After reading the story below, please take 30 seconds to add your name to the Make Playing in USGA Championships Affordable Petition at change.org
Dear USGA —
I’d like to be a friend for you on something you need to hear.
It’s about your national championships. And money. And 38,000+ tournament players.
Many of the championships you started more than 100 years ago were begun at a time when golf was a club game and the players who entered events were always well-to-do.
But golf has become a much more populist game in the last 30 years, mostly because of TV.
And TV has greatly enriched you financially, USGA. In fact, according to your own 2013 USGA Annual Report, you have nearly $380 million dollars in cash on hand, mostly from broadcast fees.
And you are going to get even richer in the dozen years ahead.
Starting in 2015, the TV deal you just signed with Fox Sports is for $100 million dollars per year for 12 years – a $1.2 billion (with a B!) TV package. This is almost two-and-a-half times the value of your previous TV contract, which was a record back in 1994.
Additionally, in 2013 you received nearly 38,000 USGA championship entries, with entry fee totals approaching $5 million.
Now, I’m not pointing out how much money you make to embarrass you, USGA, or because this is some kind of “income inequality” rant. Instead, I point this out so you might consider an idea that benefits your national championships and your core golf supporters: those 38,000 players who entered USGA events last year, and the thousands of other players who might do so if you consider the following suggestion.
And I make this suggestion based on my own personal experience.
Back in 1997, I paid my $100 entry fee to the USGA and qualified for the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, out of Cleveland. The event itself was held at the Dallas Athletic Club. After a flight, a rental car, hotel and meals, I estimate I spent $1,500 as one of the ‘winners’ of the qualifier.
That was the last USGA event I ever entered.
I love playing tournament golf and have played in hundreds of other local and state tournaments since that time. But I realized that while I ‘won’ a spot in a national USGA event, it was too big of a financial ‘loss’ for me to want to do it again.
Now, 100+ years ago when you started most of these championships, having the competitors pay their own expenses was the only option: guys with money entered your events anyway, and the USGA didn’t have the resources to do anything different.
But since the 1994 TV package with NBC was so rich, and because the type of player the game attracts now is “everyman”, the USGA should consider changing the way it runs and funds its all of its Championships, especially for amateurs.
So here is my suggestion for change that I hope you will consider, USGA:
First, since there is so much TV money sitting in USGA coffers already and because so much more money is about to come, you should consider greatly reducing (or even eliminating!) entry fees into your national championships going forward. There should still be a requirement to prove competitive playing ability, but think how many more players would enter your marquee national events at the local level if the fee to do so were $25, or even zero.
Second, any player who earns a berth to a national USGA Championship proper should not have to pay another dime to compete once he qualifies from the local level. A free ride to nationals should be the “prize” for winning a qualifier! The USGA should cover the full cost of a flight, hotel room, transportation around town, and meals. You clearly have the cash available to do so.
Think of what a life-treat it would be for a player of lesser financial means to compete at any of the great courses the USGA plays for its Championships, to stay at a nice hotel with a shuttle back and forth to the golf course, and to eat at the host club or hotel every day while he or she is playing in a national event.
Isn’t that a much better scenario than having a player qualify for a national championship then worry about how to pay all of the expenses related to that success?
I’m not suggesting the USGA should “pay” the player directly for these expense, or even reimburse him. The execution of this idea should not conflict with the Rules of Amateur Status. Instead, the USGA should simply make the travel arrangements on behalf of every player who qualifies (bulk rates! sponsorship deals!), pay the bill directly, and simply send the travel ‘how-to’ information to the contestant in advance of the championship.
I have emailed this suggestion to your current USGA President Thomas O’Toole Jr. and USGA Executive Director Mike Davis for their consideration. Perhaps solely from my lone voice your top leaders will see the merit of these ideas and implement them for the USGA’s 2015 championships and beyond.
But what if the 38,000 players who competed in a USGA championship last year spoke up as well? What if all of those players joined together and said, “You know USGA, this is a good idea!”? Such a well-backed suggestion certainly should merit full consideration from your committees then.
So how about a petition? Those who play tournament golf and wish to suggest to the USGA that they consider covering the costs of playing in their national championships using the huge amount of TV money at their disposal, please add your name to the Make Playing in USGA Championships Affordable Petition hosted at change.org.
Then tell your golf buddies via email, Facebook and Twitter to sign the petition, too. The word will spread from golfer to golfer across the country.
It would be fantastic to see thousands of players sign the petition, the have a record-shattering number of entries to all of your USGA Championships in 2015 and beyond because the cost to a player is no longer an issue for anyone.
Well, thanks for listening, my USGA friend. And if all goes right, perhaps you will see my name signed up for one of your qualifiers again next year…
Northeast Ohio Golf
Please take 30 seconds to add your name to the Make Playing in USGA Championships Affordable online petition hosted at change.org. Later this summer, the petition will be presented to the USGA for consideration.