A MAN APART SHUNNED BY HIS PEERS FOR REAL AND IMAGINED SLIGHTS, DEANE BEMAN IS WILLING TO GO IT ALONE

May 04, 1997

Golf is the great humbler, and as he labors on the fringes of
the Senior tour, Deane Beman looks nothing like the person he
was three years ago, when he was the most powerful man in the
game. His drives, short even when he was winning two U.S.
Amateurs in the 1960s, now are often crooked as well. His odd
swing, once living testimony to form following function, has
been rendered ragged by the sharp pain in his left shoulder. In
the locker room, where camaraderie abounds among warhorses
sharing the ultimate mulligan, Beman's presence causes eyes to
be averted and conversations to stop. It would seem that at 59
the little big man, who for 20 years as commissioner of the PGA
Tour always got his way, is finally getting his.

Or not. Beman might be shooting embarrassingly high scores, and
his body might be falling apart, and, yes, he is reviled by a
significant number of his fellow competitors, but on balance
there isn't anything that he would rather be doing. Beman
considers competitive golf a noble calling, and all the time
that he was in boardrooms leading the sport to the big time, a
part of him longed to be outside, sweating five-footers. Beman
the player was always called a journeyman, but he takes great
pride in his eight-year career on Tour. During that time, on the
strength of a four-wood, a putter and unmatched tenacity, he won
four tournaments before becoming commissioner full time in 1974.
"To be out there is like no other experience," he wrote
longingly in 1989, in the introduction to The History of the PGA
Tour. "I've been out there and I know." So when asked why he's
punishing himself by persevering on the Senior tour, Beman leans
across the table, his normally stoic face losing its hard edge.
"I wanted my life back," he says in an even voice. "I wanted to
do something I love." Beman does not miss being commissioner,
and while he and his successor and former deputy, Tim Finchem,
remain friends, the break from the Tour has been clean. Beman's
entire focus is again on competition. "I like the toil of
playing golf," he says. "I like the disappointment."

If so, Beman has had plenty to like since joining the Senior
tour late in the '94 season. In 48 events he has finished under
par only 10 times and higher than 24th just four times. In 133
rounds he has broken 70 on 17 occasions. His stroke average is
72.93, more than two strokes higher than the top Senior
players'. Because he isn't among the top 70 alltime money
winners in combined earnings (he's 116th), because he has never
been among the top 31 in earnings in a Senior season (his best
was 62nd, in 1995) and because he failed to finish in the top
eight of the Senior Q school (he was 52nd in his only attempt,
in 1995), Beman must rely almost exclusively on sponsor
exemptions to play in tournaments.

Beman was hurt by his decision to delay his Senior career--he
says he needed to see through several of the projects he began
as commissioner--until he was 56. When he tried to catch up
through heavy practice, he almost immediately had to contend
with arthritis in his back. Beman played hurt, and poorly. At
one point last summer he withdrew from three straight events
after the first round. In the fall, after finally receiving the
proper medication for his back, Beman had his best finish as a
Senior, a fifth in the Kaanapali Classic. But his ability to
make a full shoulder turn stressed other muscles, and he has
been able to play in only two tournaments this season, finishing
38th in the American Express Invitational in Sarasota, Fla., and
76th in the Toshiba Senior Classic in March in Newport Beach,
Calif., before having to leave the tour for a month to rehab a
frayed left biceps tendon. He hopes to play in next week's World
Seniors Invitational in Charlotte, N.C.

"I have no regrets about not coming to the tour earlier," Beman
says. "It would have been wrong, and it simply wasn't an option.
I underestimated how unprepared my body was to take the
pounding. I believe if I had been reasonably healthy when I
started out, I would've had more success and my situation today
would be different. But it is what it is."

Above all, Beman's situation is the most ironic in golf: The
person responsible for the formation and growth of the Senior
tour, for providing over-the-hill pros with a 44-event arena
worth more than $41 million in purses, is the most despised
figure on it.

