University Director of Athletics
At the University of Pittsburgh, Tom Beckett was a three-year letterman in basketball and baseball, and captain of the baseball team. He coached baseball at Pittsburgh and baseball and basketball at Butler Community College. He was associate athletic director at San Jose State and Stanford University before coming to Yale. After college he had been an infielder in the San Francisco Giants farm system. He took up golf after watching the San Francisco Giants baseball players (especially Willie Mays) hit balls at a driving range during spring training. When he went to work at Stanford University, he took lessons from the pro Larry O’Neil. At Stanford he developed an “appreciation for the game and what a good course can do for a university community.”
When he came to Yale in 1994, he was shocked to find that the course he had heard so much about was in such poor condition. For a year he asked questions and studied. He found that the university was forcing the Athletics Department to “balance its books on the back of the golf course.” That was changed, and an investment program in the course was begun, along with the development of an alumni support base. It took the turnover of four superintendents in ten years before “we were blessed with a superstar, a miracle worker, a genius and visionary, Scott Ramsay.” What had been slowly coming together “then exploded,” resulting in a restored and beautiful course.
To ensure that those gains would not be lost, an endowment was created for the benefit of the golf program. Of equal importance was Beckett’s ability to put together the team of then-Vice President John Pepper, Scott Ramsay, and Local 35 labor union leader, Bob Proto, to establish the most successful labor-management environment in the university. All these elements came into play when Yale hosted the 2004 ncaa Eastern Regional tournament. It was a great success, and the old-style course stood up to the best college players and their modern equipment. Only two of the final scores were under par. The winner, Bill Haas, was two-under par, whereas the regional winners at other courses were ten-under par or more. Beckett’s wish list for the future includes a new practice facility and a bid to host a national championship. In a 2005 interview he said, “Along with the university and the alumni, I’m proud that my fingerprints are on the Yale golf course.”