Dear USGA…


USGA

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

USGADear 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.

USGABack 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…

Allen Freeman 
Sincerely,

 
Allen Freeman
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.

3 Comments

  1. June 9, 2014

    With 38,000 entries, what possibly could the USGA have to gain by paying everyone’s way or trimming fees? It doesn’t seem to me like they’re hurting for entrants.

    Becoming a high-caliber golfer who has the talent to qualify for a national championship requires much more than money. Finding ample time to prepare for a tournament and attend the event is a hurdle for everyone. Typically, people have to sacrifice something else in their lives to play.

    Sacrifice is the key here, not cash. I find it hard to believe that a sizable number of people can’t afford $1,500. However, I do believe many people do not want to sacrifice. Instead, they see a large bank account at the USGA and automatically conclude that they are entitled to these riches. It is an excuse to make up for their unwillingness to sacrifice. People with lesser financial means could find a way to play, but that might require sacrificing something like a vacation or another form of entertainment in their life. Nobody can do it all. Unfortunately, there are some who want everything and when they can’t have it all, they write petitions for free golf.

    • Allen Freeman
      June 9, 2014

      Ahoy Polloi: if the USGA is happy with a participation rate that is one-tenth of one percent of the U.S. population, then your response makes sense. But I believe the USGA prefers a larger skilled-player base than that.

      Sacrificing personal time and effort to become a competitive amateur player is commendable. But a large number of people who are proven competitive players can’t “sacrifice” money they don’t have. Yes, 38K people (out of 303 million!) clearly said they are willing spend $1,500 or more to play in a USGA event last year should they qualify. But hundreds of thousands won’t or can’t, so they don’t enter. Is it a true national championship then? Or is it just a championship for people who can afford it?

      And since when has “sacrificing” money to play competitive golf been a tenet of the USGA?

      The USGA has received (and will continue to receive going forward) vast amounts of money as a body that is ‘for the good of the game.’ In turn, they should spend that money in a way that is ‘for the good of the game’, too. That doesn’t mean that any player feels as if they are ‘entitled to these riches’; that’s quite the jump in logic.

      Nowhere in the petition is the word ‘demand’ used — this isn’t an insurrection against the USGA. The petition ASKS that the USGA consider…

  2. June 9, 2014

    Al, you sound like the co-owner of California Chrome.

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