What I learned from watching last weekend's televised Silly Season father-son tournament for golf's big names is something I already knew from when my son, an aspiring mini-tour player, got turned down for sponsor's exemptions for PGA Tour and Web.com tournaments in favor of, say, the sons or grandsons of famous pro golfers.
"Dad," Mike Van Sickle joked, "you should've won a major."
Yeah, that's on me. My bad.
At least, I think he was joking.
Stewart and Connor Cink won the Father-Son Challenge. It's a TV show because it's filled with big-name golfers. The requirement for getting in the field, as my son outlined, is having won a major. There were 20 teams in the event, featuring 12 Hall of Fame golfing greats. More power to them. What airs is what TV can sell. But that event begs a question, doesn't it? Who really is the best father-son golfing combo in America? Or the world?
Forget this Silly Season show. Why not have a real, honest-to-goodness father-son (or daughter) championship open to anyone, pro or amateur, to settle the issue? There are probably plenty of PGA Tour players who haven't won majors who could team up with their sons and kick the behinds of these Father-Son Challenge entrants (some of whom qualify as ceremonial golfers, let's be honest). There may be top-notch amateurs who could compete with their sons or fathers, too.
There are some existing parent-child tournaments but none is even close to a true national event. Cleveland Golf and Golf Magazine sponsored one early last year, but it was limited to a small field and was more of a travel event (Spanish Bay and Pebble Beach were part of the tournament rotation) than a serious tournament. Several travel companies host similar outings as a way to sell you a big-ticket trip, and several golf associations and PGA sections also hold local or regional father-son tourneys. There is no granddaddy of father-son golf events, however.
The USGA last year announced that it was discontinuing its obsolete public links championship and adding a two-man team championship in its place. A parent-child national championship is one glaring thing missing from the USGA's championship menu. It wouldn't be that difficult to set up eight qualifying sites around the U.S. to determine half the field. The other half could be invitees, current or former PGA Tour players who would be deemed to have the appropriate pedigree by a panel of tournament chairmen. The qualifiers join the exempt teams for 36 holes, the field is cut to the low 16 teams, and then they play 36 more holes.
The winning team then could brag that yes, they are the best parent-child duo in the country. They'd be national champs. Maybe the Cink guys would win that, too. I know they'd have a lot of fun trying. So would all the potential challengers. All we need is a family-oriented sponsor with deep pockets and we've got a national championship, a purse and a TV deal. You could have the final 36 holes conclude on a Monday and a Tuesday so Golf Channel, which has no live golf to show those days, might be enticed. I can already see the promo spot in which a scowling Gary Nicklaus, standing just in front of Jack Nicklaus, tells Daniel Trevino, standing just in front of Lee Trevino, "My daddy can beat your daddy!"
Yeah, I'd watch that telecast. It wouldn't have to be shown during the Silly Season. There wouldn't be anything silly about it. Just real dads, real sons and real golf — sounds like a good time.
The following questions were just extracted from the Van Cynical Mailbag with a very powerful winch. Thanks for writing:
Van Cynical, How much would golf balls, clubs and bags cost if they weren't given to professionals all over the world? — [email protected] via Twitter
Should I add, "he said bitterly" to the end of your question? A valid point, Mike, but you know how retailing works. Once they establish their margin, they're not going back. Plus, American buyers have been brainwashed to believe that the more expensive an item is, the better and more desirable it is. We're a bunch of suckers. And what's the actual production cost of a $4 golf ball? I don't know but I'll guess 15 cents.
Van Sickle, With no status to start the 2013 season, can Jordan Spieth win back-to-back Rookie of the Year Awards ala Steve Stricker's back-to-back Comeback Player of the Year Awards? — Jim Hopkins via Twitter
I can see starting the 2014 season during the 2013 calendar year has messed with your head, Hoppy. There's a certain perverse logic that I almost understand. And that scares me. I think what you're really asking is, Can Jordan Spieth travel back in time and prevent himself from inventing a time machine? The answer to both of those questions is, No.
Vans, With the men's and women's U.S. Open on the same course (Pinehurst No. 2) in consecutive weeks this summer, how long before we see a real co-sanctioned PGA, LPGA and Champions tour event? — HappyGolfPug via Twitter
If you're talking Silly Season stuff, we've already had the glorious history of the live-on-tape-from-a-month-ago Wendy's 3-Tour Challenge. If you mean a real co-sanctioned actual honest-to-gosh tournament that pits men, women and seniors against each other rather than as teammates, the answer is never. The PGA Tour isn't going to cut the gals and old guys in on a piece of its much-much-much bigger action. You'll see a merger between the American and European tours to create a super-tour, or cats and dogs living together, to quote Dr. Peter Venkman from "Ghostbusters," before you see your suggestion.
Van Cynical, How does the tour work around the independent-contractor thing as many top players cut back their schedules? Will it end up leading to a reduced tournament schedule or a tiered system where we don't care about most tournaments? — Brian Rosenwald via Twitter
Eventually, it probably will lead to one of the options you mention, B.R. For now, the PGA Tour has strategically spread out its "bigger" events, effectively forcing the game's best players to play every so often and give the appearance of unilaterally strong fields. You've got the World Match Play at the end of the West Coast Swing, the World Golf Championship event at Doral during the Florida swing in March, the Players in May, and major championships in April, June, July and August. September catches the finish of the FedEx Cup series. So there's pretty much at least one big-deal tournament from February through September, and that gets us to football season. Mission accomplished, sort of.
Vans, I'm a week late on this but how do they determine which 16 players tee it up in Tiger's World Challenge event? Did Phil decline an invite? — MLE via Twitter
If you thought the formula was that Tiger invites 15 guys he's pretty sure he can beat, you're wrong. The 11 highest-ranked players who accept invites tee it up. Five sponsor's exemptions are also awarded, including one to Tiger, of course, and one to the defending champ. My invite once again got lost in the mail. Dang.