Even the best gifts won’t make me play your event

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents 12/ 14 - With Max Adler

Why even the best gifts won’t make me want to play in your tour­na­ment.

here was all the free stuff back when I was play­ing mini-tours?

This por­ta­ble speaker would’ve made a nice re­place­ment for the blown ones in my old Nis­san, but now I fly first-class to tour­na­ments, some­times pri­vate. Of­ten I’m not home for three- and four-week stretches, and so the boxes pile up: iTunes gift cards, iPads, pic­ture frames, ran­dom elec­tron­ics. A tour­na­ment will mail th­ese gifts, of­ten sev­eral times a year, with lit­tle notes that say some­thing like, “Com­pli­ments of the Trav­el­ers Cham­pi­onship. We hope you think of us when plan­ning your tour­na­ment sched­ule this sea­son.”

WMore tour­na­ments used to put gifts in your locker or have them at reg­is­tra­tion, but th­ese could be a bur­den to fit into al­ready tightly planned lug­gage. Not that most play­ers weren’t ap­pre­cia­tive or we didn’t get great stuff. One year at the Sony Open we got the PlaySta­tion just as it was be­ing re­leased, which made my kids very ex­cited.

The AT&T at Peb­ble gave a set of Water­ford crys­tal – four cham­pagne glasses one year, four whisky tum­blers or wine glasses the next – which has grown to a won­der­ful col­lec­tion my wife and I use reg­u­larly. Be­fore the Vik­ing Clas­sic changed spon­sor­ship in 2011, we got Vik­ing cook­ware. Our kitchen is still stocked with much of it (some of it we re-gifted). That event is now the Sanderson Farms Cham­pi­onship. Last year they shipped a Big Green Egg grill to ev­ery player, which was a hit.

I didn’t play in a char­ity event the year ev­ery­one got a Seg­way, but that was a re­ally cool gift play­ers talked about. For each Ry­der Cup you play, you get an Omega watch. When Tom Lehman was Ry­der Cup cap­tain in 2006, ev­ery player on his team also got to or­der a cus­tom moun­tain bike with no limit on the op­tions.

As thought­ful as it all is, most reg­u­lar PGA Tour events are fig­ur­ing out the qual­ity of the sch­wag has zero in­flu­ence on get­ting top golfers to com­mit. Be­sides the hard fact of dates in relation to things like our kids’ birthdays and ma­jors, what we care about most is con­ve­nience. At Torrey Pines you take a cart to the range and back, the short-game area is vir­tu­ally nonex­is­tent, and the locker room is one of the lodge’s con­fer­ence rooms. But most guys are will­ing to over­look this be­cause the course is so good. A sim­i­larly in­con­ve­nient setup at a lesser course doesn’t gar­ner the same will­ing­ness.

The Char­lotte tour­na­ment at Quail Hol­low was the first to re­ally fo­cus on player ex­pe­ri­ence, and it has be­come the bench­mark other tour­na­ments strive to match. Two guys in blaz­ers meet you at the valet and es­cort you to your locker. Laun­dry ser­vice is com­pli­men­tary. Silly as it sounds, when you’re on the road half your life, th­ese wel­com­ing touches re­ally mean some­thing.

Spa cer­tifi­cates and tick­ets to lo­cal ball games make a tour­na­ment at­trac­tive to an en­tire field, but this has be­come stan­dard. What each tour­na­ment re­ally wants is to lure the mar­quee play­ers who se­ri­ously boost attendance. This is why the PGA Tour should al­low ap­pear­ance fees. It’s not like the prac­tice doesn’t al­ready hap­pen in round­about ways. Star play­ers never miss tour­na­ments spon­sored by com­pa­nies with whom they have business re­la­tion­ships, and it’s not il­le­gal for a spon­sor to pay a player a fee to work an out­ing that just hap­pens to take place in the same city the same week of their tour­na­ment, thereby prac­ti­cally en­sur­ing the player will stick around. Wink wink.

As long as ap­pear­ance fees are reg­u­lated and don’t de­tract from over­all prize money, it would help cer­tain events land the Tigers, Phils and Ro­rys ev­ery now and again. Th­ese guys have earned the right to have their pie sweet­ened a bit.

Of course, the way I’ve been putting lately, I might need to go buy sta­tionery. If I don’t win again soon, I could be writ­ing notes to tour­na­ment direc­tors that say some­thing like “Would you please give me an ex­emp­tion into your field?” Maybe I’ll send a gift, too. –

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