Friday, February 6, 2009

Professional Golf on TV

The players on tour have got to make an attitude adjustment!
by Charlie Leck

A lot of you won’t care, but I kind of do… (and, I have a few readers who also love golf as I do)...

…that professional golf, more specifically the professional golf TV tour, is moving into rough waters and there is an ominous cloud following it as well.

I've got to get away from politics and government for a while. It's driving me nuts. I'll turn to my favorite activity in the world -- golf!

I like watching the golf tour on TV – the young guys – I don’t have any time for the seniors, or, as it’s called, the Champions Tour.

However, the major sponsors of the golf tour are automobile manufacturers and banks and financial institutions. Oops!

U.S. Bank just announced this week that they will not sponsor the Milwaukee Open after 2010. Too expensive! Tiger never shows up! Neither does Phil. Ginn Resorts dropped their Senior and Ladies tour events in the middle of their contract. The Professional Golf Association (PGA) is going to sue them. Good luck! You know, it's the old turnip and blood concept. Many other major sponsors have lawyers reading their contracts.

Those pros on the tour are wonderful golfers, but they really don’t deserve the kind of money they make – unless, of course, you relate what they make to the prima donnas of professional baseball, basketball and football. Only Tiger is making that kind of money.
I think there are pay-day cuts ahead for the sweet swingers. Golf itself is in a descendency in popularity and a lot of that is driven by economics. About 80 percent of golf clubs in England are seeking members. I’d venture a guess that it is about the same in this country. The days of long waiting lists for membership at America’s private golf clubs is over for a while (except, of course, at a very few extremely prestigious ones). Play is up at the less expensive public golf courses and down at the higher priced courses.
The King (Arnold Palmer) probably had Tiger Woods in mind when he talked two weeks ago about how the bigger names on tour must play in more tournaments, or at least make it to all the events over a 3 or 4 year period. “It’s something that golf just owes these sponsors.” Palmer is now the official host at the Bob Hope Desert Classic. That event is sponsored by Chrysler and may be in trouble.

Arnold also hosts the Bay Hill Invitational Golf Championship that is sponsored by MasterCard.

Phil Mickelson says he just can’t be away from the family that much. “I’ll wind up with 20 or 21 tournaments like, I usually do.” Now, let’s see, how many weeks are in a year? Phil ought to think of all those ordinary people who have to get on planes every week and try to sell soap products in places like Cleveland, Scranton, Burlington and Buffalo. My old man worked 363 and one-half days a year without a day off.

Phil gets about 30 weeks to hang around home and see plenty of the kids – practicing all during the time they’re away at school. Phil may have to rethink things for the good of the tour and the other ordinary players. Tiger, too. They can each work another two or three weeks each year -- for the good of the game.

These big-name players ought to work things out so that one of them is at every single tournament during the year. In addition to Woods and Mickelson, the players who really draw are Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Boo Weekly, Ernie Els, Camilo Villegas, Padraig Harrington and Jim Furyk. One could probably add Anthony Kim to that list now. And, Woody Austin, because he's so humorous and good at the game, is also popular.

Another thing these golfers must do is treat the ProAm events on Wednesdays with more class and enthusiasm. These folks, who play in these events, are important to the financial success of the entire weekend.

The same is true with the dozens of volunteers who help make these events possible. The players need to treat them more courteously and interact personally with them. I worked an event as a volunteer about 15 years ago. I had to pay over $100 for pants, shirt and a cap and then was treated gruffly by most of the players. Over the entire weekend, only one player – Mark McCumber – came up to me and thanked me for volunteering.

These guys better realize that TV golf could be in trouble in the coming few years. They need to change their attitudes a whole bunch.

The PGA Championship (a major on the golf tour) comes to our neighborhood this year. That event, because all the great players will be teeing it up, won't have a problem. The TV ratings will be great and the grounds will be sold out every day. As a matter of fact, any tour event that Tiger plays in will be a financial success. The ones he passes on will struggle.

Arnold Palmer has got it right and I hope Woods and Mickelson -- and some of the other leading players -- start listening to him.

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