The PGA of America has a human-resources issue when it comes to dealing with problem presidents whom it decides to support or not. And as a result, the PGA now not only has an image issue but a crisis of credibility.
PGA president Paul Levy was arrested June 7 in Palm Desert, Calif., and charged with DUI after police reported that he lost control of his car and hit a traffic sign at 11:22 p.m. (“In the news,” June 14). The leadership of the organization of 29,000 club professionals has decided not to remove Levy from office.
The PGA of America issued this statement: “Paul Levy has accepted responsibility for his terrible lapse in judgment (June 7). He has expressed deep regret and fully understands how irresponsible his actions were. The PGA of America will support Paul as he seeks counseling, faces consequences of his actions and works though the legal process in the months ahead.”
Contrast that scenario to October 2014 when PGA president Ted Bishop was ousted one month before his two-year term was to end for an insensitive tweet and Facebook post. Bishop was about to have dinner with Nick Faldo when he decided to defend Faldo, a six-time major champion and Ryder Cup force, from the criticism that Ian Poulter leveled after the publication of his autobiography, “No Limits.”
Bishop tweeted to Poulter: “Faldo’s record stands by itself. Six majors and all-time RC points. Yours vs. His? Lil Girl.” He also criticized Poulter on Facebook, writing, “Sounds like a little school girl squealing during recess. C’MON MAN!”
Within 24 hours of Bishop’s social-media rant, he was out at the PGA of America. Bishop has plenty of critics, but many wondered whether the punishment fit the crime. Even if you think that it did, then you must be compelled to ask why Levy is being allowed to keep his job, a two-year unpaid position which is scheduled to end in November.
That’s on the mind of a number of professionals in the PGA. Vice president Suzy Whaley wrote this response, which was obtained by Morning Read, in at least two e-mails responding to concerns about Levy:
“All of us in leadership share your disappointment in Paul and concern for the judgment he showed last week. We made the decision to stand by Paul after substantive discussion among the officers and executive leadership, and lengthy deliberations with the board. I assure you we carefully considered all factors, including protecting the reputation of the PGA of America.
“We decided to stand by a person we’ve known for many years who is getting help for a personal issue and needs our support at a difficult time. We believe Paul is sincere in his remorse and that he fully understands how irresponsible his actions were.
“While I understand and respect your point of view, in the collective judgment of the board, we believe supporting Paul is the right course for the PGA of America.”
No one at the PGA of America would comment beyond the association’s initial statement.
Bishop owns and operates The Legends Club in Franklin, Ind., and has been an occasional contributor to Morning Read.
Levy, 57, who was released from custody June 8 at the Riverside County Jail in Indio after posting $3,500 bail, was scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 2. That’s seven days before the PGA of America’s flagship annual event, the PGA Championship, which will be played at Bellerive in St. Louis. Seven weeks later, the PGA stages its biennial Ryder Cup in France.
Here are the facts, based on the police report: Levy got behind the wheel impaired and put people and property in danger. The fact that he hit only a traffic sign is a stroke of pure luck. The question must be asked: If Levy had hit a car with people inside, would the PGA leadership look at this incident in a different light?
If the answer is “yes,” then the PGA has the obligation to remove Levy from office. Because it doesn’t matter what – or whom – Levy ran his car into if, in fact, he was impaired. He could have injured or killed innocent motorists while on the road in his condition. That’s the disqualifying factor.
It’s understandable that the PGA of America leadership would want to support one of its own who might need help. But believe it or not, they are not doing him any favors by keeping him in his position as president.
If Levy has a drinking problem – and remember that most drivers don’t lose control of their cars and run into traffic signs late at night – he’d be best advised to address the issue fully and immediately with counseling, treatment and recovery. He doesn’t need to be the president of one of the most powerful organizations in golf while dealing with such a gravely serious situation.
By leaving Levy in office, the PGA sends the message to its 29,000 members that the organization’s leadership doesn’t care about the optics of this issue or the credibility of the PGA of America.
Whatever you think about Bishop, what he did was plain stupid. And if stupidity is a crime, all of us should have done some time. What Levy is alleged to have done was beyond stupid. It was downright dangerous. And that never should be tolerated – at any level.
Mike Purkey has written about golf for more than 30 years for a number of publications, including Golf Magazine and Global Golf Post. He lives in Charlotte, N.C. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @mikepurkeygolf