Thursday, October 30, 2008

I grew up in the South, where on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons in the fall, folks convened before the altar of football. Golf in the fall was beautiful and heavenly as deer scampered over the foliage littering the rolling fairways of my beloved Forsyth (Ga.) Golf Course. The old men in their nylon jackets now mostly stayed fastened to the poker table in the small block clubhouse. Chatter about birdies and bogeys was replaced with talk of the hunting seasons and the intricacies of the wishbone offense. I liked the small-game season, which ran from November to February. I liked it not because I was a hunter, but because I enjoyed sampling some of my friend's quail, rabbit and opossum stew.
Some of the boys who worked the night shifts came to the golf course after they spent their mornings on deer stands. Occasionally, they would showcase their kill. A taxidermist could make a good living in Monroe County. The golf course was often no more than a rest stop between the hunting lodge and the football stadium.
Yes, we got along splendidly in the fall before the Golf Channel and the PGA Tour made us pay attention to the FedEx Cup and the Fall Series. Even though there had always been golf tournaments that meddled with football season, most of us felt like the golf season really ended after the PGA Championship. Sure we watched the silly season events - the Skins Game and the J.C. Penney Classic - but that was while we were dozing around the TV after eating troughs of Thanksgiving turkey and dressing.
I carry much of the same feeling of sleepiness toward this year's seven-tournament Fall Series. I'm glad to see no-name fellows like Will Mackenzie, Dustin Johnson, Marc Turnesa and Cameron Beckman put the time to good use by winning tournaments and earning financial security for their families. But is it too much golf at the end of the year? I know it's a part of a national trend: Year-round baseball for kids, year-round grade school, year-round Law & Order, year-round summer camps, year-round church bingo, year-round everything. Whatever happened to seasons and summer breaks. It used to be that if you wanted to play golf year-round, you bought a time-share in Florida.
Don't get me wrong. I want golf to flourish at all times, through all seasons, but I also want the right to miss it. Week after week the Fall Series events are fielded mostly by guys struggling to keep their cards and veterans trying to pad their pensions. The PGA Tour, the wonderful meritocracy that it is, tries to give us The Ringling Bros. circus every week without booking the elephants and the trapeze act. Forget about Tiger Woods playing in the Fall Series. Try getting anyone in the Top 30 to play.
In the world of business there is a McDonalds or Wal-Mart model and then there is a Rolls Royce model. McDonalds and Wal-Mart crush the competition through economies of scale, by being bigger than all their competitors. They build, build, build. Rolls Royce and Lamborghini have a boutique model that values quality over quantity. They are exclusive brands that aren't accessible to everybody. They build cars to order for people with incredible wealth. They don't rely on a bullish economy or a fabulous superstar to keep them solvent.
The PGA Tour should follow the boutique model and raise the quality of their product by lowering the quantity of it. Give us tournaments that bring together the top players with the top golf courses. Then make the whole season end in September and let the hunters and the football fans have their weekends back.

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