A Recreational Industry Considers Its Future

By Adam BarrMay 4, 2003, 4:00 pm
I got to play this morning. Played reasonably well, too. Had a fine time. On the way home, I stopped at the grocery store. Thought Id get a hoagie to share with the family for lunch.
In line behind me was a fellow who introduced himself as the local sales rep for a major golf equipment company. I asked how business is. He grimaced and said these days, its good to be with a strong brand.
I had stood in line at 7:30 a.m. to pay my green fee, just as I was now standing in line at the grocery. Good news! People need to eat; people want to play golf. Right?
If only it were so easy. Rounds per year in the United States are down 3 percent, says the National Golf Foundation. Rounds drive golf ball sales, as well as accessories such as gloves and shoes. And the weather has been marginal for yet another spring, which always crams ball sales.
Hard goods depend somewhat less on rounds and weather, but the news there isnt all wonderful either. TaylorMade-adidas had a rough first quarter, with sales dropping nearly 24 percent from the first quarter of 2002 to this latest quarter (thats 176 million Euros to 134 million. To be fair, international currency issues also depressed the numbers, not just disappointing sales). Other companies are shifting to survival mode until some clear light breaks at the end of the tunnel.
For some, its too late: Orlimar, the toast of the industry just five years ago and a two-generation family business, is closing its doors. Others plan for what they see as the inevitability of the business cycle: Cleveland Golf is buying putter maker Never Compromise, and TaylorMade is buying another custom putter company. TaylorMade is said to be on the hunt for the golf club and ball assets of Spalding Sports Worldwide as well; the parties are keeping mum about that.
So we have pockets of demand and a bad business climate in general, with preparations for the future covering a disorganized gamut. Whats it mean?
To the consumer, probably very little. People who already play golf will continue to do so, perhaps somewhat less than they have in recent years because of a perceived crimp in discretionary income and lingering effects of September 11 and the Second Iraqi War. People who dont play will continue to not play, mostly because there appears to be no impetus to change their behavior.
Therein lies the problem that has cheated industry leaders of sleep for at least six years now. How to grow the pie in a game that rewards patience while the greater part of the society demands instant gratification? Annual increases in the number of people who claim to be golfers in the United States have been negligible, so much so that the industry considers itself terminally stagnant.
Would adjusting our expectations amount to giving up? Perhaps not, if we simply adjust our perspective. The Golf 20/20 initiative, which PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem announced to the industry in 2000, seeks to make the game as popular as the National Football League by 2020. It might seem a more reasonable task to tackle if we split it into four five-year plans.
And then what we may find, after a realistic appraisal of just how many people we can bring to this game and persuade to stay, is the truth that will hurt the most:
Maybe not everyone who wants to be in the golf business can be in it. Its a hard pill, especially when you believe, as I do, that the whole nation would benefit from a deeper relationship with this game.
But the reality is, it appears this nation doesnt want it. Not now, anyway.
Im not saying that the good people who run The First Tee, LinkUp2Golf, and dozens of other excellent programs should close up shop. But I would like to hear realistic estimates of where we can expect to be in 2005, 2010, 2015 and 2020.
Then we can get busy making this game something America aspires to. And if one of golfs leaders can at least get America off the couch and, in the process, kill so-called reality television, Ill personally pay his way to Stockholm to claim the Nobel Prize he or she will so richly deserve.
Well, Ill pay it when after I get back from the grocery store, that is.
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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

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Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

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“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

So was Woods.

DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.

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“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time.