The Pellucid Perspective - October 2013 - (Page 2)

GOLF’S LEADERSHIP Are golf ’s nonprofit “emperors” fiddling while Rome burns? Time for golf’s “leadership” to lead with their bankrolls By Jim Koppenhaver U nless you’ve been living under a golf industry rock this calendar year, you’ve no doubt seen the golf industry’s three major nonprofits, the PGA TOUR, the USGA and the PGA of America, in the news with big events and announcements. Part of the challenge however is that none of those headline events had anything to do with the immediate challenge before the industry: stabilizing and growing the golf participation base and getting existing golfers to play more. While I can’t contest the fact that all three organizations, as part of their basic business model (and to deflect ongoing scrutiny into the size and growth of their respective war chests), have philanthropy and the best intentions of spreading the love in their heart, it does seem increasingly curious to me that while the industry flounders, they aren’t stepping up and investing in the charitable cause of putting the industry back on its feet. The USGA got the ball rolling with its ill-timed announcement of switching networks to Fox Sports back in August. The reasons cited by the USGA for the switch were expanding the exposure of the national championship, having more control over the product and messaging and using the US Open as a platform to make “the game compelling, dramatic and fun to as wide an array of current and potential players and fans as possible.” That last one was the one that caught my eye. While nothing quite says “grow the game” like changing the network coverage of the US Open (tongue-in-cheek intended), it never ceases to amaze me how most of these things in golf that are about the money are never, supposedly, about the money. Instead these massively profitable nonprofits wrap themselves in the flag of “grow the game,” “touch more lives,” and “being part of the communities in which we participate.” As interesting for the USGA in particular is the fact that they sit on an investment portfolio of $300M+ which has thinly (but successfully over decades) been rationalized as being a necessary reserve to defend the Association in the event of a lawsuit over rules or equipment regulations at some future point in time. Heck, with that kind of money, the USGA could afford to run for office at either a large state or national level. Who are we kidding here? I think back to the inaugural session of Golf 20/20 with myself and other research entities petitioning the initiative’s executive board for $200K to establish basic information systems to track and diagnose industry health at the most basic level. Their response? Crickets. The most deafening silence came from the USGA, which neither attended nor sent a delegate to most of the discussions and decisional meetings. Really? Later in August this year, the PGA TOUR found itself ac- 2 The Pellucid PersPecTive cidentally in the cross-hairs of one congressman from Oklahoma regarding its nonprofit status. Yes, this is one of the very same people who are now responsible for dysfunctional government at the national level but hey, they were busy at the time trying to figure how to close the NFL’s tax loophole, never mind the impending train wreck of the federal government exceeding its borrowing limit once again in October. Back to the story, Senator Tom Colburn (R-OK) introduced a bill called the PRO Sports act that would strip the NFL of its tax-exempt status. Within the definition of organizations that enjoy this benefit today but would lose it if the bill were passed at some future date (right up there with hell freezing over, reading the current political tea leaves) are the NHL, the PGA TOUR and the ATP World Tour (tennis). Interestingly, Major League Baseball and the NBA have chosen not to live in the nonprofit world and it seems they’re both doing OK without that shelter and associated benefits. I acknowledge and admit that the PGA TOUR has a larger, more visible and more purposeful emphasis on charitable giving, but one does have to scratch one’s head when a multi-billion dollar revenue organization whose leader takes home $5M+ annually and whose leading members can make 2x or more of that amount by winning a season-long competition pays a pittance to the federal coffers even as the federal government is shut down for not having enough money to pay its bills. The timing and irony couldn’t possibly be better, not only for the PGA TOUR but also the much better endowed yet beloved NFL. While fixing this wouldn’t put a dent in the national budget mess, it’s the optics and the principle of it that make you stop and wonder. But that’s not the focus of my beef. My particular issue is that, in the midst of all that revenue being generated and then dragged across the salary, benefits and administration line of Ponte Vedra, Fla., set aside for reserves by the PGA TOUR and then the remainder being distributed to charity, wouldn’t you think that somewhere in there the PGA TOUR could find a couple hundred thousand to a million to put some serious muscle into fixing the golf industry’s problem with participation and demand? With the benefit of 13 years industry exposure and knowledge now, it’s comical to me in retrospect that the PGA TOUR organized and hosted the various iterations of the Golf 20/20 Conferences and yet, at every one I attended, there was an inevitable “passing of the figurative hat” on the closing day, with the people on the stage representing those who had the money in the industry and those in the audience the ones most suffering the brunt of declining participation and the fallout from builda-course-a-day. Who needs fiction writers? You can’t make October 2013

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Pellucid Perspective - October 2013

The Pellucid Perspective - October 2013
Are golf ’s nonprofit “emperors” fiddling while Rome burns?
Seniors in their golden years, but are you?
A new determinant on “weather” golfers play or not?
Golf needs a voice in the regulatory process
September golf weather impact: Positive month caps positive Q3
Established SF courses leap-frog larger markets
ClubCorp IPO shares priced lower than expected at opening, rise 10% in debut
The show must go on

The Pellucid Perspective - October 2013