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Friday, July 27, 2012

The Olympics and Golf

As many of you will know, Golf makes a reappearance in the Olympic Games in 2016. The course, yet to be built, is being designed by a wonderful architect, Gil Hanse and I'm sure his design will be fitting for an event of this magnitude. Challenges are plentiful as the land ownership of the golf course property seems still to be in dispute and getting a golf course built in Brazil will be more of a challenge than in some countries, what with permitting, machinery, staff and more. That said, it should get done and with a 4 year time frame (right now) there is plenty of time. The format is yet to be confirmed and one can only hope the governing bodies try and do something other than a 72 hole, 4 day format - but I doubt it!

As I said it is a reappearance, because golf was played in the Olympics in 1900 and 1904 when the Olympics was a different beast all together. The 1900 Games was held in Paris and the 1904 Games was held in the US in St. Louis. Originally, the US Games was awarded to Chicago, but the organizers of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis would not accept another international event in the time frame. The exposition organization began to plan its own sports activities, informing the Chicago organizing committee that its own international sports events intended to eclipse the Games, unless they were moved to St. Louis. The founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, caved and awarded the games to St. Louis. What an amazing story and proof positive that Olympic politics was alive and well, even a hundred years ago!

Glen Echo Country Club (still in existence today) was the venue and 77 golfers from 2 countries (USA and Canada) competed for the medals. The individual winner was George Lyon from Canada who defeated Chandler Egan in a matchplay final, following a 36 hole qualifier.  There was also a team competition that awarded gold, silver and bronze. The winners of all 3 of those medals was the USA! That's right, the only teams competing were American and the winners of the gold medal were 10 guys from The Western Golf Association. Great stuff!

Seeing how the 2016 golf format plays out will be fascinating and we will follow the design and construction with great interest. Once the London Olympics are over on August 12, the golf debate will no doubt begin in earnest. In the meanwhile, Enjoy London!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Appearance Fees in Professional Golf...and Brad Pitt

Many people are getting in a flap about tournaments paying appearance fees to high profile players. The conversation began in earnest again last week with Tiger and Phil both playing (briefly!) in Jim Justice's Greenbrier Classic. Shock, horror, Mr. Justice paid them both to come and play and, as we all know, there is no appearance money paid on the PGA Tour. Every commissioner since the Tour officially began in 1975 has confirmed that this deplorable act never happened on the hallowed turf of PGA Tour events. Really, is that right? So Sam Snead, in 1945, just happened to be in Gulfport the same week as the tournament, opening a car dealership: Luke Donald, wearing an RBC patch plays in each of their events just because he is an RBC ambassador...what a coincidence!

The facts are, using a cinematic reference, if you want Brad Pitt in your movie what do you do? That's right you speak to his agent, send him the script and contractually pay him a large amount of money in the hope that you will get a return on your investment. Professional sports, including golf have been no different since athletes turned professional. If you want the best you pay for the best. In a past life, I used to run the commercial operations for Tour events in Europe and the PGA Tour and I have personal experience of these situations - it's in the budget.

So, all Mr. Justice was doing was the same as every Tournament Director would do (if they had access to similar funds), by paying players who have "draw" and sell tickets, hospitality and 30 second TV units. It's just business - happens on every tour in the world - always has done, always will do. So spare me the "golf is above paying appearance fees" rhetoric and take what you hear from Ponte Vedra with a grain of salt. The Brooks Brothers shirts there know what goes on and have been beneficiaries of this free market for decades.