Of Sponsorships Affordability and Mango-Scented Towels

By Adam BarrJuly 26, 2002, 4:00 pm
Thoughts for a summer afternoon:
 
The Sponsor Dance: Its true that sponsorship churn on the PGA Tour seems more volatile than in a typical year. But this isnt a typical year.
 
Even before September 11, years before as a matter of fact, companies of all sizes were beginning to scrutinize their promotional spending. As business has become more competitive, corporations have tried to learn to live with the fact that corporate entertainment is necessary but not very measurable. You can never say with certainty how many sales are pushed along by glad-handing and booze-pouring ' but you can certainly write them off if you dont do it.
 
So its no wonder that some sponsors are becoming more circumspect with the dollars (anywhere from $3 million to $6 million) it takes to put ones name on a golf tournament. Add September 11 concerns and the Dow free-fall to the mix, and it makes sense that a lot of sponsorships would be in flux.
 
The PGA Tour is run by experienced executives, so it's persona is that of a large corporation ' in other words, the kind of entity people love to hate these days. But dont blame the Tour for shifting sponsorships. Under the model the Tour has been using for years, sponsorships are sold at the local level by tournament organizers. The Tour uses its Rolodex and business savvy to help organizers get matched up with sponsors, if the locals need the help.
 
Its regrettable when an event such as Reno-Tahoe goes on life support, and everybody hopes it and other troubled tournaments will recover. But just like baseball and other major sports, golf is a business. And the economic cream rises to the top, as it should.
 
By the bye, the biggest loss in terms of tournaments with a rich history would be the Hilton Head event, now in peril because of the recent bankruptcy filing of former sponsor Worldcom, which had been under contract through 2006. But that event should be an easy sell. Lets just hope its to someone with a good auditor.
 
What the Market Wont Bear: Whens the last time you played an upscale daily fee? Greens fees above $100 may provide the country-club-for-a-day experience for those who are entertaining clients, or who have forgotten how many Porsches they have. But such courses dont get a lot of repeat play, and they dont offer a sustainable strategy for growth of themselves or the game.
 
Case in point: An industry friend told me he recently played at Meadows Del Mar near San Diego at the resident rate of $100. (He was the host for the other three. Do the math, and you get a pretty big pre-lunch nut right away.) He ran into a ranger who told him their foursome was the only one on the course at the moment, but that three or four others would be along later.
 
On the other hand, go 90 miles north and get in line at the always-jammed 36-hole facility at Griffith Park in Los Angeles, where players happily wait hours to play for a reasonable price. The two-level range is constantly full too.
 
What more evidence do you need as to what kind of courses need to be built?
 
I wont be happy until affordable course openings outnumber upscale daily fee openings four to one.
 
The Dimpled World: Speaking of affordability, the golf ball industry has been good at it for years. Were so spoiled by the breadth of choices that we take it for granted. Whether you go for Pro V1, HX Blues, Tour Accuracy and their competitors or multi-packs of balls aimed at the low-price-loving market, theres something out there for you.
 
Thats called responding to consumer demand. Course builders, are you listening?
 
Butbutbut: Its true, golf courses cost a lot to maintain. And owners constantly raise the excuse that they have to provide a lush carpet of green wall-to-wall, or they cant compete. While theres some truth to this, I doubt its a real problem for folks who want to play affordable golf. As long as it was mowed and I good condition, I never met a weed or a brown spot in the fairway that interfered with the fun of a well-struck ball.
 
Can I Have Mint?: The Ranger came around to our group yesterday about six holes in and offered us cold, wet, mango-scented towels. It was easily 97 degrees with about 98 percent humidity, so we eagerly accepted and put them around our necks.
 
Not to be ungrateful ' but who chose mango?
 
Oh, and if this is one of those things that jacks up the greens fee, keep your towel. Ill bring my own. Minus the mango.
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Bhatia loses U.S. Am match after caddie-cart incident

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 2:21 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – One of the hottest players in amateur golf had his U.S. Amateur run end Wednesday under unusual circumstances.

