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Do golf influencers have a place on the PGA Tour?

Do golf influencers have a place on the PGA Tour?

One lucky golf influencer will be playing on the PGA Tour in May, but NCG’s Tom Irwin considers if the world of professionals and entertainers should mix…

 

Sponsor’s exemptions are a thorny subject.

In the strictest possible terms, it should not in any way be controversial. It is simple. The tournament sponsor pays lots of money to sponsor the event and as part of the contract, they get to invite some players to play who are not already qualified.

There are some terms. They have to be off scratch or better and some, not all, of the invitees have to be members of the tour.

In recent years PGA Tour sponsors, not the tour, have used sponsor exemptions to invite LPGA players such as Lexi Thompson or retired NFL Player Tony Romo.

The distinction that is the sponsor, not the tour, doing the invite is important. Often when foul is cried the ire is directed at the tour, unfairly so. The sponsor is required to fund the event, pay the players and for the tour to exist. Part of that deal is a small amount of control over the field.

As sponsors look for increasing bang for their buck, especially at less-heralded events, they have become more innovative with their choices.

This has been taken to a new level at the Myrtle Beach Classic where sponsors Golf Tourism Solutions and Visit Myrtle Beach have created a qualifier called ‘The Q at Myrtle Beach’ and invited prominent golf influencers to form an 18-man field. 8 of which are seriously successful golf YouTubers. All of which meet the qualifying criteria.

The list is impressive: Peter Finch, Grant Horvat, Luke Kwon, Micah Morris and Nick Stubbe have total audiences across all platforms that run into the multiple millions.

Their content is assured thousands of views. Peter Finch, a proper golfer, runs an annual series in which he tries to qualify for The Open. His first episode in 2024 has over 200,000 views and counting.

So the eyeballs on the content created at this unique qualifying event are sure to run into the 100s of thousands, more likely millions. An amazing piece of marketing judgment by the sponsor then. Absolutely.

It is almost certainly the direction of travel in professional golf which is now undeniably in the entertainment business, yet the PGA Tour is a member’s organisation, constitutionally required to create playing opportunities or, in other words, a career for its members. Increasingly all tours are deviating from this core purpose.

The DP World Tour led the way with their amazing social media output, the LIV YouTube channel is a media brand, and now a PGA Tour sponsor has recognised the value in the influencer market as being beyond that of the very entity it is supporting.

There is a blurring of lines here that feels like the thin end of the wedge. We watch sport for leisure, sure, but we watch it because of the jeopardy and because it matters to the participants. We watch it because it means something to us, to be connected to something.

We watch YouTube because it is accessible, entertaining, and informative. It is escapism and it is easy.

They both have their place. Yet they are not the same and that is worth protecting. I want to watch the best possible Manchester United team each week, but I will also watch (through gritted teeth) Mark Goldbridge’s YouTube channel about the mighty Reds. After all, I watch everything about Man U because I am a fan.

I do not want to see Mark Goldbridge line up at left-back regardless of how bad injuries get.

What we are seeing is the latest manifestation of these complimentary worlds converging. A collaboration on a grand scale to grow mutual audiences and pile up advertising dollars.

Is it the thin end of the wedge though as golf as entertainment, be it by made-for-TV ‘Matches’, closed shop leagues, indoor sims, or YouTube qualifiers are not natural bedfellows with competitive professional sport?

They are additive, certainly, they are a curiosity, yes. But are they really a foundation around which to build the high-level professional sport in a world-gone-meta where the game’s cheerleaders have become the product?

What happens when there is nothing left to shout about?

What do you make of golf influencers being offered the chance to play on the PGA Tour? Should top golf influencers be used more on the tour? Tell us on X/Twitter!

NOW READ: Check out when the Myrtle Beach Classic is held on the 2024 PGA Tour schedule

NOW READ: What is a Signature Event on the PGA Tour?

Matt Chivers

Matt Chivers

Now on the wrong side of 25, Matt has been playing golf since the age of 13 and was largely inspired to take up the game by countless family members who played golf during his childhood.

Matt is a member at Royal Cinque Ports in Deal playing off a 5 handicap, just a pitching wedge away from his hometown of Dover where he went to school and grew up. He has previously been a member at Etchinghill and Walmer and Kingsdown in Kent.

Having studied history at the University of Liverpool, Matt went on to pass his NCTJ Exams in Manchester a year later to fulfil his lifelong ambition of becoming a journalist. He picked up work experience along the way at places such as the Racing Post, the Independent, Sportsbeat and the Lancashire Evening Post.

Matt joined NCG in February 2023 and is the website’s main source of tour news, features and opinion. He has reported live from events such as The Open, the Ryder Cup and The Players Championship, having also interviewed and spent time with some of the biggest names in the sport.

Consuming tour golf on what is a 24/7 basis, you can come to Matt for informed views on the game and the latest updates on the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, LPGA Tour, Ladies European Tour and LIV Golf.

What’s in Matt’s bag: Cobra LTDx LS driver, Cobra LTDx 3-wood, TaylorMade P7MC irons, Ping Glide 4.0 wedges, Odyssey putter.

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