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
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.
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.