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PGA's Beman, who led tour to success, resigns

After 20 years of unprecedented growth under his direction, PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman announced Tuesday that he was resigning from his position, effective as soon as a replacement is found.

Beman, 55, in a letter to the Tour Policy Board, said he will not seek an extension of his contract, which runs through December 1995. He made that decision public during a news conference at Doral Country Club, where the Doral-Ryder Open begins Thursday.

"I think what I'm most pleased about is that in the age of big-money sports and television, golf has kept its integrity, its respect for the game," Beman said. "We've been able to accomplish unparalleled financial success without compromising the integrity of the game."

Beman, who played on the tour for six years before becoming commissioner, said he will stay in his job as long as is necessary to guarantee a smooth transition and that the "old bones willing," expects to play some competitive golf, along with perhaps designing courses.

Under Beman's direction, the tour has made huge strides. Prize money has grown from $8.2-million in 1974 to nearly $100-million this year. The Senior PGA Tour _ which has 43 events _ and the Nike Tour were born. In all, there are 118 tournaments on the combined tours, and 38 on the regular PGA Tour _ up from 22 in 1974 _ are televised.

Many players were surprised by Beman's decision. "Totally," Tom Kite said. "That's a shame. I hate to hear it. Forget the legacy. I don't know who you'll get to replace him, who will do as good a job. We're going to end up paying a heck of a lot more to get someone as qualified."

Said Tom Watson: "In a nutshell, he's taken golf from 1974 to 1994 and made it what it is. I give him a lot of credit for that."

Beman reportedly earns $1.4-million per year, with the opportunity to make another $800,000 in bonuses. Many would say he is worth every penny.

In addition to the significant increase in purses, Beman helped establish a Player Retirement Plan in 1983. There is now nearly $50-million in the plan.

Charitable organizations also have been big winners under Beman. Last year, the tour donated $22.8-million to charity and has contributed more than $84.7-million in the 1990s.

But Beman has not been without his critics. Watson was one of them. "We've had our private disagreements and our public disagreements," he said. "It was time (for Beman to step down). We've been hearing rumors for the last two or three years."

Beman was at the front of a lengthy and costly legal battle over the issue of square grooves with the Karsten Manufacturing Co. At issue was whether the PGA Tour had the right to impose its rules and ban the use of certain clubs, specifically Ping irons.

Although the suit was settled out of court, it cost the PGA Tour millions. And there was speculation that Beman's resignation was part of the settlement, although he has denied it vehemently.

Beman also had a running feud with several big-name foreign players who formerly were members of the PGA Tour but dropped out when Beman insisted that members had to play a minimum of 15 events per year to keep their membership.

Now, they are granted several sponsor's exemptions, along with the major championships and the Players Championship. But if they don't play at least 15 events, they cannot be tour members.

"I don't know if that's good or bad for us," Faldo said of Beman's resignation. "I'd certainly like to come over and play more. You'd think they'd like to have our name as members of the PGA Tour. It was silly. And they lost out."

To find a new commissioner, the Tournament Policy Board has established a selection committee that includes Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse, chairman Richard J. Ferris and tour players Jay Haas and Rich Fehr.

Among the names mentioned as possible successors are Tim Finchem, deputy commissioner of the PGA Tour, and former vice president Dan Quayle.