July 6, 2005
JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: We'd like to thank Deane Beman for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the John Deere Classic, two time champion of this event, and they are celebrating their 35th anniversary here. And I know they're excited about having you here to hit the Drive to a Billion in a few minutes after this interview is over. Why don't you just talk about this tournament, what it means to you, and a little bit about the Drive to a Billion.
DEANE BEMAN: Well, the first thing that strikes me is when we came here in 1971, it was just a little tiny, small community event, just sort of putting your toe in the water and testing whether the community would accept it and would support a tournament.
The first year was an unofficial event. Some of the players came and played in it. They attracted some of us to come and support it and see if we could get a new event started.
And then the next year, it was so successful, starting in such a small way, that the next year they got the purse up to the level to be an official event. I was fortunate enough to win the first year and then came back and won the second year.
But I remember very strongly the strong community spirit that was behind the event, and the fact that it was an event that was so important to the community and brought it together, and that was the thing that struck me and strikes me today is that this is the kind of city that I have always thought was very important to golf.
We always have to be in the big cities, of course, and the strong national media attention is in the big cities. But golf is the strongest in cities that are not so big, and I'm delighted to be back and I'm really very, very pleased and honored to be part of the starting of this golf tournament.
It was fun, and I remember the McLaughlins and Whitey, I certainly remember Bob McGriff and Johnny Lujack and those folks that this event was so important to them for the benefit of the community. So it was fun, it's fun to be back.
I got over to Crow Valley yesterday, took a quick run through it, didn't recognize I was looking for the cornfields. There weren't any cornfields left (laughter). I was reminded here that they did have television back then and that somebody was looking at some of the old clips and they were not tape, they were film. That's how long they go back.
But I'm delighted to be here. We've got a 1938 club that we're going to try to hit off the 1st tee, and I took it out on the practice tee and had a couple of the players hit it, and they didn't hit it much better than I did, so I'm feeling pretty confident about it (laughter).
Q. You were the Commissioner of the PGA, a proud moment, but most people remember you for that, but do you ever get proud as a golfer and remind people that you won this event a couple times? Do you ever strike up the old glory?
DEANE BEMAN: Most of the young players, actually, a lot of the young players and I have a mutual attraction to each other because they don't know who I am and I don't know who they are (laughter). But I watch golf all the time on television, try to keep up with it. Golf is certainly much bigger than when I was competing.
But the thing that strikes me about golf and that has always been a source of pride is that we were able to take golf as really a minor sport when I began in the middle '70s because back then it's hard to remember and put yourself back then, but bowling was bigger than golf, tennis was substantially bigger than golf, much more important from a media standpoint. We always had our great athletes and our great stars, there was always a Nelson and a Hogan and a Snead and a Palmer and a Nicklaus. But the game itself was still a minor sport, even though we had major figures in it.
The thing that gives me the most pride is that we were able to take golf and bring it into the era of big money sports, make it a major sport and still have the athletes respect the game and respect their fellow athletes, respect the competition that they're in, and you seldom see, even as a player might be disappointed on the 18th hole, you seldom see a player who has not won who might have just missed that last putt or not made a birdie on the last hole, whoever the winner is, you seldom see a scene that the two players who finished, one being the winner and the other not being the winner, they shake hands with genuine respect for each other. And I think that that's rare in sports today. It's an important part of what golf stands for in the same way that what this club here in front of me stands for, which is going to be hitting a shot that is looking forward to this fall when the Tour raises a billion dollars for charity.
There's always been volunteerism in golf. You cannot run tournaments without volunteers. There's always been local causes. But sometime in the late '70s, we decided as a matter of policy and a matter of making the charitable aspects of golf a really important factor, not just a side factor to golf, but an important factor in golf, and as a result of that, we encouraged and helped tournaments develop their charitable connections almost every tournament is a 501(c)3 organization. It gives the volunteers that are so necessary an additional reason, not just because they love golf, but because they're benefiting their community, to be involved, and it's an important part of the fabric of golf.
I think we have achieved over the last 25 or 30 years quite a bit in sports. We stand for giving back to the community, and at the same time we stand for sportsmanship and respect for your fellow competitor, respect for the game you play. So all of those things give me a lot more pride than winning in 1971 and '72, although I like to think about that once in a while (laughter).
Q. Think about it a little bit, it was 30 some years ago, you remember Johnny Lujack, the cornfields. Do you have any other good memories from that?
DEANE BEMAN: I remember playing the 14th hole at Crow Valley one time, going through there in the afternoon, had an afternoon tee time, and one of our tournament officials who has long left the Tour put the pin in the back of the green, and I remember everybody three and four putting, and some of the players who finished earlier, two of them I remember, Fred Marty and Phil Rogers, went to the clubhouse and got a six pack of beer and sat on the hill behind 14 and were hooting and hollering to see all the players who were struggling to try to finish the hole.
