Former PGA TOUR Chairman Dick Ferris Dead at 85

Before Dick Ferris took on the role of chairman of the PGA TOUR board, the former United Airlines CEO learned that the group’s quarterly meetings typically lasted all day, sometimes extending into the next day. It wasn’t something Ferris, a skilled businessman who valued efficiency, couldn’t stand. Jay Haas, then a PGA TOUR member and Director of Players, remembers well how the first Policy Board meeting went with Ferris at the helm.


RELATED: Former TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem pays tribute to Ferris


“It was over before lunch,” Haas recalled with a smile. Eventually, Haas and fellow player manager Davis Love III, by then accustomed to Ferris’ managerial style, began trying to predict when each meeting would end – 11:20 a.m., two hours and 20 minutes into the proceedings, a popular guess among the two eventual Presidents Cup captains. They were often right.

“Dick took on life and everything about it in such an admirable way. He was a great leader, who had enviable energy and drive. He also had such great conviction in his decisions. never took long to assess things and face them head-on,” Haas explained.

For 15 years, Ferris helped shape PGA TOUR policy, first as an independent director and then as chairman of the board. In the process, he impressed players, fellow board members and PGA TOUR staff. In his various roles, Ferris was at the forefront of the explosive growth the TOUR experienced during his tenure. The California native who dedicated so much of his time to helping develop TOUR died Sunday of causes related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Ferris was 85 years old.

“What I heard from Tim (Finchem) and many others about Dick Ferris during his tenure as chairman was how tenacious he was. When he believed in something, he put his all into it. his energy and thoughtfulness, and the TOUR was certainly the beneficiary of that tenacity,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan. “Looking back, the growth and acceleration of our business, through his leadership, is simply stunning.Dick was a great friend and mentor to so many, and his passion for the way he tackled life will be missed by all of us.

Ferris was born on August 31, 1936 in Sacramento, California. He attended Cornell University, where he graduated in 1962, and earned a master’s degree at the University of Washington. While golf was never far from his mind, Ferris left a huge imprint on the hospitality and travel industry during his storied career.

Ferris entered the business world working for Western International Hotels (now known as Westin), holding various positions at Chicago-area properties. From 1966 to 1971, Ferris served as general manager of the Continental Plaza Hotel in Chicago. He became an airline executive when United Airlines bought Westin, and Edward Carlson, then Westin’s chief operating officer, became United’s CEO, bringing Ferris with him into the merger and putting Ferris in charge of the United’s catering division.

In 1976, Ferris replaced Carlson as CEO of United, a position he held until 1985, when he became chairman of the airline’s board of directors. He remained with United until 1987.

Ferris, a lifelong golfer and sports enthusiast, became a member of the PGA TOUR Champions Policy Council in 1985. Seven years later he joined the PGA TOUR Policy Council, and a year later he is became the retired chairman of Del de Windt. It was a position Ferris held until 2007.

Haas, who served on the board for five of those years, recalls an annual player meeting in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., in the mid-1990s. “Dick gave a presentation on TOUR business operations and quietly assured the players that we were in good hands. After talking for 15 minutes without a single note card, he returned to his seat, leaned over to me and said, “It was so much easier than a three-foot putt.”

Ferris’ board membership began under TOUR Commissioner Deane Beman, with his eventual leadership role as Chairman of the Board taking place as TOUR passed to Beman’s successor, Tim Finchem . During Ferris’ tenure with both commissioners, the TOUR experienced remarkable growth. For much of his 22 years at the helm of the PGA TOUR, Finchem had Ferris to lean on.

“When I look at Dick from the PGA TOUR side of the equation, his love of the game, his intensity in building and making things better has had a big impact not only on all the projects he’s been involved in, but especially on me. and the way I thought about things,” Finchem said.

Haas learned to admire Ferris through the many relationships he had with Ferris while representing his teammates.

“They say a round of golf is made memorable, not necessarily by how or where we play, but more importantly by the people we play with. Playing with Dick has always been a lively experience, with side bets and laughs all around,” Haas explained. “No matter the stakes, he gave it his all. It’s hard to imagine not having Dick Ferris in our lives. He will be greatly missed by all of us.

In 1999, Ferris was part of a group that included World Golf Hall of Famer Arnold Palmer, former Major League Baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth, and actor and director Clint Eastwood. The consortium bought Japanese company Taiheiyo Pebble Beach Golf Links and its properties, including the legendary home of the annual AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, three other nearby golf courses, two hotels and 17-Mile Drive, a road that meanders through Pebble Beach. and Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula. For their efforts, Ferris and Uebberoth will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Golf Hall of Fame in March 2022.

“Dick was a great friend of golf who gave back to the game in so many ways. Not to be forgotten is his tireless work with the PGA TOUR and his contribution to bringing Pebble Beach back to being among the best in the world, as well as his generous support of The First Tee,” added Haas.

After taking control of Pebble Beach, Ferris and Uebberoth were instrumental in securing a PGA TOUR Champions tournament for their new property, the PURE Insurance Championship which annually features a PGA TOUR Champions player competing alongside from a junior partner of various First Tee chapters across the United States.

Of his role in the station’s ownership group, Ferris said, “We see ourselves as stewards, not owners, of a national treasure. We want the company to be profitable in order to be able to sustain it. We work every day to make it better. Under Ferris’ direction, the Pebble Beach Company offered limited interests in the resort “on the understanding that the plan was never to sell the Pebble Beach Company to another group of owners ever again.”

Of his involvement with Pebble Beach, Ferris commented, “It’s awesome. Hotels and golf, everything I love.

Ferris spent much of his adult life in Chicago, but in retirement he moved to Orlando. He is survived by his wife, Kelsey, and three children. Funeral services are pending.

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