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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.

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