Mac O’Grady, the rebel of the Professional Golfers’ Assn. Tour, was fined $5,000, suspended for six weeks and placed on probation for a year Tuesday by PGA Commissioner Deane Beman for making statements that Beman considered detrimental to the tour.
Despite the substantial penalties, O’Grady’s attorney said that Beman has not heard the last from O’Grady.
Steve Novak, a San Diego attorney, said he will consider legal action if efforts fail to have Beman’s decision adjusted within the PGA appeals process. Novak said that he filed an appeal Tuesday.
“I think the suspension and the fine, especially the suspension, are very, very heavy-handed,” Novak said. “The sanctions are very much disproportionate to any actions that may have been taken by Mac.”
According to Novak, the suspension deprives O’Grady of his ability to earn a living.
O’Grady, who lives in Palm Springs, was unavailable for comment.
During a tournament last week in Hilton Head, S.C., O’Grady was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that he would “rot in hell before I pay a fine.”
He also predicted he would be fined and suspended.
“And then the war will start,” he said.
In a letter to the golfer that was made available to the media by the PGA, Beman wrote that O’Grady had violated Article VI of the PGA Tour’s tournament regulations, which requires players to “conduct themselves in a manner . . . that will not reflect unfavorably on the PGA Tour, its members, officers or representatives, or tournament sponsors” and obliges them to “refrain from comments to the news media that unreasonably attack or disparage tournament sponsors, fellow competitors or the PGA Tour.”
This is the second time that Beman has taken disciplinary action against O’Grady, who will be 35 Saturday. After the 1984 USF&G; tournament in New Orleans, O’Grady was fined $500 for insulting a volunteer worker, Eleanor Smith. When O’Grady, who since has apologized to Smith, refused to pay the fine, the PGA deducted $500 from his earnings.
O’Grady, who refuses to participate in PGA-conducted press conferences but has sometimes been available for private interviews, has been an outspoken critic of the commissioner ever since.
At the Chrysler Team Invitational in Boca Raton, Fla., late last year, O’Grady said that Beman operates a “totalitarian, authoritarian system.” At the Hawaiian Open this year, O’Grady called Beman “a thief with a capital T.”
In reaction, the PGA issued O’Grady two separate notices of pending disciplinary action, one dated March 3 and the other March 11.
On March 13, Beman issued a third notice, informing O’Grady of an impending major penalty for further comments, allegedly made by O’Grady to other publications, that were critical of fellow players, rules, officials, a sponsor and the commissioner.
According to Beman’s letter Tuesday, $3,000 of the fine, three weeks of the suspension and the one-year probation were in regard to the March 13 notice. The suspension is scheduled to begin next Tuesday. O’Grady had committed to play the Las Vegas Invitational next week.
Also in the letter, Beman wrote that O’Grady believes that his comments in Boca Raton and Hawaii were justified because of frustration over the $500 that was withheld from his earnings after the 1984 incident in New Orleans.
“Having had some experience in this area myself, I do not discount or belittle the effect of personal frustration on highly competitive individuals under pressure,” Beman wrote. “However, no amount of frustration can justify such harsh and damaging attacks by a player on the commissioner’s office, sponsors, fellow players and, ultimately the PGA Tour itself.
“If the tour’s rules mean anything and if professional tournament golf is to retain its high standards and reputation for conduct, it is impossible to escape the conclusion that a significant penalty is called for in this case.”
Novak said that action is a violation of O’Grady’s freedom of speech.
“Mac is a man of principle,” Novak said. “He believes the lines of communication should be open and that the commissioner should be a players’ commissioner. But the commissioner has insisted that he is always right. I’m really disappointed in his lack of leadership.”