Akshay Bhatia, the 16-year-old left-hander who has been dominating the junior golf circuit over the past year, squandered a late lead in his eventual 19-hole loss to Bradford Tilley in the Round of 64.

Bhatia was all square against Tilley as they played Pebble Beach’s par-5 14th hole. After knocking his second shot onto the green, Bhatia and his caddie, Chris Darnell, stopped to use the restroom. Bhatia walked up to the green afterward, but Darnell asked what he thought was a USGA official for a ride up to the green.

“The gentleman was wearing a USGA pullover,” Darnell explained afterward. “I asked if I could get a ride to the green to keep up pace, and he said yes. So I hopped on the back, got up to the green, hopped off and thought nothing of it.”

Conditions of the competition prohibit players and caddies from riding on any form of transportation during a stipulated round unless authorized.

It turns out that the cart that Darnell rode on was not driven by a USGA official. Rather, it was just a volunteer wearing USGA apparel. A rules official who was in the area spotted the infraction and assessed Bhatia an adjustment penalty, so instead of winning the hole with a birdie-4 to move 1 up, the match remained all square.


U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


Even more interesting was what Darnell said happened earlier in the match.

“I had already seen the other caddie in our group do it on the ninth hole,” Darnell said. “Same thing – USGA pullover, drove him from the bathroom up to the fairway – so I assumed it was fine. I didn’t point it out at the time because everything seemed kosher. He had the USGA stuff on, and I didn’t think anything of it.”

Bhatia won the 15th hole to go 1 up, but lost the 17th and 19th holes with bogeys to lose the match. He didn’t blame the outcome on the cart incident.  

“What can you do? I’ll have plenty of opportunities to play in this tournament, so I’m not too upset about it,” he said. “It’s just frustrating because I deserved to win that match. That wasn’t the outcome I wanted, but I can’t do anything about it.”

Bhatia, of Wake Forest, N.C., has been a dominant force in the junior ranks, going back-to-back at the Junior PGA (including this dramatic hole-out), capturing the AJGA Polo, taking the Sage Valley Invitational and reaching the finals of the U.S. Junior.

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1, 2, 3 out: Thornberry, Suh, Morikawa lose at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 1:14 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The top three players in the world had a tough afternoon Wednesday at Pebble Beach.

Braden Thornberry, Justin Suh and Collin Morikawa – Nos. 1-3, respectively, in the World Amateur Golf Ranking – all lost their Round of 64 matches at the U.S. Amateur.

Thornberry lost, 2 and 1, to Jesus Montenegro of Argentina. As the No. 1 amateur in the world, the Ole Miss senior was in line to receive the McCormack Medal, which would exempt him into both summer Opens in 2019, provided he remains amateur. But now he’ll need to wait and see how the rankings shake out.

Suh and Morikawa could have played each other in the Round of 32, but instead they were both heading home early.


U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


Suh, a junior at USC, never led in his 1-up loss to Harrison Ott, while Cal's Morikawa lost to another Vanderbilt player, John Augenstein, in 19 holes.

Englishman Matthew Jordan is the fourth-ranked player in the world, but he didn’t make the 36-hole stroke-play cut.

The highest-ranked player remaining is Oklahoma State junior Viktor Hovland, who is ranked fifth. With his college coach, Alan Bratton, on the bag, Hovland beat his Cowboys teammate, Hayden Wood, 3 and 2, to reach the Round of 32.

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Fiery Augenstein outduels Morikawa at U.S. Amateur

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 12:55 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Around the Vanderbilt golf team John Augenstein’s nickname is “Flash,” and it’s easy to see why.

The swing loaded with speed.

The on-course charisma.

The big shot in the big moment.

The Commodores junior added another highlight to his growing collection Wednesday, when he defeated world No. 3 Collin Morikawa in 19 holes during a Round of 64 match at the U.S. Amateur.

Out of sorts early at Pebble Beach, Augenstein was 2 down to Morikawa after butchering the short seventh and then misplaying a shot around the green on 8.

