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Twitter may help Gore get sponsor exemption

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This is a story about what happens when kindness intersects with social media, when a relationship forged on the golf course extends to the outer reaches of cyberspace.

The roots of this story can be traced back to last September. As part of his comeback from shoulder surgery, Jason Gore was competing in the Nationwide Tour’s Boise Open. Once called the “Prince of Pinehurst” for his three-day contention at the 2005 U.S. Open, the burly Gore earned legions of supporters not only for that unlikely jaunt through the venerable links, but for his ensuing three victories on the developmental circuit and one more once joining the PGA Tour for good.

Maybe that’s why Eric Magidson was drawn to him at the driving range that week. A golf fan from Bend, Ore., Magidson initiated a conversation with Gore early on and – being the gregarious, outgoing sort that he is – Gore was more than happy to engage in what became an ongoing discussion throughout the week.

After the tournament was over, Magidson and Gore kept in touch through Twitter, with the former – a computer science instructor at Central Oregon Community College who is aspiring to compete in this year’s Monday qualifier for the Boise Open – often seeking advice from the latter.

Gore has plenty of it to offer, from a lifetime of experience. After failing to earn his PGA Tour card for the 2012 season by a single stroke at Q-School, he now owns status only as a past champion, which he expects will be enough to get him into only about a half-dozen events this year. He understands and appreciates the predicament, but as a Southern California native and longtime fan of Riviera Country Club, there’s one tournament that means more to him than all others.

All of which was the impetus for the following tweet on Sunday:

@JasonGore59: Just signed up for the @ntrustopen qualifier, but you have NO IDEA how stoked I'd be to get a sponsors invitation! #myhometown #mymajor

Gore considered the post simply a public attempt at levity. Magidson considered it an opportunity to take action.

Since the pro had never disappointed his new fan, Magidson took it upon himself to lend a hand – or at least a couple of thumbs. He almost immediately started a grassroots campaign to support the cause, asking anyone he could find to re-tweet their advocacy.

“I’m simply attempting to pay back his kindness,” Magidson says. “Kindness earns kindness. It is who he is.”

Apparently he’s not the only one who believes that. Within days, Magidson had generated hundreds of re-tweets of support from the masses, including from NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick and fellow professional golfers such as Pat Perez, Geoff Ogilvy, D.A. Points and Christina Kim.

“People love Jason. He’s a good man and it’s his backyard,” Kim says. “Getting an invite will show just how much of an impact the world of Twitter has in everyday life. The world has shrunk to the size of a golf ball on Twitter. It’s the American dream, what Jason is trying to achieve.”

A dream that began as one innocent tweet, but has since turned into a viral campaign for a cause.

“I was just going to throw out a hint-hint kind of thing and it just blew up,” Gore explains with a laugh. “It’s crazy. I had no intention of doing this.”

Actually, he hasn’t done anything. While some players have been known to get creative with requests for sponsor exemptions, Gore went the old-fashioned route, simply writing a letter to Northern Trust officials prior to his tweet heard ‘round the world.

What has transpired is the power of social media at its best. To the uninitiated, Twitter can be a vast wasteland of faceless handles all arguing politics or divulging what was on today’s lunch menu. When used more efficiently, though, the medium can be used for good more than evil – from generating donations for cancer research to aiding in kidnapping cases and other crimes.

By comparison, an effort to get one player into one golf tournament should be viewed as trivial, but it may be a groundbreaking campaign within the industry.

As the Twitterverse sounds off about the movement, their 140-character voices are being heard by Northern Trust Open officials. The tournament’s own Twitter account recently posted a response on Tuesday:

@NTrustOpen: Hey @JasonGore59 fans...we do hear you! Exemptions decisions are coming soon. Stay tuned...

In fact, exemptions will be issued by the tournament committee sometime next week, with Gore eligible for one of two spots. The groundswell of support through social media can only help his cause.

“I would be surprised if it hurt him. I don’t see how it could hurt him,” says Mike Bone, general manager for the tournament. “We have such an incredibly strong field that we’re in a position of possibly being able to give the people what they want.

“There are a few hundred tweets from what I can see. If half of them buy a ticket, I think that would be pretty cool.”

Therein lies the biggest benefit for tournament title sponsors. One of the main priorities for such corporations is pleasing the consumer base. If a large percentage of that base is requesting a specific decision, isn’t it simply good business to acquiesce to the masses?

This could be a new frontier in the way sponsor exemptions are administered. Instead of silently offering a spot in the field to whomever tournament officials deemed worthy, such cases could go to a popular vote, with the leading candidate being issued the free pass.

As for Gore, he remains both baffled and humbled by the social media reaction to his cause.

“I did not mean for this to happen,” he says. “It just kept snowballing and snowballing.”

The result is that he now has more than a snowball’s chance in Southern California of receiving a Northern Trust Open exemption. It would be a fitting conclusion to this story, one which is about kindness and the power of social media – and what happens when those two forces work in conjunction.