For the Daily Reporter

Until recently, Ted Bishop did his best to erase the bitter memory of Oct. 24, 2014.

On that day, with less than a month left in his two-year term, he was removed as President of the PGA of America.

The reason? A pair of social media jabs — construed by many as sexist and gender-biased — he posted the previous day.

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Within 24 hours, he was out as president.

“I used a bad choice of words, and I needed to apologize,” Bishop said. “I think a lot of my difficulties were really caused by the fact that I wasn’t put in a position where I could do what I felt like I needed to do.”

“It was important for me to tell that part of the story.”

In a new book titled, “Unfriended: Power Brokers, Political Correctness & Hypocrisy in Golf,” Bishop presents his side of a well-documented controversy that shook the golf world and ultimately led to his ouster.

Director of golf and general manager of The Legends Golf Club in Franklin, Bishop initially wanted to forget those events and move on to the next chapter of his life.

But after a year of trying to forget the past, he decided to write about it — a cathartic decision that required revisiting it, in minute, bitter detail.

“There wasn’t anything really easy about re-living that,” Bishop said. “You try to just forget and move on.”

“I felt like I had done a pretty good job of it, but you kind of have to dive back into it if you’re going to write that up.”

{&subleft}Seeds of a controversy

A PGA member since 1985, Bishop was elected PGA of America Secretary in 2008, a two-year term, automatically followed by a two-year term as vice president, followed by a two-year term as the organization’s 38th president. Bishop’s term as president began in November of 2012.

An energetic, innovative executive, Bishop did not take a laissez-faire approach to his job. He worked to improve long-strained relations between the PGA of America and the PGA Tour; fought against the anchored putting stroke ban for amateur players; and hand-picked Tom Watson as captain of the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup Team — a fateful move that triggered the events of October 2014.

Despite hopes for halting Europe’s dominance of the Ryder Cup, the U.S. team was defeated. Many — most famously team member Phil Mickelson — blamed Watson’s leadership for the loss.

British golfer Ian Poulter shared the view and criticized Watson and former European Ryder Cup captain Nick Faldo, who was captain in 2008 when Europe lost, in a book, “No Limits,” released shortly after the 2014 Ryder Cup.

Bishop, a friend of Watson and Faldo, responded to the sleights on social media. First, he tweeted: “Yours vs. His? Lil Girl.” He then posted on Facebook: “Sounds like a little girl squealing during recess. C’MON MAN!”

Within minutes, Bishop began receiving negative text messages about the comments. Within an hour, he took them down.

But the damage was done.

A global firestorm had ignited in the golf world, and by the following evening, he was fired by the PGA. Quite unfairly, Bishop and his supporters argued, because — among other reasons — the punishment simply did not fit the crime.

From the beginning, Bishop acknowledged his words were wrong and insensitive and pleaded with the PGA for a chance to publicly apologize and correct his mistake. Instead, the organization twice asked for his resignation.

Twice, he refused.

He was then removed.

{&subleft}Seeds of a book

Although Bishop had plenty of critics, he also had lots of supporters, including LPGA Tour pro Dottie Pepper, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, business-man-turned presidential candidate Donald Trump and Watson. Bishop’s book, which was released earlier this month, provides — from his perspective — a detailed, chronological look inside the PGA’s handling, or mishandling, of the controversy.

His firing nothwithstanding, Bishop tried to be fair to both sides.

“I really wanted to have the opportunity, at least as it relates to my final days (with the) PGA of America, to kind of present my side of the story, unfiltered, with no media interpretation,” Bishop said. “I wanted to able to write my own story rather than tell somebody and have them in turn write it up.”

Bishop began writing the book in mid-November. He finished in late February and was set to self-publish it. But in an ironic twist of fate, social media altered the plan.

Upon completion, he tweeted a photo of a notebook that showed the title. It caught the attention of Mike Beckerich, owner of Classics of Golf Publishing in New York City. Beckerich asked for a copy of the 250-page manuscript, read it, loved it and lobbied to publish it.

Bishop agreed.

“For me, to have somebody like Classics of Golf pick this book up and publish it, it gave me and my book a tremendous amount of credibility,” Bishop said. “But what I felt good about is, he said he picked the book up, had a hard time putting it down and felt like it deserved to be published.”

Among the memories Bishop recounts in the book is a phone conversation with Trump, now the Republican nominee for president, about a half-hour before he was to speak on a conference call with the PGA board members concerning his fate.

Trump, himself no stranger to controversial remarks, had called to encourage Bishop. But Bishop already knew what the outcome of the PGA conference call was going to be.

“(Trump) said, ‘Hey, I’ve been watching the Golf Channel all day, and I just want you to know this is really overblown, it’s ridiculous. Just hang in there and it’ll subside and it’ll go away. I wouldn’t worry about,’” Bishop said. “I told him, ‘Well, in 30 minutes I’m not going to be president of the PGA of America anymore,’ and he was basically speechless.

“It was about the only time I’ve ever seen the guy speechless.”

“Unfriended” is Bishop’s first book. It can be purchased at The Legends golf shop or online at amazon.com, classicgolf.com and tedbishop.org. Advance-sale signed copies can be purchased at tedbishop.org.

Watson, an eight-time major winner, was among those who received an advanced copy. A prominent figure in the book, he gave it his full endorsement.

“The one person that I cared the most about on their opinion of the book was Tom Watson,” Bishop said. “He read it, and then I got a really long email from Tom. It was a very nice email about how good he thought the book was.”

“The first part of the email was something to the effect, ‘I just finished your book, and I’ve got to tell you there’s a lot of emotions running through these old bones right now.’ He kind of gave me approval of the book.”

At a glance

What: New book, “Unfriended: Power Brokers, Political Correctness & Hypocrisy in Golf”

Author: Ted Bishop, director of golf and general manager of The Legends Golf Club in Franklin and a past PGA of America president.

Publisher: Classics of Golf Publishing

Release date: June 8

Hardcover price: $27.50

Where to buy: Amazon.com, classicsofgolf.com and The Legends golf shop. Advance signed copies can be purchased at tedbishop.org

At a glance

EXCERPT

For 23 months, I had the privilege to serve as the 38th president of the PGA of America, the largest working sports organization in the world today. It was the most exciting time of my life. The PGA of America owns the PGA Championship and the American share of the Ryder Cup, two of golf’s most prized properties. On Oct. 24, 2014, I was impeached as president for what some considered to be “insensitive gender-based” remarks. Unfriended is a chance for me to tell my side of the story and share my journey through golf.

Would I change some things on my end? Absolutely. Who wouldn’t want a few mulligans in the game of life? Unfriended is my mulligan.

Author photo
Rick Morwick is sports editor of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rmorwick@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.