It's not that people think Beman didn't do a good job as
commissioner. "Anyone who says that is crazy," says Dave
Stockton. Most players acknowledge that the only person who has
done more for the growth of the game is Arnold Palmer. Yet while
Palmer is revered, Beman is ostracized.

At the 1995 Legends of Golf, in which Beman was partnered with
Bud Allin, Allin says he was offered $10,000 by a member of the
Senior tour to intentionally play poorly. Allin, who will not
name the player who made the offer, declined. He and Beman tied
for 10th.

"It was just conversation," says Allin. "Nobody ever put up the
money. But Deane has pissed off a lot of the players. In fact,
the only reason I got into the tournament was because the last
spot left was as Deane's partner. Nobody wanted to play with
him. I played, but not because we're friends. The whole week we
said about 10 words to each other. Deane fined me four or five
times for my temper back on the regular Tour, but I don't have a
grudge over that. He was doing his job. It's just that with that
job, he could never make friends."

Other players, however, do hold grudges. "I've asked some
players if they would go to dinner with Deane, and when they say
no, I ask why," says Terry Dill, one of Beman's few close
friends on the Senior tour. "Their answer is some variation of
'Well, you know what that sumbitch did?'"

What Beman did makes for a rich potpourri of offenses and
perceived slights that go back to even before he was
commissioner. When Beman left an insurance job to join the Tour
in 1967, he angered some of his peers by contacting tournament
sponsors and asking for exemptions to avoid what was then Monday
qualifying. That prompted the Tour to adopt what was
unofficially called the Beman Rule, which limited a first-year
player to three sponsor exemptions. Then during his long reign
as Tour czar, Beman made so many decisions, often in an
unyielding and undiplomatic way, that he inevitably annoyed or
angered almost every player of note. Beman antagonized players
such as Jack Nicklaus, Palmer and Tom Watson on issues ranging
from the all-exempt Tour to the rules governing the eligibility
of foreign players to the Tour's legal battle with Karsten
Manufacturing over so-called square grooves. All the while,
Beman controlled how often Tour members could play overseas and
personally issued fines for slow play and conduct unbecoming for
a professional. "Some of Deane's unpopularity was a matter of
style," says Dill, who taught law at Texas A&M between his
careers on the regular and Senior circuits. "Sure, the guys who
everyone knows were fined a lot, like [Dave] Hill or [Tom]
Weiskopf, don't like Deane. But it's also true with other guys
you wouldn't think of. I've heard them say it's not what he did
but the way he did it." The fact that Beman became wealthy as
commissioner--by the end of his tenure his annual salary was
$1.4 million, with another $800,000 in bonuses and a golden
parachute big enough to airdrop a tank--also sticks in the craws
of some. The upshot is that the contemporaries who see Beman as
golf's version of Napoleon seem determined to make the Senior
tour his St. Helena, the remote island where the French dictator
was exiled by his own people.

"No one has really said anything to me face-to-face," says
Beman. "Mostly, it's been cordial, but I understand through the
grapevine that there are a lot of guys who wish I wasn't out
here. I was in a job where every decision I made would make some
people happy and some people unhappy, and I guess some people
are still unhappy."

Beman has opened old wounds by seeking sponsor exemptions, of
which there are only four per tournament. It's a hot-button
issue on the Senior tour, where there are only 78 playing spots
most weeks and a multiple major championship winner like Tony
Jacklin can end up with his nose pressed to the glass. "It's
getting so a bunch of guys hate the players who are getting
sponsors' exemptions," says Stockton.

