The four player directors on the Policy Board were on hand at Bay Hill late Monday and early Tuesday but, as one director pointed out, there werent a lot of action items.
Instead, commissioner Tim Finchem gave an overview of the economic situation facing the Tour in the coming months. Where the Tour is perched within the unsteady financial waters, however, is a matter of perspective.
Everything seemed pretty good, player director Brad Faxon said. I think were surviving better than most. Everybody is kind of gun shy to spend money on a tournament right now, but the Tour is a good investment and I think people are starting to understand that.
Faxon characterized the feel of the meeting as cautiously optimistic. Fellow director Stewart Cink, however, dubbed the mood as simply cautious.
The biggest topic was the economy, Cink said. The message was, 08 was great, but brace yourselves for 09. Were still able to give a lot of money to charity but things are starting to get tight.
The Tour was placed on the defensive recently when members of congress, led by Rep. Barney Frank, blasted Northern Trust ' which received funds from the Department of Treasurys $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program ' for entertaining during the tournament.
Everything seems so negative right now, Faxon said. Its hard to understand.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Frank took a call from Finchem earlier this month and he softened his stance on banks receiving federal bailout funding sponsoring golf tournaments. He did remain skeptical of the need for financial institutions to entertain at Tour events.
It doesnt make sense, Cink said. Northern Trust got criticized for flying in 2,500 people for the tournament and they stayed at local hotels and ate at restaurants. Isnt that what the economy needs right now, people spending money?
Because most contracts are multiple-year deals the impact of the current economic crisis has been limited. Even struggling institutions have met their financial obligations. Wells Fargo, which purchased Wachovia, is committed to sponsor the Charlotte, N.C., stop through 2014 and even troubled Stanford Financial has reportedly met most of its financial obligations for the Memphis event this year.
Although many of the secondary sponsorships that tournaments need to maintain charitable contributions have been impacted by the downturn, the message from the Board meeting was that the Tour is prepared to weather the storm.
Theres no sugar coating things in the board room, but as any good business should we have prepared for this, Cink said.
The player directors ' who included Faxon, Cink, David Toms and Zach Johnson ' were briefed on the possibility of the Tour picking up the tab to continue a tournament, but only if the event had long-term potential. Although it was not presented as an option, the possibility of contraction also was discussed.
I dont think contraction will ever be a strategy, Cink said. But it could be a result.
The 16-member Player Advisory Council is scheduled to receive a similar briefing next week during the Shell Houston Open.