Is it time to say goodbye to the celebrity pro-am?September 27, 2017 The Scoop
A lot of tournaments - particularly those on these shores - are preceded by a celebrity pro-am. But isn't the golfer's time best served elsewhere? The NCG team discuss in this week's Niggle...
James Savage: I’ll start. Celebrity pro-ams are terrible and only serve to reinforce the non-inclusive stereotype that golf is only for people with loads of money.
Alex Perry: What do you mean? Rory McIlroy’s playing partners for the British Masters pro-am were TV presenter Vernon Kay, CEO of M&C Saatchi Steve Martin, and Sky Sports managing director Barney Francis…
Dan Murphy: If it sprinkles some stardust on the event and the game in general then why not?
Alex Perry: If there’s a whole bunch of Manchester United legends playing in the pro-am, I’m there.
Mark Townsend: Preferable to Piers Morgan, DJ Spoony and the rest of the pro-am liggers though.
Alex Perry: Love Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes sheepishly hacking it round Wentworth. Hate Jeremy Kyle acting like he’s the only celebrity that plays golf.
Alex Perry: But like I said in a piece I wrote the day One Direction’s Niall Horan played in the BMW PGA pro-am – which was subsequently ripped off by those with no imagination – if he gets just one of those screaming kids to take up golf then job done.
James Savage: It’s good if they can get more people through the door. They’re just not for me. Is the whole idea of them not a bit lazy and tired? A short-sighted, quick win?
Alex Perry: But people lap them up. And until they stop lapping them up, the organisers will keep putting them on.
Dan Murphy: A quick win is exactly what people want to see when they attend a sporting event. Given that your average golf tournament is like a Test match in that it lasts several days, that is an issue when it comes to pulling in crowds.
James Savage: My idea instead of the pro-am would be to get all the best players in the field to commit to a one-hour clinic of ball striking and take questions from the crowd, talk about Trackman numbers etc.
Alex Perry: There’s no reason you can’t have both.
James Savage: Maybe just get the players to do nine holes in the pro-am and they can all give that other spare two hours doing something else – posing for pictures and autographs, doing clinics or whatever.
Mark Townsend: Nine-hole pro-ams are a must. The players shouldn’t have to spend more than five hours having the life sapped out of them the day before the real thing. The tournament should do more to get punters and families there; players hitting balls with big visuals is good, players talking generally isn’t.
James Savage: The players are the real stars of the show and need to be more accessible. They are too pampered and need to give more back, instead of telling fans they are “too busy” to pose for pictures which takes two seconds. I witnessed one multi-million earning tour pro asking someone on a tour truck to get some socks sent to his house.
Mark Townsend: Any clues?
James Savage: Plays Wilson clubs. Won a couple of times on the European Tour.
Alex Perry: What socks does he wear?
Dan Murphy: What these events need to do is let kids in for free and make sure there is plenty of family entertainment then definitely. It needs to be presented as a day out with lots to do. Sure, hard-core golf fans don’t need much else beyond refreshments but if there is other stuff to see and do then so much the better.
Alex Perry: Like the Hero Challenge…
James Savage: If the weather was nice and it cost £15 per adult with kids in for free I’d attend. There needs to something to keep my wife and daughter entertained but maybe the golf will pique their interest too.
Alex Perry: I’m a proper armchair fan when it comes to golf. Sure, going round watching some really good players strut their stuff is excellent and intriguing, but unless the field is of the highest quality – like it is at the Open – then I find it really hard work to get fired up for it. Get me in front of the TV with snacks and beers and Butch and slowmo replays.
Steve Carroll: The British Masters is being played near me, and I am watching it. You get so few opportunities to see really top class golf in this country that you have to take the opportunity. Given how much 90 minutes of football costs, I think golf is actually well priced.
Alex Perry: But if I’m watching football I can see all the action in one go. How annoying is it when you’re on a golf course and hear a roar from a few hundred yards away?
Dan Murphy: Clearly, the strength of the field is also a factor but you have to acknowledge that sports fans in great numbers attend the likes of T20 and Championship – and the lower leagues for that matter – football. In neither case are they seeing the best players. They go because it means something. That and you get a result.
James Broadhurst: If tickets were reasonably priced I would go and watch. If tickets were expensive and there were no big names I wanted to follow round then I wouldn’t bother.
James Savage: On a personal level, I’d rather go on a practice day than a tournament day.
Mark Townsend: Practice days should all be free. Watching endless groups chipping and putting for five minutes on each green isn’t the best entertainment. If I have a personal interest then yes, brilliant. Otherwise stick me in front of the box. I spend most of my time at tournaments thinking I’m missing out.
Alex Perry: Can we have a return to the days when tournaments had crap sponsor names? Who wouldn’t flock to the TK Maxx Invitational? Or the Greggs English Open?
Mark Townsend: Back in the day everything was sponsored by cigarettes and alcohol companies. The Monkey Shoulder Masters has a nice ring to it
Alex Perry: The White Lightning Match Play.