Actually a funny story if you have a few minutes, I was playing my round on that hole with Tommy Bolt and Steve Spray, who's over in St. Louis, and I can remember as clearly I put it over on the right side, and Tommy Bolt was over on the left side, and Steve Spray was right under the hole, right exactly where he's supposed to be. So I hit first and my putt looped up and I had to run it through the fringe to try to let it feather out and then it trickles down near the hole and kept going 25 feet on the other side. So I marked my ball.
Tommy Bolt came from the other side, got in the fringe, and he was 25 feet down where I was.
Steve Spray is still inside both of us, so Tommy Bolt was away and he holed it for a two putt, and I was right behind him and I holed it for a two putt, and Steve Spray was watching all this, and he's putting straight uphill. He was very cautious and he put it maybe three and a half or four feet short dead in the hole, and he stood over the putt, and I'll show you what he did. I was up the hill, and he just shoves it and hits the top of the of the hole and it runs around there, and he looked at it and he had to jump out of the way, and it ran back down farther than he was from his first putt. I think he ended up four putting, made double bogey.
A lot of fun things, funny things, but I'm serious when I say that a golf tournament in a community that doesn't have other big time professional sports is really important to the Tour, and it's one of the things that we're able to do in places that maybe basketball and football and baseball are not able to do to bring the very best of professional athletics to communities that are not the major cities. And we feel good about that, we feel a great kinship with all the volunteers necessary to put the tournament together, and the fact that we're able to leave almost every community in which we play and benefit some either individual or group of local charities more than the winner is benefited is really important to the Tour.
Q. Was that the outlook that you had for this event when you were Commissioner? There were times during your tenure when this tournament was on life support and ready to die, yet the Tour stood behind it. Was that because of that philosophy that you were just talking about?
DEANE BEMAN: Well, it's really keeping faith with your volunteers. It's the volunteers that make a tournament work, and even though and this is not the only tournament that has struggled to reach what I call a stature and a relationship with a sponsor and with the community to be able to have some certainty that they can sustain themselves. And I think that it's important to the Tour to have tournaments in places like the Quad Cities. We want to have as much geographic spread as we can throughout the country, and it's more important to this community. This tournament is more important to you than the Western Open is to Chicago because Chicago has so much more other things going for it from a sporting standpoint.
We did render assistance and patience for some tournaments through the years that maybe were not as prosperous and as fortunate and hoping against hope that over the long haul that you'd find the right kind of fit as you have here with John Deere. This is a perfect fit. You know, the John Deere Company is an international company, important to the community. Certainly none of us realized when they got into the golf equipment business that that would probably be the epoxy glue that would allow them to put together their association with this tournament and the community that would be so beneficial to both John Deere and Quad Cities.
But it did take some patience and perseverance to keep all those things together until those gelled, and sometimes you can't foresee all those things. This one is one of the great success stories, and I'm delighted to be here and come back and say hi to some old friends and try and hit this first ball down the fairway.
JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: We're excited for you.
We're going to have Nick Price sit up here and join you. I know the media wants to address Nick and I'm sure he'd love to have you join him, and he has a Pro Am to play after you hit that first ball. You're going to pave the way for him.
An Interview With:
NICK PRICE and
DEANE BEMAN: Nicky, I would say this, because you and I have played with these before and some of these young cats haven't, my guess is if we require everybody to come out we might beat them for a couple of days until they learned about it.
NICK PRICE: Maybe.
Q. Nick, can you hit that 300 yards?
NICK PRICE: I took my old wooden driver out about a year and a half ago with the new balls. It's hard to carry 200 yards because it doesn't put enough spin on the ball. It just nosedives like this. It was interesting. Plus it looked like a pea on the end of a toothpick (laughter).
Q. Nick, can you talk about coming back here? Obviously this course made an impression on you and this tournament when you were here last year.
NICK PRICE: I told D.A. I thoroughly enjoyed this course last year when I played it. I think I talked to a few of you about it. I was very not very surprised but pleasantly surprised with the golf course. I had heard it was good. I don't think you necessarily have to be a bomber to win around here, which is what I like.
But it was great. The hospitality that was extended to me and my wife last year was wonderful and it's just perfect timing for me because I've just come off a two week vacation with my kids, and I've come to play here and go to the British Open, so I'm still trying to make enough points to get on that Presidents Cup team, but my chances are diminishing slowly here, my opportunities anyway. If I can play well the next couple of weeks and maybe sneak into the mid teens I think Gary might sort of consider picking me. But that's one thing that I really wanted to do this year and one of the reasons why I've played as hard as I have this year.
You know, maybe it's just one win away.
Q. Is this a golf course that you can come and win on?
NICK PRICE: Yeah.
Q. Does it suit your game?
NICK PRICE: I think so.
