As Ted Bishop nears the end of his run as president of the PGA of America and prepares to hand the Wanamaker Trophy to the winner of the 2014 PGA Championship on Aug. 10, he recalls a time when he almost walked away from the golf business before he ever got started in it.
Bishop was fresh out of Purdue University, having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in agronomy, when he turned down the chance to become the superintendent at Phil Harris Golf Course in Linton, Ind., a modest 18-hole municipal facility. He didn’t like the idea of having to serve as the head golf professional as well as the superintendent.
“You need to rethink that,” a friend told him. And he did. Luckily the job was still available when he called back.
“I spent the first 17 years in the business as a pro and a superintendent,” said Bishop. “I would spend half my day working outside and half my day working inside. Even today, I think that more than anything, I understand that the perception of the product we deliver is based on golf course conditions. And that probably stems from my background as a golf course superintendent.”
Today, the 60-year-old Bishop is the full-time general manager of The Legends Golf Club in Franklin, Ind., a facility he was intimately involved in building and developing in 1991. He became a volunteer officer for the PGA of America in 2008, and he has seen first-hand the increased cooperation between head pros and superintendents over the last decade.
“That relationship has really changed for the positive,” said Bishop, who still retains his membership in the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA). “The head pro and the superintendent are the most valuable people at a club. They can’t exist without each other.
“If something is wrong on the golf course, the pro is going to be the first to take the hits. But a pro has to support and communicate why things are the way they are on the golf course. There has to be cooperation; the same cooperation that exists at the top with the PGA and the GCSAA.”
“He knows first-hand the challenges that we have in our profession,” said Keith Ihms, president of GCSAA and a certified golf course superintendent. “As the president of the PGA, he always keeps in mind how the two organizations can work together to be more successful.”
Bishop still oversees the maintenance department at his home course. He is keenly interested in the setup provided by superintendent Roger Meier for the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., as well.
The 36-year-old Meier, who is a Class A GCSAA member, is overseeing his first major championship, but he has already earned high praise from the PGA.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been around anyone as good as Roger,” offered Bishop. “We are fortunate to have him at Valhalla, and I hope we can keep him for a long, long time.”
It has been a steady and successful road for Bishop in the golf business, starting from his small-town beginning in Logansport, Ind., in the 1970s, when he worked for five summers at an 18-hole par 3 course.
He has served in a leadership capacity for the PGA since 1989, and he recently was inducted into the Indiana Golf Hall of Fame. He will, however, fulfill his most visible roll in early August when he crowns the winner of this year’s last major championship. Additionally, he will have responsibilities at the Ryder Cup Matches in September at Gleneagles in Scotland.
But, Bishop will not stop there.
“We need to continue to solve our issues in golf,” Bishop said. “Water usage is an important issue, but we also need to understand that playability is also important. We need to set up courses so players can get around; so that they can have success and fun and they want to come back. We can’t make courses so hard that players don’t come back.”
Clearly, Bishop still has a lot he wants to accomplish in the game. But he will never forget his roots.
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