Of golf, and money for jam

With the huge amount of money up for grabs by top golf professionals these days – case in point the new sponsorship deal Rory McIlroy has just signed with Nike for $250 million  – is it any wonder that so many young hopefuls turn professional these days rather than go the traditional route of ‘’working’’ for a living?

The perception among many is that pro golf is really not a job, but an extremely highly paid hobby for a select few. I would challenge those with this belief to live the life of a tour professional for one month to appreciate the intense pressure and dedication required at the top level of this sport.

There is, however, one aspect of world-class golf that is a bone of contention for some. That is the subject of appearance fees. Should golfers be paid huge appearance fees just to turn up to play in a tournament? There is certainly a sliding scale attached to world-class players with those at the top end receiving anywhere up to $2 million  just to arrive at the event – often as much if not more than the prize money on offer for winning. But if sponsors consider it worthwhile paying out that kind of money to secure the appearance of top players, there is not much the ruling bodies of golf can do about it. The image of professional golfers flying by private aircraft from event to event will irk those who spend their lives in top management positions of the companies that sponsor these great players and make a fraction of their earnings.

When the economy hits a rough patch as it has done for the past few years, the public tend to resent these lavish sums of money being paid out to sportsmen and women for doing something that they think of as recreation rather than work. Paying out huge sums to pro golfers (and indeed other sports are not immune) infuriates the public who have watched their interest rates climb and their money disappear when the banks pursue them for their loans as the value of their properties decline. Yet these same large corporations have no qualms in paying out millions to young sportsmen and women for being able to strike a golf ball or throw a football for a living.

Furthermore, top CEOs of companies are given golden handshakes even though often this does not correlate to the performance of their companies. In reality the economy should be the arbiter of determining the value of a person to the company whether they be sports people or otherwise. Should the CEO of a top company make a poor decision this may impact on the livelihoods of thousands of employees such as was the case with Lehman Brothers, but should Tiger Woods miss a putt to make the cut for a tournament that will impact only him. In general, the public will not be damaged by Tiger’s missed putt, but a poor decision by top management may be far more disastrous.

(Photo: Shelly Elaine/sxc.hu)




Alan Rogut

Cape Town-born Alan Rogut is Director of Golf at Pravets Golf & Spa, Bulgaria.