Among the Strollers and Play Groups Potential Golfers
The second annual Golf 20/20 Conference convened this week at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla. More than 240 industry members discussed the future of a non-growing industry.
Heres the mission statement:
to align the golf industry behind a plan that addresses the future of golf in a strategic manner, with an emphasis on accelerating growth and participation, and creating new avenues of access into the game.
Wisely concluding that we cant take anything for granted about golfs potential, the World Golf Foundation (which oversees 20/20) commissioned consumer research. The responses of 100,000 people generated 20/20s first look at the market.
The World Golf Foundation has a clear interest in fan-building, so its not surprising that the results are hopeful. That doesnt mean its not true. But as with all such results, the value depends on your point of view.
For instance, the study says that about 10 million adult U.S. golfers (40 percent of the total) play about 48 rounds of golf per year and spend an average of $1,700 annually on fees and gear. Most of these people are between 40 and 64 years old. They have household incomes of more than $75,000. And there may be 12 million more of them out there, waiting to be invited into the game.
Such an identifiable, easy-to-reach customer base is a marketers dream. I hope this Best Customer scenario works out as well as the WGF hopes.
But theres some potential bad with the potential good. Look at the age group: 40-64. How does this fit in with all the up-and-coming junior programs we hear so much about, such as The First Tee? And look at that income level. Clearly, it excludes a lot of people.
Junior programs were a major topic at this years conference, and the study just cited also said that in the long run (the studys words), junior programs pay considerable participation dividends. But between smitten junior and Best Customer, where is the golfer?
Somewhere in that middle, Im convinced, is a group Ill call by my own research-group name: The Golfer Wanna-Be Parent. I admit my evidence is anecdotal, but just about everyone in the industry agrees that adults of a certain age ' lets say 25 to 35 ' often leave golf or never get to it because of the joys, tribulations and responsibilities of caring for young children.
Ive always wondered how to track the golf lives of such people, or if its even possible. Its important, though. More than child-rearing happens in this era of life. For many, personal income rises steeply, to levels that wont always be spent mostly on formula, milk or dance lessons. Preferences for allocating precious leisure time develop. Children choose sports of their own, influencing the way their parents play and coach.
Time, cost, and difficulty are the factors that intimidate and irritate most nascent golfers, says former Dunlop Slazenger president Dave Branon. Naturally, the first two are special problems for parents of young children.
Perhaps one more challenge to add to the list is how to keep as golfers people who cant play ' as fans, as dreamers, as coaches, as grass-roots organizers. Little League, done right, can awaken the generous baseball coach in a former kid.
And golf can enter (or stay in) the heart of a man or woman who, when playing with a child, dreams of the day he or she can smile and say to the child, You go ahead and hit first.
Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.
Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.