ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. (AP) — Ted Bishop was ousted Friday as president of the PGA of America over a sexist tweet and Facebook post directed at Ian Poulter.
Bishop was irritated by remarks Poulter made in his book on the Ryder Cup captaincy of Nick Faldo in 2008 and Tom Watson this year. He referred to Poulter as “Lil Girl” on Twitter when stacking up Poulter’s feats next to Faldo. In a Facebook post, he noted that Watson (with eight majors) and Faldo (with six majors and the Ryder Cup record for most points) were getting “bashed” by Poulter.
“Really? Sounds like a little school girl squealing during recess. C’MON MAN!” he wrote.
The PGA of America board voted Friday to remove him, meaning Bishop will not be invited to future PGA Championships and Ryder Cups, or any other courtesies extended to past presidents. He is the first PGA president to be ousted. Bishop had one month left on his two-year term.
Bishop, who has two daughters, apologized to Poulter and “anyone else I might have offended” in a statement.
But the head pro from Indiana went down swinging.
Bishop said his fellow PGA officers asked him to resign Friday and he refused, wanting instead to apologize in person to the board and let the process run its course.
“The board heard me out and then voted to impeach me,” he said. “That is the due process and I respect that, as painful as it might be.”
In removing Bishop as president, the PGA of America board said the remarks were inconsistent with association’s policies.
“The PGA of America understands the enormous responsibility it has to lead this great game and to enrich lives in our society through golf,” PGA chief executive Pete Bevacqua said in a statement. “We must demand of ourselves that we make golf both welcoming and inclusive to all who want to experience it, and everyone at the PGA of America must lead by example.”
The PGA of America has 27,000 members, about 1,100 of them women. Bevacqua said in a telephone interview that he received “a lot of negative feedback from all types of sources, internal and external.” He declined to specify whether PGA female members were part of that.
Bishop was irritated by comments Poulter made in his book released this week about the Ryder Cup captaincy of Faldo in 2008 and Watson this year at Gleneagles. Bishop was with Faldo at The Greenbrier on Thursday when he tweeted to Poulter, “Faldo’s record stands by itself. Six majors and all-time RC points. Yours vs. His? Lil Girl.”
The Facebook post was even stronger. Bishop deleted both Thursday evening and said in an email to The Associated Press that “I could have selected some different way to express my thoughts on Poulter’s remarks.”
Derek Sprague, expected to be voted in as the next president at the Nov. 22 annual meeting, was appointed the interim president. Paul Levy will handle the roles as vice president and secretary until the election.
Bishop has been one of the most outspoken presidents of the PGA of America. But his social media rant got him into trouble.
“This is a classic example of poor use of social media on my part and if I had the chance to hit the delete button on the things that I sent out yesterday, I would without hesitation,” Bishop said. “The PGA of America asked me to avoid any interaction with the media in the past 24 hours and that is why I did not issue a formal and public apology, which I have wanted to do since early this morning.”
Bishop described the consequences as “drastic,” but that he has to live with his mistake.
“Today, all I have left is my PGA membership and that will always mean the world to me,” Bishop said. He is president of Legends Golf Club in Franklin, Indiana.
Suzy Whaley, a teaching pro from Connecticut who qualified to play a PGA Tour event in Hartford in 2003, is among three PGA members running for secretary at the Nov. 22 election. If she wins, Whaley would be in line to be PGA president in 2018.
Whaley said she found Bishop’s remarks to be “insulting.”
“I was extremely disappointed and they were definitely sexist,” Whaley said in a telephone interview. “I’m of 100 percent belief that we need to empower young girls.” Asked if she complained to the PGA officers, Whaley said, “I didn’t have to do that.”
“The PGA of America took incredibly swift action and are taking this extremely seriously,” Whaley said. “Obviously, it’s critical that we are inclusive.”
Poulter was on a plane to China when Bishop posted his remarks and wasn’t aware of them until he landed and found his phone filled with messages.
“Is being called a ‘lil girl’ meant to be derogatory or a put down?” Poulter said in a statement. “That’s pretty shocking and disappointing, especially coming from the leader of the PGA of America.”
Bishop’s boldest move as president was to pick Watson as the U.S. captain, saying he was tired of the Americans losing. But the move backfired when Watson’s heavy-handed style didn’t mesh with a younger generation. Watson, 65, was the oldest captain in Ryder Cup history.
Poulter in his book said that Watson’s decision-making “completely baffles me.” He was referring to benching Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley for both sessions Saturday. He also was critical of Faldo for his commentary on Golf Channel during the Ryder Cup that Sergio Garcia was “useless” in 2008. Faldo was captain of the only European team to lose in the last 15 years, and Poulter wrote, “So who’s useless? I think Faldo might need to have a little look in the mirror.”
Davis Love III described Bishop as a friend and a “great supporter of golf” and said he would not remember his presidency for this incident. Among other things, the PGA joined up with the LPGA Tour to help pay for its oldest major. The Women’s PGA Championship will be sponsored by KPMG, which will use the week to host a major conference for women executives.
“I have said things in my passion for the Ryder Cup that I wish came out differently,” Love said. “We all make mistakes on social media.”
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