Standing on the ninth tee, he turned to Vanderbilt assistant coach/caddie Gator Todd: "I need to play the best 10 holes of my life to beat Collin."

And did he?

“I don’t know,” he said later, smirking, “but I did enough.”

Augenstein won the ninth hole after Morikawa dumped his approach shot into the hazard, drained a 30-footer on 10 to square the match and then took his first lead when he rolled in a 10-footer on 14.

One down with three holes to go, Morikawa stuffed his approach into 16 while Augenstein, trying to play a perfect shot, misjudged the wind and left himself in a difficult position, short and right of the green. Augenstein appeared visibly frustrated once he found his ball, buried in the thick ryegrass short of the green. He told Todd that he didn’t think he’d be able to get inside of Morikawa’s shot about 6 feet away, but he dumped his pitch shot onto the front edge, rode the slope and trickled it into the cup for an unlikely birdie.

“Come on!” he yelled, high-fiving Todd and tossing his wedge at his bag.

“It was beautiful,” Todd said. “I’m not sure how he did that, but pretty cool that it went in.”  


U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


Morikawa answered by making birdie, then won the 17th with a par before both players halved the home hole with birdies.

On the first extra hole, Augenstein hit his approach to 15 feet while Morikawa left it short. Morikawa raced his first putt by 6 feet and then missed the comebacker to lose the match.

It may not have been the best 10-hole stretch of Augenstein’s career, but after that pep talk on 9 tee, he went 4 under to the house.

“He’s a fiery little dude,” Morikawa said of his 5-foot-8-inch opponent. “You don’t want to get him on the wrong side because you never know what’s going to happen. He’s not going to give shots away.”

The first-round match was a rematch of the Western Amateur quarterfinals two weeks ago, where Augenstein also won, that time by a 4-and-2 margin.

“It’s the most fun format and where I can be my true self – emotional and aggressive and beat people,” Augenstein said.

That’s what he did at the 2017 SECs, where he won the deciding points in both the semifinals and the finals. He starred again a few weeks later at the NCAA Championship, last season went 3-0 in SEC match play, and now has earned a reputation among his teammates as a primetime player.

“I’ve hit a lot of big shots and putts in my career,” said Augenstein, ranked 26th in the world after recently winning the Players Amateur. “I get locked in and focused, and there’s not a shot that I don’t think I can pull off. I’m not scared to fail.”

The comeback victory against Morikawa – a three-time winner last season at Cal and one of the best amateurs in the world – didn’t surprise Todd. He’s seen firsthand how explosive Augenstein can be on the course.

“He’s just fiery,” Todd said. “He does things under pressure that you’re not supposed to do. He’s just a special kid.”

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Fowler (oblique) withdraws from playoff opener

By Will GrayAugust 15, 2018, 8:44 pm

The injury that slowed Rickie Fowler at last week's PGA Championship will keep him out of the first event of the PGA Tour's postseason.

Fowler was reportedly hampered by an oblique injury at Bellerive Country Club, where he started the third round two shots off the lead but faded to a tie for 12th. He confirmed the injury Tuesday in an Instagram post, adding that an MRI revealed a partial tear to his right oblique muscle.

According to Fowler, the injury also affected him at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he tied for 17th. After receiving the test results, he opted to withdraw from The Northern Trust next week at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey.

"My team and I feel like it's best not to play next week in the Northern Trust," Fowler wrote. "I will be back healthy and competitive ASAP for the FedEx Cup and more than ready for the Ryder Cup!!!"

Fowler is one of eight players who earned automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team when the qualifying window closed last week. His next opportunity to tee it up would be at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship, where Fowler won in 2015.

Fowler has 12 top-25 finishes in 18 starts, highlighted by runner-up finishes at both the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in the fall and at the Masters. He is currently 17th in the season-long points race, meaning that he's assured of starts in each of the first three playoff events regardless of performance and in good position to qualify for the 30-man Tour Championship for the fourth time in the last five years.