PGA Tour needs to counter game’s rich-guy image

The PGA Tour has yet to lose sponsors due to the wrecked economy because many of them were under two-year deals, according to Tour officials. But a story in today’s New York Post points out some dark clouds on the horizon.

In an environment where businesses are spending less on everything–employees, supplies, advertising–professional sports obviously will be affected. But the PGA Tour will have to tackle a more insidious problem: the idea that promotional spending on golf is mostly an executive perk with little benefit to the company in the marketplace. True or not–most golfers are regular guys who play daily-fee courses–that’s the idea behind an item on The Post’s Page Six today. The Post tells the story of a Gannett newspaper executive who told employees at The Tucson Citizen that the paper may close just before he headed off to play in the pro-am at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in Palm Springs, Calif.

Gannett executives who recently told 35,000 employees to take off a week without pay have a skewed sense of financial hardship. Last weekend, after newspaper division chief Bob Dickey informed staffers at the Tucson Citizen the paper will shut unless a buyer was found, he sauntered off to Palm Springs, where Gannett "is spending a bundle this week on one of pro golf’s biggest corporate schmoozefests: the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic pro-am tournament."

The Post reports that Dickey will reimburse the company for the $25,000 entry fee, but the last thing golf needs right now is to be portrayed as the villainous pastime of the execs who ruined the economy. Guys like alleged con man Bernie Madoff and ex-Bear Sterns CEO James Cayne have already given the game a bad name. The only thing worse would be if C. Montgomery Burns and Lord Voldemort filled out their foursome. The Post quotes an upset Gannett employee who sums up the view that the PGA Tour will have to work hard to counter:

One employee sniped: "Feel our pain . . . You are so full of [bleep]!"

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