Beman has been accused of calling in favors from sponsors he
used to work closely with. "I had some players approach me on
the practice range and berate me when I gave Deane an exemption
in 1995," says a tournament director, who requested anonymity.
Burch Riber, a veteran tournament organizer and longtime friend
of Beman's who gave Beman an exemption into the '95 Kroger
Senior Classic in Cincinnati, says, "Deane has an exemption here
as long as I have anything to say about it. I find it despicable
that he's ostracized out there. He's the guy who created this
whole highway to heaven for them in the first place." Palmer,
who had deep differences on the direction of the Tour under
Beman, believes Beman's name and contributions warrant favors
from sponsors. "Of course, I don't agree with everything Deane
did," he says, "but if I were in a position to give him an
exemption, I'd do it. He has paid his dues."

According to Allin, most of the players don't agree. "It bothers
people that Deane is taking up a spot--it bothers me, too," he
says. "It would be different if he could play a little, but he
can't play a lick anymore. He looks like Elmer Fudd swinging the
club. After he took so many exemptions that first year he played
[more than 20 in 1995] and couldn't do anything, he should have
stopped asking."

Beman, who can occasionally qualify for a tournament as a past
winner on the regular Tour, last year made 11 of his 16 starts
on sponsors' exemptions. "I've had three or four sponsors tell
me they will never give Deane an exemption," says Dill, who has
headed the Senior tour's liaison committee with the sponsors. "I
probably got more negative comments about Deane than I got
positive." On two occasions last year Beman did not seek sponsor
exemptions, at the Transamerica in Napa, Calif., and the Raley's
Gold Rush Classic in Sacramento, and both times he narrowly
missed in Monday qualifying.

Beman has no compunction about writing letters to sponsors to
ask for exemptions and disagrees that he has an advantage. "It
cuts both ways," he says. "I'm friends with some of the sponsors
who have given me exemptions, but there are others who were
disappointed with their dates during my tenure as commissioner
and have declined. I leave it to them. I don't feel I am owed
anything. I write a letter asking to play, and if they don't
give it to me, I feel they've made their choice. It's my choice
that I want to play according to the rules and regulations
available to me."

Beman has also been vilified for his handling of a
purse-splitting scandal on the Senior tour in 1993, near the end
of his tenure as commissioner. When Beman learned that players
were routinely pooling the prize money offered in unofficial
exhibitions, such as the shootouts that preceded many
tournaments, and splitting it evenly among themselves regardless
of the results of the competitions, he came down hard. In the
most wide-ranging disciplinary action in PGA Tour history, Beman
issued fines against 51 players that totaled more than $100,000.
He also placed the fined players on lifetime probation. Although
the names of the players were never released, several appealed
the decision, contending that the exhibitions would be more
entertaining if they could play to the crowd without worrying
about their winnings. But Beman wouldn't budge, ruling that
because the exhibitions were billed as competitions,
purse-splitting compromised the integrity of the tour. Besides
being humiliated, some players were angered when Beman accepted
a sponsor's exemption into the 10-man Merrill Lynch Shootout
final at the end of the 1994 season. He won $23,000 for
finishing seventh. "I felt the issue was over, so I wasn't
uncomfortable playing," says Beman, adding, "There certainly
wasn't any splitting that week."

Beman has come to believe that the episode damaged his relations
with his peers more than any other. "That situation is probably
the biggest negative aspect of their feelings about me," he
says, "but I was being paid to preserve and protect the game and
the tour, and in fact it was the best job I ever did for the
game, the best public-relations job for the game in a critical
time that could ever have been done, that any sport has ever
done with an explosive, potentially damaging situation."

That's as close as Beman will come to saying that he's bothered
by the chilly reception he has received. Instead, he chooses to
emphasize the positive aspects of playing the Senior tour. Beman
and his wife, Judy, are traveling the tour together, usually in
a turboprop Air Commander 690 piloted by the man who doubles as
his caddie, Bill Monroe. During time away from competition, the
couple often takes motorcycle tours through Nova Scotia or the
Blue Ridge Mountains. "In many ways, this is the best time of
our lives," says Judy. Beman, who has four daughters and a son
from a first marriage that ended in divorce in 1978, also spends
as much time as he can with his six grandchildren. One of his
children, Priscilla, 36, is mentally disabled and lives in a
group home in De Land, Fla., about an hour and a half drive from
the Bemans' house in Ponte Vedra.

