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Sergio Garcia of Spain putts on the par three 17th hole during the second round of The Players Championship on the Stadium Course at the TPC Sawgrass on March 24, 2006 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

The Players Championship begins Thursday at the Stadium course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. The course is one of the most famous in the game, but what's not as well known is that Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ont., had a lot to do with why that is. Maybe that will change now that Adam Schupak's new book Deane Beman: Golf's Driving Force is out.

Beman, 73, is the progressive, forceful man who was the PGA Tour's commissioner from 1974 through 1994. He'd won two U.S. Amateurs and a British Amateur before turning pro in 1967. (Canada's great Gary Cowan beat Beman to win the 1966 U.S. Amateur). Beman won four PGA Tour events before becoming commissioner, and soon he was pushing hard for the PGA Tour to have its own course and its own flagship tournament.

Schupak tells this story and many others in his deeply-researched and timely book. A senior writer for Golfweek magazine, Schupak has written a strong book about a strong-minded man. Schupak interviewed more than 200 people, had access to Beman's complete files, and examined minutes of the PGA Tour's policy board meetings. The PGA Tour wouldn't be what it is today if not for Beman. He was a visionary who didn't mind making waves and alienating people if need be.

The story of the Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass is central to the book. The reader learns that it's possible the course wouldn't have been built had Jack Nicklaus not designed Glen Abbey for the Royal Canadian Golf Association (now known as Golf Canada). One can debate day and night as to whether the Canadian Open should move around the country, which it's doing now. But one thing is certain: There's no better place for spectators to watch tournament golf in Canada. Glen Abbey was the Canadian Open's all-but-permanent home from 1977 through 2000 and a few times thereafter.

Beman is 5 foot 7, and he rarely attended tournaments as a spectator. But he did attend the 1974 Phoenix Open after taking over as commissioner. He didn't like what he saw, or didn't see.

"I'm looking through the back of some head trying to figure out who is doing what," Beman told Schupak. "I said to myself, 'Wow, can you imagine people coming out here and walking five miles to watch this?' It's dead flat, you can't see anything, you don't know what's going on, and there are hardly any scoreboards."

By early 1979, Beman concluded the deal that gave the PGA Tour the 415-acre property in Ponte Vedra Beach for its own course - for all of one dollar, a story well told in the book. He told Pete Dye he wanted him to design the course. Beman suggested that Dye and his wife, Alice, also a course architect, visit Glen Abbey. Nicklaus designed the Abbey for the Canadian Open, and meant it to be spectator-friendly. He created mounds and hillsides so that spectators could look down on the players.

Schupak points out that Beman also liked the Abbey's central core near the clubhouse, from where spectators could see play on a variety of holes. Beman and the Dyes flew up on a bitterly cold winter day. Sleet sliced across the course. Dye went out on the property for all of 15 minutes while his wife stayed in the clubhouse.

"I've looked at it and I can do better," he told his wife.

Dye was being his usual feisty self. He relished a challenge, and if he could one-up Nicklaus, all the better. Meanwhile, Glen Abbey worked its way into what he would create at the Stadium course. Beman had noticed that Nicklaus placed most of the viewing areas on the right side of the holes so that spectators could look directly at the majority of the golfers. The idea became a feature of the Stadium course.

"Beman loved it," Schupak writes. "The higher [the mounds] the better, he said, so more fans can see all the action."

There will be plenty of action at the Players, where the course is always as big a story as the tournament itself. Tens of thousands of spectators will surround the holes, especially at the famous island-green, par-three 17th hole.

Would the course have happened without Glen Abbey and Beman's foresight? Probably not. The Stadium course was a major achievement. So is Schupak's book.


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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association's first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada's Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and, most recently, he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 11 books, including The Natural Golf Swing, with George Knudson (1988); Links: An Insider's Tour Through the World of Golf (1990); The Swing, with Nick Price (1997); The Fundamentals of Hogan, with David Leadbetter (2000); A Season in Dornoch: Golf and Life in the Scottish Highlands (2001); Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); and his latest, This Round's on Me (2009). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein