In the summer of 1968, a group of tournament professionals took the decision to break away from the PGA of America (PGA) and create a standalone tournament circuit.
Established a little over a century ago, the PGA represents the interests of thousands of club and teaching pros across the US. In the ‘40s and ‘50s, the organisation ran tournaments to give its members a chance to earn a supplemental income. As public and commercial interest in golf swelled, so did the prize money. In the mid-1950s, the PGA’s annual prize fund was around $1 million. A decade later it was nearly $6 million.
The increase in prize money created a new genre of pro golfer – the tour pro. Within this small band were the big three of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. They were disgruntled at being unable to cash in on the huge injection of TV money. In short, the players wanted increased sponsorship used to plump up purses; the PGA wanted to invest the money in its general fund.
The relationship between the PGA and its touring pros started to unhinge in 1966 when the players arranged a $200,000 event in Palm Springs. The event was scheduled alongside the popular Bob Hope Desert Classic, also in Palm Springs. The PGA tried to cancel the players’ event. In response, players threatened to boycott the 1967 PGA Championship.
Less than a year later, the PGA negotiated TV rights to Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf and the World Series of Golf. Although the star attractions, the players were excluded from contract discussions. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. A player revolt was led by Jack Nicklaus, Gardner Dickinson, Doug Ford, and Frank Beard. Represented by a team of lawyers, the players requested the PGA create a new division for tour pros. The PGA eventually agreed, but when it came to light the new Tournament Programme would be completely controlled by the players, the organisation rejected the proposal. Late in 1968, the players announced the formation of its breakaway tour – the American Professional Golfers, Inc (APG).
In 1969, a compromise saw the APG abolished and the tour players return to the PGA in a separate division – The Tournament Players Association – with its own policy board and commissioner. In 1975, the name changed to the PGA Tour. The players have been in control of their own destiny ever since.
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