Q. In what ways?
NICK PRICE: I just think it's not there's a lot of shot making involved on this golf course. It's not just stand out there and blast it. There are obviously a couple of holes, a couple of par 5s where it does help to be long, but generally speaking, you get some really good pin positions and if you can manipulate the ball with your irons, you can attack and play aggressively.
Unfortunately last year I didn't drive the ball very well, which put me behind the 8 ball a lot, but I'm driving the ball a lot better now. Hopefully if I can have a good putting week, if I putt like I did at the U.S. Open, I'll have a shout.
Q. Being that the greens are going to play a little slower this week because they're not able to push them under drought conditions, how does that affect players' games?
NICK PRICE: Good for the British Open. Our greens always any of The Open Championship courses the greens are always, comparatively speaking, if you look at what we putt on week in and week out in the U.S., they're generally pretty slow over there. They can't make them that fast because if the wind gets up to sometimes 40, 45 miles an hour, which it can do, the greens would be unplayable. The R & A have done a great job of keeping the greens at a speed where it's manageable.
Q. What does it do in terms of affecting players?
NICK PRICE: I think we're all chameleons. We go out there and adjust. That's one of the greatest, I think, assets that players have is the ability to switch from different textures of sand, different grasses, different speeds of greens from week to week. So it's just a matter of adjusting.
But it's always nice going into let's say, for example, Augusta, you wouldn't play on greens that are comparable the week before. Break is relative to speed, so when you see six inches of break on a green that's running at a 10, you look at about eight inches of you're looking at about 18 inches of break when the greens are running at about 13. That's just something you sort of adjust to, and the sooner you can adjust to it and the more practice you have doing it, the better it is.
Q. Michelle Wie is out here this week. What do you think about having her out here, and does that take anything away from the other golfers?
NICK PRICE: I don't think so. I think she's a great gal. I spent some time with her. She's a wonderful player. I mean, a phenom. It's hard when you talk to her and watch her hit balls, you think that she's 15. I mean, when I was 15 I was still trying to pass exams, and I wasn't doing a very good job at it, either.
We've seen this trend now, and my hats off to her. If she wants to try and play out here, then she's welcome to. You know, I think the PGA TOUR, one of the greatest things, if you've got clubs in the bag and you can play, you can get out here. But I think she might find the course a little longer than she is used to.
Q. Zach Johnson says she can contend. Would you care to take a guess at that?
NICK PRICE: I think if she plays well she'll make the cut. There's no doubt. This Tour is tough. I'm not going to say anything other than it doesn't matter whether you're a female at 15 or a male at 15. This is a hard, hard Tour, and even though Tiger is not here and Ernie and those guys, there's still a lot of great players out here. The depth that we have on the Tour now is phenomenal. This Tour is hard, and it's hard to make the cut, and it's hard to contend.
But I think one of the great things for her is that it's going to toughen her up, it'll steel her up and make her tougher it's like going from a U.S. Open course to one of our easier golf courses; you always feel like, "Wow, this is a dawdle." I'm sure that's the way she's going to feel when she goes back and plays another event, especially if she plays in like the U.S. Junior. I don't know what you could compare that do, going from the Indianapolis 500 to a street road race after that (laughter).
Q. She's going to the U.S. Public Links Amateur next week. Is this good preparation?
NICK PRICE: I don't think she could have found anything better the week before, to be honest. It's going to be tough for her. I'm sure she knows that. I'm just saying something she already knows. I wish her all the best because she is a great player, there's no doubt about it.
Q. A lot of times you guys don't pay attention to what's happening on other parts of the course when you're out there, but do you kind of watch the leaderboard and see what she's doing just to keep track of her?
NICK PRICE: If she gets on the leaderboard, yeah.
DEANE BEMAN: None of these guys want her to beat them.
NICK PRICE: The thing that sort of makes me laugh is when a lot of you guys in the media compare the distance she hits the ball to the way we do on the Tour, and the way you did that with Annika. The ladies have different ways of measuring they measure their stats but their courses are different to ours. To say Annika or those other girls average over 300 yards, well, we'll see this week.
Q. Could you talk about St. Andrews and your approach to it? With Tiger winning the last time, there was Daly before that, some people say if the wind is not out of control the course favors the bombers?
NICK PRICE: Well, it will anyway. Unfortunately they've added the length to four or five holes there. Which even so, even though they've done that, the bunkers, which are the biggest penalty on this golf course, are out of play for these guys. As I've said all along, why don't they just put more bunkers in. Someone said to me, "That's sacrilegious to do that to the old course." I said, "Well, what about putting new tees?" Let's get real here. I honestly believe until such time as they extend the hazard lines, they can extend the tees as much as they want.
DEANE BEMAN: Let me jump in. I spent a half a day at the USGA headquarters in their technical center here about 30 days ago, and the USGA is obviously carefully looking at the effects of technology and trying to learn as much as the manufacturers know.
