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Tour officials continue to work without contract

PGA Tour
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MOBILE, AL - NOVEMBER 10: Ben Barry of Tuscaloosa carries a stuffed Pink Panther on his shoulders as he follows Paula Creamer through her third round play in The Mitchell Company LPGA Tournament of Champions at Magnolia Grove Golf Course on November 10, 2007 in Mobile, Alabama. Creamer is nicknamed the Pink Panther. (Photo by Dave Martin/Getty Images)  - 

Remember those replacement NFL officials that made a mess of the early stages of this season? Well, that’s not going to happen in golf, at least not yet, but the specter of replacement officials, and even a lockout, still looms over the PGA Tour following an unproductive offseason.

The attorney for the Tour officials’ union confirmed to on Wednesday that although negotiations are ongoing with Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., the two sides remain far apart on many issues.

The officials’ contract with the Tour was a one-year extension signed at the end of the 2011 season and although negotiations broke down last week, officials plan to continue to work events, including this week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

“We’re operating without an agreement as of Dec. 31st. They are (in Hawaii) right now and unless the Tour says otherwise they are going to work,” said Christian Dennie, an attorney with Fort Worth, Texas-based Barlow Garsek & Simon who represents the officials’ union. “These guys really take their job seriously and we’re going to try and help them as much as they can.”

“Like we do with other negotiations we don’t comment on the status of those discussions,” said Ty Votaw, the PGA Tour’s executive vice president of communication and international affairs.

One Tour official told GTC last month that the central issues between the Tour and the union are compensation and retirement plans that he said lag well behind other professional sports leagues.

Tour officials with five years of service, for example, are paid considerably less ($103,000) than officials with similar levels of service in Major League Baseball ($133,000), the NBA ($124,000) and the NHL ($202,000).

The Tour officials anticipate at least some level of support from players, particularly following an officiating snafu at the '11 PGA Championship, which does not use Tour officials.