That he was even talking about a legacy is part of what got him into this mess.
Can anyone think of the legacy left by any of the 37 presidents who preceded him? And for those who are not deeply vested in the golf industry, does anyone even remember who was last president of the PGA of America?
The PGA of America has the most important role in golf, just not the most glamorous. It has 27,000 men and women who rightfully claim to be recognised experts in teaching and growing the game.
It runs the PGA Championship once a year, the Ryder Cup every four years. Celebrity is found on the PGA Tour, which split from the PGA of America nearly 50 years ago behind Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.
Bishop was more about celebrity. This is one PGA president people will remember, just not the way he wanted.
“Of all the presidents I dealt with, he was more into competing to win,” said Davis Love III, part of eight Ryder Cup teams as a player, assistant and a captain.
“His mission was not to grow the Ryder Cup. It was to win. And I love that about him. We’ve talked so much in the last year about what’s going on with the Ryder Cups before and after. His heart is in the right place.”
And then he paused before adding wistfully, “Just maybe not his comments.”
Those comments directed at Ian Poulter — on Twitter he called him a ‘Lil Girl’ and in a Facebook post that he sounded ‘like a little girl squealing during recess’ — marked an unceremonious end to 23 months of Bishop bringing too much attention to himself.
The potential for that was there even before he began his two-year term. Bishop is exceptional as a public speaker, which makes it easy to be seduced by the spotlight.
“I think I abused my platform,” a contrite Bishop said on The Golf Channel. “I had lived on the edge for two years with a lot of quotes.”
He was the first to oppose the new rule that bans the anchored stroke used for long putters, but he didn’t stop there. In a series of interviews with Golf World magazine in April, he took on R&A and chief executive Peter Dawson for not accepting input. And then he poked the R&A by showing the evidence of not being inclusive was ‘their unwillingness to accept women as members.’ The R&A voted to accept female members in September.
He also took a risk by appointing Tom Watson as the Ryder Cup captain, even though Watson had not been at a Ryder Cup since he last was captain in 1993. The move backfired when Watson made a series of curious decisions with his picks and his lineups, and then the choice was exposed when Phil Mickelson — with Watson in the room — talked in a press conference about how America had strayed from its winning formula of inclusiveness.
And when the Americans lost, and Watson was criticised, Bishop took it personally. That’s why he couldn’t resist firing back at Poulter, who in his recently published book mentioned Watson’s shortcomings. Poulter also called out Nick Faldo for referring to Sergio Garcia as ‘useless’ in 2008 when Faldo was captain and Europe lost for the only time in the last 15 years.
“I guess there had been a lot of emotions that had been building up in me since the Ryder Cup,” Bishop said. “This is absolutely no excuse. I’ve got to know my position as president of the PGA of America. I can’t be a fan of golf. I can’t be Ted Bishop and have personal opinions on the subject. But obviously, that’s what happened. I overreacted emotionally and I’m embarrassed, and I apologise.”
Bishop blamed no one but himself. He didn’t spare the PGA of America officers in the 24-hour news cycle that led to what he calls his impeachment. Bishop said he wanted to apologise, and instead he signed off a statement that only mentioned he had removed the inappropriate posts. He said Dottie Pepper, an independent director for the PGA and no stranger to controversy, urged him to get out in front of the story with an apology.
This is one time Bishop decided to toe the line, and it cost him.