Beman has seen too much to be thrown by his current hazing.
Asked about being a pariah on tour, he shows a tight smile.
"Well, I'm not overjoyed by it, I will tell you that," he says,
chuckling. Then, in measured tones, he adds, "Some players are
uninformed, some are resentful, some jealous. I don't concern
myself with that. Overall I'm happy for the opportunity."

Those Seniors who think they're getting to Beman should know
that he not only can stand the heat in his kitchen but also
likes it. Peter Jacobsen, who twice served as a player
representative on the Tour's policy board during Beman's reign,
sensed that Beman thrived on challenges. "We would have heated
arguments, to the point of name-calling, but I always felt Deane
loved that; it got his juices flowing," says Jacobsen. "I never
felt there was any bad blood. It wasn't personal; it was
business, and it was definitely productive. I mean, Tim
Finchem's doing a great job, but it's like Deane left him a
Mercedes with the tank a quarter full, and all Tim has to do is
keep putting gas in it."

Beman's modus operandi as commissioner was maneuvering to gain
the hammer in negotiations and then using it--on sponsors,
network executives, tournament directors and players. "He would
never admit this, but he was tougher than he needed to be," says
Riber. "He didn't want anyone to think they could push him
around." Beman, 5'8", was often accused of having a little man's
complex, and he doesn't entirely disagree.

"Because of my physical circumstances, I always knew that if I
was going to compete, I had to be more prepared than someone
else," he says. "I had to take the assets that I had and develop
them to a higher level. In some form or another, I've done that
all my life."

Along with that attitude came an apparent indifference about
what people thought of him. Although his father was a
public-relations man, Beman disdains the profession. "If you ask
a lot of people about Deane Beman," he says, "the one thing that
you'll find universally is that this guy has the worst p.r. in
the world. I was never about p.r. I was about getting the job
done."

He's not about to change now. Beman has rarely attempted to
explain his positions to his critics on the Senior tour. "Look,"
he says, "when you analyze any player--the more successful the
player the more it's true--you'll find he has to be right about
everything. If he doesn't have that ability, which is also a
refusal to acknowledge he could be wrong, then he doesn't have
the ability to pull a five-iron instead of a six when he has the
choice. A player has to know that whatever he decides, he's
right. So trying to change a player's mind about anything is a
tough mountain to climb. I climbed it for 20 years. I decided I
don't want to climb it anymore."

Beman is aware that he may have made a Faustian bargain by
becoming commissioner and holding the job for two decades: The
job made him the most powerful man in golf but cost him his
powers as a golfer. So far, Beman hasn't been able to find a
loophole.

He was humbled by the game a long time ago and revels in its
lessons. In fact, Beman hopes to employ one of his favorites to
achieve the latest, and perhaps last, in a long line of goals.

"I like, more than anything, playing badly and working myself
into playing well," he says. "Playing golf is like life. It's
never going to be always good. But if you work hard at it, it
shouldn't be always bad." Because of that philosophy, things
aren't nearly as bad as they seem for Deane Beman.

COLOR PHOTO: SIMON BRUTY As commissioner, Beman played rough; now he's having a tough time playing. [Deane Beman] B/W PHOTO: LEE BALTERMAN Beman, the '63 Amateur champ (top), won four Tour events. [Deane Beman holding trophy in 1963] COLOR PHOTO: LANE STEWART [See caption above--Deane Beman] COLOR PHOTO: J.D. CUBAN Once the most powerful man in golf, Beman relies on sympathetic sponsors to get into tournaments. [Deane Beman golfing] COLOR PHOTO: SIMON BRUTY What Judy calls "the best time of our lives" is spent together on tour. [Judy Beman and Deane Beman]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)