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Golf : Game Is Same, but Wow, Have Names Changed

November 08, 1987|Thomas Bonk

The professional golf tour has become even more board room than clubhouse. That may not be too bad, unless somebody wants to object to the new and sometimes unwieldy names of tournaments that result when corporations change both the game and the name of golf with their sponsorships.

How about these?

The 41-year-old Houston Open, the eighth-oldest event on the PGA Tour, is now the Independent Insurance Agent Open. The Tournament of Champions is the MONY Tournament of Champions. The Bob Hope Classic is the Bob Hope Chysler Classic. Then there are the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the Shearson Lehman Brothers Andy Williams Open, the Hertz Bay Hill Classic, the USF&G Classic and so on.

But the new names signal more than just a trend. This is an avalanche. In 1980, there were four tournaments on the PGA tour with title sponsors. The total purse was $13.1 million. This season, 29 of the 46 regular tournaments have title sponsors and the total purse is $35.7 million.

A PGA Tour event without a title sponsor is becoming extinct, according to a recent story in Sports Marketing News.

There are going to be more name changes and a lot more money pumped into tour events. K mart Corp. is becoming the title sponsor for the Greater Greensboro Open and at least three other tournaments are actively seeking corporate sponsorship: The Pensacola Open, the Southern Open and the Gatlin Brothers Southwest Golf Classic.

In addition, the Byron Nelson Golf Classic may be getting a title sponsor from one of three companies--American Airlines, Frito Lay and GTE--with which tournament officials are negotiating. Even the Colonial Invitational is considering looking for corporate sponsorship, although it would likely be for down the road.

Why do tournaments want corporate sponsors? It's simple. Money. Some of the tournaments need sponsor money to attract top golfers. The article said that others need title sponsors to get television coverage because networks often demand guaranteed advertising, which sponsors naturally provide.

Billy Barty, who is 3 feet 9 inches tall, says he has a big problem.

The 15th annual Billy Barty 7-Up Golf Classic is scheduled for Dec. 4-6 at the Palm Springs Country Club and will be played to benefit little people, but Barty isn't sure how to make up the teams.

"I'm inviting Tim Conway," Barty said. "I don't know, though, whether to invite him as a celebrity or a dwarf golfer."

Barty said that 37 little people will play in the event, which raises money for the medical, educational and vocational needs of people of short stature through the Billy Barty Foundation.

Last year, the tournament raised $21,500. "That may not be a whole lot, but every little bit helps," he said. "We're going up against the big guys."

News item: Last weekend at Tucson, Mike Reid, the first player in PGA history to earn $1 million without winning a tournament, finally got his first victory in nearly 11 years on the tour in the $600,000 Tucson Open.

Observation: In his first 11 years on the tour, Arnold Palmer won 43 tournaments. He earned $643,981.

Is this what you might call a downhill lie? Austria, one of the world's skiing capitals, is in the midst of a golf boom, mainly because of of the sport's growing popularity in West Germany.

The recent inaugural German Masters tournament and the play of West German star Bernhard Langer have spurred interest in Austria, where courses make the most of breathtaking Alpine scenery.167772161 Austria's first golf club at Wien Freudenau in the capital--now a bastion of tradition--was established in 1901. By the time the Austrian Golf Assn. was founded 30 years later, the country boasted four courses. Today there are 25 to choose from for some 6,500 Austrian golfers.

Six more courses are under construction, including one designed by Jack Nicklaus at the Golf and Country Club Gut Altentann at Henndorf in the province of Salzburg.

Although Austria is renowned for exquisite skiing, a number of its fashionable resorts--among them Kitzbuehel, Bad Ischl, Zell-am-See, Murhoff, Innsbruck and Dellach--already have golf courses. In the summer, golfers can play in the valley and take a short cable-car trip to ski on the nearby glaciers, all in the same day.

The course designed by Nicklaus is only a long 3-iron shot from the West German border and is bound to attract golfers from both countries. The clubhouse has been reconstructed on the site of a castle destroyed by fire in 1680.

The course and its facilities likely will compare with any in Europe. But with the Salzburg area also famous for its niesln-- drizzly rain--umbrellas are certain to be popular items in the pro shop.

Golf Notes

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