Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

PGA Prize Demands Emperil Smaller Tourneys

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

PGA Prize Demands Emperil Smaller Tourneys

Article excerpt

SUTTON, Mass. -- The PGA Tour says it tries to promote golf everywhere, not just at high-profile courses. Some small tournament organizers say the tour has delivered a different edict: Boost your purses or else.

The tour has ordered all of its tournaments to increase their total prize money to $3 million by 2002, an effort to get the game's top players to appear at more events in the United States. Only two of the tour's 45 events have purses that big now.

While the strategy might persuade such international stars as Nick Faldo and Greg Norman to play more often in the United States, it also could squeeze smaller tournaments that have trouble convincing sponsors to spend more. The tournaments are sweating even though the tour will kick in 40 percent of purse increases. "The PGA Tour has said either get on board and raise the purses or get out of the way," said Steve Mingolla, organizer of the CVS Charity Classic in Sutton. "The message has been that blunt." The tournament, scheduled for July 23-26, will pull out of the tour after this year because it can't raise its $1.5 million purse. PGA Tour Vice President Ric Clarson said the tour is looking out for the interests of its players. "It's certainly not personal," Clarson said. "We have a responsibility to our players. We've had very favorable response from a large number of our title sponsors. We have as much, if not more stability, than other professional leagues." The better golfers that the higher prize money would attract translates into better television ratings for tour events, said former CBS Sports President Neal Pilson. The tour last year signed four-year contracts with ABC, CBS, NBC, the USA Network, ESPN and the Golf Channel worth $400 million. Better ratings would mean more money when a new contract is negotiated. "The track record here is to go in and ask the networks to double the contracts," said Pilson, who is now a consultant to professional sports leagues and broadcasting companies. …

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