Once in a while, something develops that produces genuine shock.
Well, that happened Tuesday when the PGA of America announced that Pete Bevacqua is resigning as chief executive officer to become NBC Sports Group’s president. His resignation is effective Aug. 13, the day after the PGA Championship.
Bevacqua has led the PGA of America since 2012, after being the global head of golf at Creative Artists Agency (CAA Sports). He also worked as the USGA’s chief business officer and served as the first managing director of the U.S. Open. He began his career at a New York law firm.
And they say millennials like to move around.
As the PGA’s coffers overflow with money, Bevacqua leaves the organization of nearly 29,000 club professionals in better financial shape than he found it. Bevacqua’s signature deal came last year, when the PGA renewed its contract with NBC for the biennial Ryder Cup through 2030. The deal is worth $440 million, according to sources.
Bevacqua also worked a deal with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan to move the PGA Championship from August to May, beginning next year. The move was necessary so that the Tour could end the FedEx Cup playoffs before the NFL season, which dominates American TV viewers’ attention. The recently released 2018-19 Tour schedule, in which the playoffs trim from four to three events, ends Aug. 25, which would not have happened without the PGA of America’s cooperation with its annual championship.
When the PGA Championship move was announced, there was no disclosure about any benefits that the PGA of America might receive from the PGA Tour, but some sort of recompense is likely.
Yet, the PGA of America faces some issues that will need to be addressed by the new CEO.
One will be the reported move of PGA headquarters from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., to Frisco, Texas, near Dallas. The next CEO surely would want a say in the decision. Considering that it took more than five months for Bevacqua to be named CEO, the move to Frisco might be on life support while waiting for the PGA’s new boss. It still could be an issue for the new CEO, if a move is determined to be necessary.
Another issue is the PGA Championship’s broadcast contract with CBS that expires next year. The new CEO would expect to have some input on a new deal. I’m sure that Mike Whan, the LPGA’s commissioner, wishes that he weren’t saddled with the current contract with Golf Channel that was negotiated by his predecessor.
Given the strong connection that the PGA of America has with the PGA Tour and Monahan, Bevacqua will be a big help in keeping those relationships solid for NBC. The PGA Tour’s TV contract with all broadcast partners expires in 2021, and a new deal is in at least the early discussion stages with all broadcast partners, including NBC and Golf Channel.
And while NBC and CBS surely will be part of any new TV contract, the PGA Tour is rumored to be working on its own network, which might affect its relationship with Golf Channel.
In his role with NBC, Bevacqua will have Golf Channel’s president, Mike McCarley, reporting to him. Thus, the Bevacqua-Monahan relationship could benefit Golf Channel, which would experience vastly depleted programming without the PGA Tour.
From the PGA of America’s side, Bevacqua commanded a lot of power, leaving some members complaining that they had less say than before.
The status of PGA president Paul Levy, who was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, remains unresolved (“PGA applies double standard in Levy case,” June 17). The way that PGA leadership communicated Levy’s status has been a hot-button issue with many members.
Depending upon the makeup of the search committee and the objectives for a CEO, the PGA of America could rethink members’ roles in governance and change the organization’s dynamic, with more transparency.
Either way, Bevacqua’s move comes with many implications for golf, so let’s wish him well.
Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli