September 30, 2015

PGA TOUR All-Stars?

PGA Tour Post-Season

Now that the PGA TOUR FedEx Cup playoffs are over, there is a natural void in the spectator’s excitement for golf. On even years (2010, 2012, 2014, etc), this void is temporarily filled with the history-rich Ryder Cup – potentially the most exciting three days as a golf spectator. The PGA TOUR has tried to carry this excitement over on odd years (2011, 2013, 2015, etc) with the President’s Cup, which pits the top U.S. professionals against the top non-European international professionals. While there is some flare to this event, it essentially has become neglected step-child of the Ryder Cup – it’s there, but no one really cares or pays that close of attention to it.PGA Tour

And then there’s the PGA’s Grand Slam of Golf – a two round event where the season’s major champions play against either. Boring. In fact, the 2015 event that was scheduled to be played at Trump National in Los Angeles was canceled “due to the timing and logistics needed to stage the PGA Grand Slam of Golf to the highest standards.” Trust me, no one noticed or cared that it was canceled.

Nothing against the Ryder Cup, President’s Cup, or Grand Slam of Golf, but is that the best that professional golf can do for an exciting non-official post season event? I think not, and I have an idea.

Shift your mind to Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Basketball Association (NBA). While both of these professional sports associations have their own major issues to solve, the one thing they both have in common is an insane following of their mid-season all-star events. And I’m not talking about the actual all-star games themselves (no one watches those), but the skills challenges leading up to the all-star game. I’m talking about the home run derby, slam-dunk contest, and 3-point challenge. These are fun events that people love to watch!

Hey PGA TOUR, PGA of America, USGA , and R&A (the governing bodies of professional golf) – wake up! You have the most skilled athletes in their respective sport, and a very affluent following of spectators. Let’s put on a post-season skills challenge where the players can really show off their stuff. Here a few of my event ideas:

Long Drive Contest: Top 16 in driving distance for the season play a tournament similar to the NCAA bracket (1 vs 16, 2 vs 15, etc). Each player gets 5 drives hitting to a 25-30 yard wide grid (make it somewhat difficult to hit), with only drives that end up within the grid qualifying. Highest total distance of the 5 drives moves on to the next round.

Approach Shot Contest: Similar format as the long drive contest, but invite the top 16 players in greens-in-regulation to participate (supposedly the best iron strikers in the game). Each player gets to hit 5 shots – one from 100 yards, one from 125, 150, 175, and 200 yards. Total closest proximity after the 5 shots moves on to the next round. Actual shots can vary from round to round to keep the players on their toes.

Scrambling Contest: Similar format as above, but invite the top 16 scramblers. Each player hits 5 shots, each from a different location (basic chip, flop shot, sand shot, behind an obstacle, and 40 yards out). Total closest proximity after the 5 shots moves on the next round. Actual shots can vary from round to round to keep the players on their toes.

Putting Contest: Similar format, but invite the top 16 putters on TOUR. Stage putts beginning at 5 feet, and progress back every foot when you make a putt. Miss a putt, and your’e done for the round. The player that makes the longest putt moves on. The key is to keep the player who is not putting in isolation so they don’t see the line. Actual shots can vary from round to round to keep the players on their toes. Tied after a round, i.e. both players miss the 12-footer? Start a sudden death where they both missed. If both players miss again, start over from the same spot. If both players make, move back a foot. Continue until a winner is decided.

The only major drawback I can see is getting the players to commit to participating. After a long season, many of the players may just want a break from the spotlight. Motivating them with money may not be the answer, because as Rory McIlory just said regarding potentially winning the $10 million FedEx Cup prize, “Luckily, that amount of money doesn’t mean much to me anymore.”

So how do we motivate these players to participate? I say we guilt them into playing via charity. Of all of the American professional sports, the PGA TOUR hands down donates more money to charity. Therefore, whatever major corporation decides to sponsor the PGA TOUR All-Star Skills Challenge, all winnings earned by the players will go to the charity of their choice. When invited to participate in an event they qualified for, the sales pitch will be, “How would you like to have the opportunity to donate up to $2 million for the charity of your choice?” Think about the bad press that player would receive for declining.

As the golfing season winds down the northern parts of the U.S., I’d love to see this event to get my “golf juices” pumping one more time before the snow flies!

Authored by Matthew Boesch
PGA Head Professional
Hawk’s View Golf Club