was, on the whole, inaccurate. Fraser did spell my name correctly—Jack Nicklaus. He even had my age right—28. And he signed his own name properly—Leo Fraser. The rest of his cutting statement, though, was a personal assault.
Fraser asserted that 1) I have brought a bad attitude to the negotiations between the PGA and the touring pros; 2) I have "mouthed" the clichés control and veto power when, he says, I have known full well that both are distortions of fact (they certainly are not); and 3) I have disseminated "false information designed to mislead the public." It seems to me he wants to make this dispute look more like a personality clash between the 5,800 members of the PGA and one Jack Nicklaus than a basic difference in philosophy between the PGA and the touring pros. I deny Fraser's charges and wish to present an accurate picture of the situation.
Two weeks ago Arnold Palmer flew to Washington to address the Executive Committee of the PGA and offer his solution to the dispute. Basically, Arnold proposed a separate, self-governed, self-controlled section for the touring pros under the umbrella of the PGA. This was almost identical to the proposal made to the PGA by the players over the last few months. We suggested a separate section with a board of seven men—three touring pros, two PGA officers and two businessmen—who would govern the tour. To get a decisive 4 to 3 vote in any matter, the players would have to convince one of four men that they were right. If we could not do that, we were dead wrong.
Arnold went to Washington strictly as an individual—not as an official representative of the players. He went there, however, with the approval of Sam Gates—the legal counsel for our new players' organization, American Professional Golfers, Inc. About that time, speaking as the vice-president-elect of the APG, I said we would continue to carry the organization and business of the APG forward.
September 15, 1968
Right after that, Fraser stated that I had attempted to undermine Arnold's efforts to repair the dispute. Fraser was dead wrong. Arnold confirmed this fact publicly, and he also said he was disappointed that the PGA had decided to involve personalities again. Arnold told me what he planned to propose—and I told him I hoped he would be successful. My own approach, as well as that of all the touring pros, to this dispute always has been that we should try to resolve it within the PGA framework.
Nevertheless, according to Fraser, this was "typical of my attitude" at the negotiating tables. When Fraser talks about "my attitude," I think he is referring to something I said at the PGA championship in July.
There were only 56 touring pros in the starting field of 168 players at San Antonio. One day a writer asked me about this ratio, and I said, "It's absurd and unfortunate." Only a third of the players at the PGA were regular tour competitors—or, in other words, the best players in the world. The PGA's antiquated qualifying system prevented top players such as Bob Murphy, Lee Elder and Deane Beman from playing at San Antonio. As a member of the Tournament Committee, I spoke out against the system. I had nothing to gain for myself; I was exempt from qualifying for the PGA tournament. I wanted a proper tour representation at the pros' own championship. The PGA should be the No. 1 tournament in golf because it is our own championship. It cannot be No. 1, though, when many top players—the tour players—cannot tee the ball up.
If all this reflects my typical attitude, well, that's fine. It means I have been performing on behalf of the other 205 tour pros who elected me in the first place, the fellows who earn $5,000 a year as well as the $100,000 guys. The attitude I take to the negotiating table is their attitude.
Throughout this long dispute, we—all the touring pros who have formed the new APG—have used the terms "control" and "veto power" to describe the principal difference between the positions of the PGA and the touring pros. Simply, the PGA officers can control the operations of the four with their use and their threatened use of the veto, whereby they can overturn any decisions made by the Tournament Committee.
Fraser said I "mouth" those words as "clichés." He said, "Nicklaus knows the tour players have had full control over the tournament schedule, approval of courses and sponsors, purse sizes and distribution, conditions of play, their own field staff and television contracts." Let me set the record straight again.
1) We have not had full control over the tournament schedule. Two years ago the Tournament Committee voted to play a $200,000 tournament in Palm Springs if successful arrangements could be worked out with the Bob Hope Desert Classic, which also is played in Palm Springs. At the same time the same Tournament Committee voted to schedule a $300,000 tournament in Miami, where the Doral Open always is played. The Executive Committee immediately used its veto power against the Palm Springs event but not against the Miami tournament. A long time later the Miami sponsors backed out.
2) We have not had full control over the approval of courses and sponsors. The vetoed Palm Springs tournament is one example.
3) We have not had full control over purse sizes and distribution. In 1966 Fraser, along with Robert T. Creasey, now the executive director of the PGA, went to New York to negotiate a $250,000 tournament at Westchester. Without the knowledge of even one player, they planned to take 20% of this purse—or $50,000—and put it into some pension fund for all PGA members. At the same time they made no proposal to take 20% of the club pros' income and place it into the pension fund. It seemed logical to us to assume that the PGA's next step would be to take a cut of all purses for this pension fund. We managed to squelch that plan.
4) We have not had full control over our conditions of play. Last year the pros voted unanimously not to use all three of the new United States Golf Association rules regarding putting. The Tournament Committee even voted 7 to 1 not to use these regulations. Nevertheless, the Executive Committee overruled our decision and reported our acceptance to the USGA.
5) When Fraser said we have control over our field staff, he was right. However, we could not hire and fire tournament personnel. For instance, when Jim Gaquin resigned as tournament bureau manager in 1966, the players voted to have Jack Tuthill replace him. The PGA said fine—if Tuthill worked from an office at Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. We wanted Jack to stay on the tour. The officers said they would veto that. Instead, the Executive Committee, where the players have only one of 17 votes, elected Creasey as permanent tournament bureau manager and the executive director of the PGA. When they hired Creasey, they had, in effect, removed our right to hire our own personnel. We would have loved to fire Creasey. too. But we couldn't do that because they would veto it.
6) The players have had control over the tour television contracts the last few years because a previous players' committee had the foresight to hire an expert, Martin Carmichael of New York City, to conduct TV negotiations. Creasey, who was forced upon the touring pros and then seemed intent upon becoming the czar of pro golf, said once that he could handle 90% of Carmichael's work from his PGA office at Palm Beach Gardens (only 1,500 miles from New York and the TV networks). Somehow we have kept Creasey out of the television negotiations.
Regarding the veto power, the PGA officers have used it only once—to ban the Palm Springs tournament. They have the threat of a veto, though, and that is just as powerful. In addition, the PGA has equipped itself with another all-protective device. In 1965, after one tour player was critical of the PGA in a story in a national publication, the PGA's Executive Committee voted to give itself the alltime right to take over the operation of the tournament bureau activities at any time. Of course, that is exactly what the PGA did last month when it fired the Tournament Committee—including Gardner Dickinson, Frank Beard. Doug Ford and myself.
As you can see, the PGA controls the golf tour. Now we want the right to cast the decisive vote in matters that affect our livelihood. We have gone as far as we can in these deliberations. We have formed the APG. This is not designed to destroy the PGA. Instead, we want to provide a better vehicle for the operation of professional golf tournaments. The next action rests with the PGA.