Frank Sinatra wasn’t so much of a great golf player, but he enjoyed the game for fun. As a leader of the Rat Pack, he endorsed parties, and all in a “black–tie” manner, a bit controversial in Sinatra style.
Sinatra hosted his own golf event sanctioned by the modern PGA Tour at the Canyon Club in Palm Springs in November 1963.
After some other celebrities have had their namesake tournaments, Bing Crosby in Pebble Beach and Andy Williams and Bob Hope in California, Sinatra wanted to have an event under his name as well.
The PGA vs Players
In June 1967, the executive committee of PGA had voted a veto on the Frank Sinatra Tournament in Palm Springs, with the explanation that it was a short time before the Bob Hope Desert Classic Tournament.
This decision has rolled an avalanche that shook the grounds of the PGA Tour and led towards the modern PGA Tour. The players had a strong reaction to the veto. They have organized a meeting immediately, concluding with a threat to boycott the modern PGA Tour and start their own.
The PGA had tried to loosen up the situation, offering some changes like more members of the Committee, which seemed like a way to exclude the veto. However, it turned out that the veto was to stay for good and that the PGA had no intention to loosen the grasp of the iron fist.
The conflict escalated to the point of the ultimatum given by the players. It meant if the PGA did not allow forming a players’ division by July 4th, the players would form another organization.
Continuing the pressure on players, the PGA introduced the new entry form, which included the rights for various endorsements, TV shows, and publications, and more important the new clause. The new clause meant that the player, after having signed the PGA entry, could not participate in any other tour that is not organized by PGA. Another thing had been hidden from the players. All the revenue from the TV shows would be going to PGA and nothing to tournaments or the players.
In August 1968, the players formed the APG (American Professional Golfers), breaking away from PGA.
The following year, the APG was deploying all the means to build up a tour, with the constant efforts of Max Elbin to undermine the tour. Elbin used all the resources he had to stop the new organization.
His most serious attempt was reported to the FBI in a memo about the APG founding by the mafia.
Namely, Elbin insinuated that the APG is getting funds from Moe Dalitz, known for his criminal history, at that time leading casinos in Las Vegas.
Prior to APG, Moe Dalitz had founded the Tournament of Champions, a PGA Tour event, with the idea to promote his casinos. The top of the golf world had been there, played golf, gambled, and had parties.
Probably for his involvement in golf tournaments, Moe Dalitz was not a strange choice of sponsor for the APG.
Elbin’s attempt did not go well, so the APG succeeded to line up 35 tournaments in 1969 with numerous sponsors.
In November 1968, the change of presidency in PGA brought peace when the new president Leo Fraser took over and led to the synchronization of two organizations. He considered the good of the game more important than any conflict.
As a result, the Tournament division had been created, and the agreement included recognition of the tournaments signed by APG and also by PGA.
“My Way” by Sinatra
We will never know if Sinatra could have had his own tournament approved by the PGA.
All the same, he hosted his four-day event in 1963 in his own way, with a special blend of golf professionals, celebrities, and loads of parties.
Frank Beard won the tournament over 79 competitors, with the prize of 9000 dollars. It was his first win in a tournament, and it has been reported many times that he kept it in fond memory. Beard was a great fan of Sinatra, and surely it meant the world to him to occasionally visit the Sinatra concert as a special guest. Sinatra never missed an opportunity to greet him and to dedicate a song of Beard’s choice.
The Frank Sinatra Celebrity Invitational
Barbara Sinatra, Sinatra’s last wife, is hosting the two-day celebrity amateur tournament under Sinatra’s name in Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California. Carrying on completely in Frank style, it is a mix of the tournament, a black-tie gala, and a fashion show. All with the purpose to raise funds for her charity organization, The “Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center” at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California.
The PGA In Demand Again?
Jay Monahan, the PGA Commissioner, issued an email on 27th January 2022. Addressing the players, Monahan has stated that the PGA will do all it takes to prevent the creation of the competitive tour. Referring to the Premier Golf League, the Team Golf Concept’s creation, the PGA is demanding the players to decide which modern PGA tour to play, excluding the other.