Postponement Leaves Economic Impact


First, and always foremost in the national mind, is the unutterable horror of the deaths caused by the attacks on our country. Recall as well the enormous and lasting psychological damage to those who lost family and friends.
One of the goals of any guerrilla soldier or terrorist is the disruption of our comfort and our institutions. The economic debris occasioned by the attacks - the investments of time, effort and hard-earned money, while far less important than the human cost - will, for years, continue to rain into the life of the world like so much toxic fallout.
That includes the world of golf. The decision to postpone the 34th Ryder Cup matches will interfere with the justified expectations of income and profit by people and companies in and around the world of golf, and not just in the United States.
At this point, so soon after the attacks, no one at any of the major organizations involved is comfortable discussing the dollars and cents. But since 1991, when the dramatic matches at Kiawah Island turned heads in the sports world, the Ryder Cup has become big sports and big business.
A story in Golf Digest in 1999 estimated that the gross take for the 1999 Ryder Cup at the Country Club in Brookline amounted to $63 million. After expenses, the club would have made about $6 million, and the PGA of America would have netted as much as $18 million, which would have included about $13 million in television rights fees paid by NBC.
Surely the TV rights were worth even more this time around, especially considering that every Ryder Cup for the foreseeable future will involve the world's No. 1 athlete. NBC, which doubtless foresaw major advertising revenue from the event, is taking the cancellation in stride.
'We're disappointed,' said an NBC spokesman, 'but it's a delay we can live with. The PGA of America had a complex set of considerations to deal with, and we support its decision.'
The list of businesses affected by the Belfry postponement is crowded: food and beverage, merchandise, ticket sales, travel and lodging, corporate entertainment, all these functions; and the people they employ stand to suffer the loss of income, or at least a delay until 2002.
PGA of America CEO Jim Awtrey has said that the Ryder Cup is the Olympics of golf, and that it has never been about the money. Now, in a time for which the world has no precedent for guidance, the postponement of the Ryder Cup is not about the money, either. But the loss of money from the event, and the hardship it may work on people who were depending on it, is an example of the spider-web nature of our world: you can't touch, or destroy, one strand without sending shock waves through the rest of the web.