Notre Dame grad helping golf grow

JACK WALKDEN
South Bend Tribune

Golf is a love affair for Pete Bevacqua.

Bevacqua is in his second year as the Chief Executive Officer of The PGA of America. And it’s the perfect job for the 42-year-old Notre Dame graduate.

“I love golf,” Bevacqua said. “And if you do what you love, you get up every morning and look forward to it. I wake up every morning and think to myself, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this.’”

And he’s doing it well enough to already have received a five-year extension on his original contract. During his first year as CEO, Bevacqua oversaw an unprecedented NBC broadcasting multi-platform agreement through 2030 for the Ryder Cup and Senior PGA Championship.

This year’s Senior PGA Championship will be held May 22 through 25 at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor. And Bevacqua loves the course, which also hosted the 2012 Senior PGA Championship and is contracted for the 2016 and 2018 events.

“It’s a beautiful golf course,” Bevacqua said. “And what’s neat about the course is the closeness to Lake Michigan. Any time you’ve got a water side, the wind and the natural elements are going to have an impact on play. You never know what conditions you’re going to have from day to day or even hour to hour. The last time I played the course it was windy for seven or eight holes and then it died down. It makes a big difference out here.

“What separates it for us is the whole community tie in. It doesn’t take long to come into this town and spend time with Whirlpool and Kitchen Aid and see the revitalization of this area. I wasn’t around this area at the time and missed what happened and the struggles it went through. We’re proud to play a part of the revitalization. Hopefully we’re doing our part. The biggest legacy we’ll leave here is bringing four Senior PGA Championships and hopefully more in the future.”

Bevacqua said the biggest advantage with returning to a site is “you can always learn from what you’ve done.”

“We can always tweak it,” Bevacqua said. “Little things make a difference. You may only be talking about parking or grandstands. But you can make a big difference with a little tweaking.”

Two things have always been a big part of Bevacqua’s life, golf and Notre Dame.

“I was brainwashed by my father (Arthur) about Notre Dame,” Bevacqua said with a laugh.

Bevacqua has a brother-in-law, Jim Collins, who runs the film and theatre department at Notre Dame, a sister, Stephanie, who also works on campus, and a niece, Sophia, who is a freshman at Notre Dame.

He started caddying at 10 years old at Bedford Golf & Tennis Club in Bedford, N.Y., eventually working his way up to caddie master and golf shop manager under PGA pro Walt Ronan. He continued to work there during the summer while attending Notre Dame, and even his first year of law school.

Bevacqua was class valedictorian and senior class president at Brunswick School in Greenwich, Conn. He played quarterback in football and was captain of the basketball and golf teams, earning all-league recognition in all three sports.

Bevacqua graduated magna cum laude in English in 1993 from Notre Dame and went on to earn a law degree at Georgetown University. After college, Bevacqua began working at the New York law firm of David Polk.

“But I always wanted to see if I could get back into sports,” he said. “One night after working a 70-hour stretch, I thought it might be time to re-examine getting back into golf.”

In July, 2007, Bevacqua became the USGA’s first-ever Chief Business Officer, which eventually led to what he calls “a dream come true,” with the job as CEO of the PGA of America.

“It’s an honor to serve The PGA of America,” Bevacqua said. “What has surprised me in a positive way is how committed the organization is to putting its resources into growing the game. That’s always frustrated me in the past. What I’ve really found energizing is how we’re looking at getting more children into the game. How we’re looking to get more women into the game. How we’re looking to get more diversity into the game. It’s a healthy obsession.”

Bevacqua hopes to use next week’s Senior PGA Championship to help with that cause.

“What we are trying to do is to think of ways to make this an event for the community, for golf fans and even for those who aren’t familiar with the game. We want to build a relationship with the community and make it a week they look forward to.”

JWalkden@SBTinfo.com

J574-235-6231

Bevacqua

WHEN: Thursday, May 22 through Sunday, May 25

WHERE: Harbor Shores, Benton Harbor

TELEVISION: Thursday, May 22 and Friday, May 23 from 12 noon to 3 p.m., Golf Channel; Saturday, May 24 and Sunday, May 25, from 3 to 6 p.m., NBC