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Former PGA of America President Ted Bishop: PGA Has Threatened Legal Action Over His Coming Book

Photo: LANDON NORDEMAN/SI

The Tweet That Ended It All Just 22 hours after the social media saga began, Ted Bishop was fired as the President of the PGA of America and barred from further consideration as an Honorary President. The PGA of America cited "insensitive gender-based statements posted yesterday on social media" as the reason for Bishop's sacking.

Ted Bishop isn’t going quietly. The former PGA of America president, who was infamously ousted from his post in 2014 for referring to Ian Poulter on social media as a “lil girl,” is writing a book about his time in the game and at the helm of the PGA. The title -- Unfriended: The Power Brokers, Political Correctness and Hypocrisy in Golf -- reveals the primary themes of the book, but Bishop says he’s also hopeful that his chronicles will give readers a “much better understanding of who I am.” Bishop describes the book, which he plans to self-publish this summer, as a form of “self-validation.”

In an interview with GOLF.com, Bishop explained what motivated him to tell his story, what he’d like readers to get from the book, and why, according to Bishop, the PGA of America has threatened legal action against him. (Note: When reached by GOLF.com, the PGA of America declined to comment on this matter or any of Bishop’s remarks in this interview.)

GOLF.com: What are you hoping to accomplish by writing and publishing this book?

Bishop: From a historical standpoint, it was a great opportunity to tell my story. The two years that I was president were an eventful two years, with the things that were happening in golf. There’s a part about repairing the relationship with Arnold Palmer and the PGA of America, and the evolution of the Deacon Palmer Award [which was named for Arnold’s father and is bestowed upon a PGA pro who has overcome a major life obstacle]. It talks about anchoring and everything that went on with that saga. It’s the centennial year of the PGA of America, and it highlights diversity and inclusion as it relates to the PGA of America and its history. I also identify who I believe to be four of the top powerbrokers in the game: Tim Finchem, Billy Payne, Donald Trump and Jack Nicklaus. I dive into the three Ryder Cups that I was a part of, and the formation and evolution of the task force.

The Trump tie-in is timely, given he’s now facing his own tensions with golf’s governing bodies.

The day I was being impeached, the first phone call was from Donald Trump. That meant a lot at the time, based on where we’re at today. I do talk about Trump’s position in golf in the book. I think he’s been good for golf. His properties host championship events, and I think it would be a real shame -- for the players, the spectators, everyone -- if they’re not holding championships on his properties.

How did you settle on the title for the book, Unfriended?

When you look back at the social-media aspects and the consequences that impacted my life, the title Unfriended seemed like a natural fit.

One thing I want to emphasize -- and the readers will be the judge of this – is that it’s probably not the tone some readers think that it would be. It’s a great chance for me to chronicle my journey in golf and my time with the PGA of America.

What did you learn from your social-media gaffe?

Anytime you hit the send button, you better be fully aware of the implications. In retrospect, when I’ve looked at other things that people in golf have said on social media -- players, officials, people in general – you see what’s now acceptable and what might not have been in 2014. The landscape has changed.

Do you feel golf administrators are held to a separate standard than players?

One profound lesson I learned is that [as PGA of America president] I would be treated differently [for something that I said] than how some of the top players might be.That was a huge lesson that I took away from this.

Has golf become too politically correct?

It has in a lot of ways. There seems to be some inconsistencies, but that’s all I can say about that.

Some might say that because you’re writing a book of this nature, it's apparent that you haven’t moved on.

I wouldn’t agree. I think I’ve totally moved on in a lot of ways. This endeavor was a chance for me to complete that task [of moving on]. A lot of this book is some self-validation, to a degree. I’m self-publishing at this time, because timing is important to me. It’s not about money in any way, shape or form, because you don’t know how these things will materialize. I want to share a lot of things with the general reader that they’d find interesting.

Will the book reveal more details about Tom Watson’s tumultuous 2014 Ryder Cup captaincy at Gleneagles?

The whole tenor and theme of the book is that there’s always two sides to every story. This might be a side that people haven’t heard yet.

What does the PGA of America think about you writing this book?

You’d have to ask them. I’ve had virtually no contact with the PGA of America since October 2014. I did have a brief conversation with Derek Sprague [Bishop’s successor] in November 2014 and [PGA CEO] Pete Bevacqua in February 2015. Those are the only conversations I had with people "inside" the PGA and they were not related to my book. I have had some conversations with the PGA's outside legal counsel requesting a review of my book before it was published. At one point they threatened "judicial intervention" if I didn't cooperate. I have no plans to let the PGA's outside legal counsel see the book.

Do you expect Ian Poulter to comment on your book as you did with his?

[Laughs] Well, you’d have to ask him. Look, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Ian. He was a thorn in our side for the Ryder Cup, of course, but I like the guy and always have.

What do you hope readers take away from this book?

My detractors will never read the book and probably never give it a chance whatsoever. When you maintain the type of profile that I did when I was president, by taking stands — and I did it because it was the right thing to do — at the end of the day, I hope that when people finish reading it they have a much better understanding of who I am and appreciate the contributions I made to the game.

Now, I’m just doing my job like any other PGA of America professional. I was pulling carts before I talked to you. The one nice thing about all of this being over is being back where I can focus on my family and my job, and I love that.

Tour Confidential: Did Ted Bishop's Punishment Fit His Crime?
While there's little disagreement that Ted Bishop needed to go as President of the PGA of America in the wake of his calling Ian Poulter a "lil girl" on Twitter, our panel debates whether there were other reasons for his firing, as well as the appropriateness of the additional penal steps the PGA took to admonish — and distance itself from — the organization's former chief.

 

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