But one of the things that I know they have learned through our ShotLink system is the effect of moving the tees back and how that affects all players.
Much to some of the technical people's dismay, they're finding that building back tees is not hurting the long players. It's playing right into their hands. It just eliminates another group of players that can't compete with them at that distance.
NICK PRICE: And I'll make a point
DEANE BEMAN: And the ShotLink data, when really get into the ShotLink data, it's not a linear thing. The graph looks like this, and if you put the tees back 10 or 15 yards, you take the bombers and they're in this little squeeze part here and you take the modest hitter who's already at a disadvantage and move him out here, and he's at a real disadvantage.
A player like Nicky Price can beat anybody if he's hitting a 7 or 8 iron and they're hitting a 9 or a wedge, but he may not be able to beat anybody if he has to hit a 4 iron and they can hit an 8 iron. There's a huge difference between being able to compete playing to the greens that we play to and the pin positions we play to with a lofted club versus a non lofted club.
And by putting the tees back as they have over the years and they've now done at the British Open, plays right into the hands of these stronger, bigger players, and not in my personal opinion not to the good of shot making in golf.
Q. Nick, we're still not getting a lot of British bound players here. I think there's six top 50 players here. Todd goes over and wins last year. What needs to happen for players to feel more comfortable coming here and then going to the British Open?
NICK PRICE: That's a good question. It's all about scheduling, I think, for most guys. Guys' schedules build up going into the U.S. Open and then they might play the odd week after that and then go to the British Open, but to be honest, everybody is a little different. Some guys like to play the week before, some guys like to be at home. Everyone is different.
I just wish that some of those guys would come and play this every now and then because they would see what a great golf course it is and what a wonderful event what a small community like this can put on such a great show like this.
I'm happy I'm here.
Q. Nick, the British is going to be Jack's last major.
NICK PRICE: That's very sad.
Q. What's that going to be like?
NICK PRICE: Well, for my generation, he was an idol to so many of us, Greg Norman, myself, Faldo. I mean, when I started playing golf, Arnold was just sort of coming out of his prime and Nicklaus was dominating, and I was there on the back of the 18th green at St. Andrews when he won in 1978 as a 21 year old. I stayed behind I finished maybe two hours earlier, the Championship, and I stayed around and I wanted to be on those steps on the 18th green when he came up. Simon Owen, who was a friend of mine who was playing really well at the time, we were there, and when he walked off the 18th green there was a tear in his eye. I said, "This guy has won so many majors, why is he so emotional?" Only after a period of say 15 years or 12 years of playing in the Open Championship do you realize how special it is to play at St. Andrews.
You know, I understand very well now why he was so emotional about it. But this is a passing of an era that, I don't know, I don't think anybody has ever done as much for the British Open as Jack Nicklaus. Arnold Palmer took it to a level and made an awareness around the world of The Open Championship, but Jack really took it a little further and made it just a phenomenal championship, and his record in it was just incredible.
But the other thing that's kind of sad, I remember not so long ago Jack was 46 and won Augusta, and that didn't seem that long ago, and now he's retiring. I'm 48 now (laughter). I guess we're next. There's all sorts of things.
I certainly want to be there on 18 when he finishes if I have the opportunity. Hopefully I'll play three or four groups in front of him and I'll be able to sign my scorecard and go and shake his hand on No. 18 because I don't think I'd be where I am today if it wasn't for Jack Nicklaus.
Q. Deane, what's your feelings about seeing this event grow into what it's grown into and the fact that it's at a fine TPC facility that gets a lot of compliments from players like Nick and others, considering you had so much involvement in bringing TPC courses to life?
DEANE BEMAN: Well, the TPC courses are better facilities for the community to stage their event, and if golf I always felt if golf was going to compete with other major sports where there are stadiums and people coming by, you don't even have to get a hot dog, if you just wait long enough there's somebody to bring you one, and some of them in air conditioned skyboxes and things like that, and golf was at golf courses that was not built for spectators, you have to walk five miles to see your favorite player, and then if you were watching him you didn't know what else was going on out on the golf course, and something had to be done. And therefore the concept of stadium golf courses and electronic scoreboards and all those things that you see that make it possible for the general public, not just the ardent golfer, to come to a golf event, and it's a family event, and understand what's going on, even if they're not fully into golf.
TPCs have played a role in that, electronic scoreboards have played another role, and now that we've got that XM Satellite Radio, that is going to bring things to the next level, and all of those things add to the enjoyment of the not just the ardent golfer is going to come watch us no matter what, no matter what the weather. In order to attract a broader audience, to make golf more important, you have to be able to provide facilities, and that's what a TPC does.
Folks, I'd better go see if I can get this off the ground and 200 yards like Nicky says.
End of FastScripts.