Something strange happened to our game in 2009. When U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) criticized Northern Trust for entertaining clients at a tournament, golf became a four-letter word for all that's wrong with Big Business, and glib shorthand for greed and class warfare.
Unfair? You bet! However, if we want to restore golf's reputation as the sport of gentlemen (and gentlewomen), we have many problems and preconceptions to overcome.
The first is the belief that the game is exclusionary and elitist. The PGA Tour needs to take the lead on changing hearts and minds on this point. The Tour is looking at sponsorship difficulties that have never happened before. In the past when one depressed segment of the market pulled out of the PGA Tour, there was always another sector that was growing and could move in as a replacement.
Not now. Everyone is down, and spending in golf is seen as a very bad corporate idea when people are being laid off.
We need to have an immediate 10 percent rollback in purse structures. Of that rollback, 5 percent should go to local charities of the event and 5 percent should go back to the sponsor.
The Tour is fond of two words: partners and charity, and both need some help, a lot more than Tiger Woods needs another $10 million. If we can highlight the Tour's good charitable work and make some short-term concessions to the sponsors, then maybe we can change the perception that golf is a rich guy's game isolated from the concerns and problems of regular working people. Because golf is the game of regular working people, as you can see every day at your local muni.