'Money talks in the world of pro golf' - Ivan Morris

Ivan Morris Column – Championships to be aligned

Ivan Morris

WHY anybody would pay their hard cash to watch a contrived and distasteful $9-million, winner take-all, miss-match challenge between Ryder Cup failures, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, on Friday, November 23 is beyond me.

Make no mistake this affair is all about gambling with a blind eye cast towards side-bet presses, nearest the pin, longest drives, nominated putts and whatever else takes your fancy? Golf is discredited by made for TV money matches like this.

Genuine tournament golf is undermined. The already very, very rich become richer still instead of spreading the money around. What the top pro's earn 'off the golf course' makes me want to emulate 'the cow that jumped over the moon.' For example: a top 100-player can expect a bonus of between a quarter and half million for wearing a logo-ed cap.

Not only are there hat deals but chest, sleeve and collar deals too that can earn between 25,000 and a juicy 100,000.

A walking billboard who wears a multiple of logos won’t receive as much as 'cool, clean heroes' like Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose. Less is more for the higher profile players who aren’t allowed to wear additional logos.

An all-in clothes and equipment deal, is usually better than touting different brands of equipment and an assortment of clothes. Although, shoes and golf balls are often stand-alone revenue sources.

Titleist balls dominate the pro game but when another manufacturer waves a big cheque under one of the top player's nose, the marketing department's advertising spiels are quietly put aside.

Then, there are other incentive bonuses that make life so comfortable: for retaining one's Tour card, expect to see between 10K and 25K arrive in your Bank Account. A win will nett you a 25,000–100,000 bonus.

For finishing amongst the Top-30 in the FedEx Cup: 100,000. Add it all up and a top-player will be earning north of $2-million per annum but, of course, the outgoings are high too.

There are caddies, agents, coaches and fitness gurus of the physical and mental kind to be paid - not to mention the player's own travel and subsistence expenses; taking care of family business at home; tax, mortgage, liability and disability insurances and pension contributions add up. The Caddie’s Cut is substantial: 6% for cuts made; 8% for top-10s; 10% for a win plus a negotiated weekly travel-stipend of 1,500-3,000 depending on the destination. The annual average a top caddy earns is not far shy of 200,000.

Agents' fees are usually confined to off-course earnings but they can be as high as 30%. The player's coach and personal trainer might receive 1 to 3% of tournament winnings + expenses, if any occur.

No matter how you dice it, there is still a large margin left over for the top-earners but you are looking at an absolute maximum of 400-golfers worldwide in this super-rich class.

The rest, of which there are many thousands, barely keep afloat.  To be among the lucky 400 you would need to be able to beat par in every round you play (apart from the US Open).

A par-shooter with the appropriate sponsor exemptions would have made only 11-cuts on the PGA Tour last year, finishing in 47th place on average and earning a barely break-even return of $350,273 for 179th spot in the all-important FedEx Cup rankings and losing his playing privileges.

No matter what Tour you play on these days you must break par every day. Seamus Power 'miraculously' retained his card on the PGA Tour last year with 'viable' earnings of $566,526. He missed only two halfway cuts all year long, which meant he was earning steadily even if his average finish was 45th.

If Power had played in all four of the majors and finished in his customary 45th place, he would have won an extra 150,000 to add to his 566,526 and he'd be on his way to the comfort zone.

Nomadic golfers who play their golf here, there and everywhere for the cheapest green fees are a drain on struggling Golf Clubs. Isn't it about time that GCs stopped facilitating Nomads in ways that hurt their own best interests?

Clubs should adopt the system used in New Zealand. Members of NZ Clubs affiliated to their national association are charged a lower green fee than visitors from overseas and unaffiliated NZ golfers - and rightly so!

It's not a cartel. Each club charges whatever it likes but the unaffiliated are charged a little bit extra.

There are two green fee rates – one for members of the national federation and another for non-members that can be anything from $5-$20 extra.

Why should non-members of golf club have cheaper golf than the Club's own members? If an annual fee is, say €800/pa and the average golfer plays 40-times (probably an above average figure) per year, it works out at €20 per game.

In that case, it makes no sense that a green fee should ever be less than €30. Clubs are giving Society Golfers great deals, in many cases, for less than what the members pay. It's not fair and it only encourages non-membership and an "I'll pay only when I play" attitude. Golfers should also be receiving a 'value' for their GUI/ILGU Card.

Words of the Wise

There’s nothing more satisfying for a tour golfer—or any golfer, for that matter—than hitting the right shots under pressure. It’s called getting the job done – Lorne Rubenstein

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