“You’ll see some interesting creative in that regard in the next several weeks.”

The "IMG World Congress of Sports" included a Wednesday panel gathering that featured USGA CMO Barry Hyde, The Golf Channel's GOLF CHANNEL's Dave Manougian, Golf World's Geoff Russell and the PGA Tour's Ty Votaw. Oh, IMG's Mark Steinberg was also listed as a participant at The Pierre, but he's not included in this snippet of topics, intros and highlights (we've been mercifully spared the full transcript.) Instead a suit from FedEx named Bill Margaritas filled in (no, this is not an excerpt from Dan Jenkins' next novel).

Anyway, brace yourselves. Lots of product and growth references in "Growing The Business of Golf in the Years Ahead."

The issue: What is the state of golf?

The skinny: In an audience poll on the health of golf, only 14 percent said golf is healthier now than it ever has been; 28 percent said it was healthier than in 2000. Votaw: “All indices (prize money, sponsorship, TV partnerships) are up.”

Yes, he said indices. It's not coterminous, but it's pretty good!

Russell: “I half agree with what Ty said. The business of golf is pretty healthy, but it’s always a challenge to keep it going. That success is going to be hard to maintain.”

Most panelists agreed that fan interest in the game is up. Manougian: “We think the sport’s in great shape.” Russell: “It is for you, you’ve got the (cable) contract now.”

You know these writer types Dave, always ready with a pithy comeback to taint the brand.

Manougian later added, “We must take the necessary steps to becoming a true, fan-friendly sport.”

Margaritas expressed excitement about the changing demographics of fans and top players in regards to sex, nationalily and diversity.

Top players are changing sex? I mean, I know about Mianne Bagger, but who else?

Greatest hit: Votaw: “I’m not sure it’s healhier than ever, but I think it’s certainly healthier than it was in 2000.”

In 2000, did they have to scramble to find sponsors and fill spots on the schedule to replace tournaments that died? Help me, my memory is just not what it used to be.

The issue: Tiger Woods’ effect on the PGA Tour.

The skinny: Russell: “If you’re a sponsor of a PGA Tour event and you look down the road and you know you’re not going to get Tiger Woods you’ve got a real marketing problem. You’ve got to come up with another way to make your tournament interesting.”
Votaw grimaced during some of Russell’s comments, then said, “There are a lot of dymanics about whether sponsors sign with tournaments, and that’s beyond Tiger.”

Ah, the MBA's answer to squirming out of a tricky topic: dynamics. There are many dynamics involved and all you idiots just don't understand them! 

The issue: Measuring the success of the new FedEx Cup playoff format.

The skinny: Margaritas: “I think its going to be good with or without Tiger. It’s going to cast the spotlight on some other players.

Are we already conceding that Tiger is not going to be a full time participant in the playoffs?

Russell: “I’m waiting for Tiger Woods to say, ‘This is fantastic, I’ll be at all four events and I can’t wait to win the FedEx Cup.’ I don’t remember him saying that.”

Votaw: “You’ll see some interesting creative in that regard in the next several weeks.”

Some interesting creative. Oh goodie, more lame PSA's!

Russell: “I think when we do it once it will be interesting. But if Tiger doesn’t play then you’ve got a problem.”

Votaw: “If he does play every event are you going to write what an unqualified success it is?”

Russell: “You’ll probably see more positive words about it than if he didn’t show up.”

An audience poll found 45 percent of believe some top players won’t play more events this season.

Manougian: “When we get into the playoffs I don’t think there’s any question there will be more excitement about (those events) than ever before. People will debate the degree of success.”

Greatest hit: Russell: “For this thing to work you have to have those top players play.”

Glad we settled that.

The issue: The Tour as a TV product.
The skinny: Votaw addressed the type of the demographics of viewers watching Tour telecasts, saying, “I think you can say old is unnattractive, but you can say rich is very attractive. …The afflueunce, educational and income levels and executive levels make golf very attractive. We wouldn’t be fully sponsored or have the number of broadcast hours.”

And why is it again that you are consumed with youth and pandering to the 18-34 year olds? 

Hyde said, “When you’re talking to media buyers they’re saying they love golf because it’s the corporate office plus the high end consumer audience.”

Votaw said of the new cable TV deal with Golf Channel, “We’re not going to making short-term assessments or adjustments based on what’s a long-term deal. That’s why we made a 15-year deal.”

Oh that makes sense. A 15-year experiment to see how it works. 

The issue: Michelle Wie’s future in golf.

The skinny: An audience poll found 67 percent believe Wie should no longer play in men’s events. Most panelists agreed that she needs to find success on the LGPA [sp.] before attempting to cross over.

Russell said, “Being in the business of covering her, I don’t think it’s in her or our best interests when she doesn’t play well. It’s tough not to start to get jaded as a journalist to watch her withdraw from tournaments. … We’re in the business of being critical of people when they play like that.” Votaw said, “If that happens and you continue to be critical of her, the marketplace will catch up to that at some point and it will no longer be a compelling situation to have her in the field. The market will ultimately determine whether or not she should or should not play on the PGA Tour.”

Ah those market forces. And here I thought it was a matter of her breaking par.

And believe it or not there was one good suggestion on the panel.

Panelists where asked what they would do as LPGA or PGA Tour commissioner for a day.

Hyde said, “Create more difference week to week. Some alternative formats and work hard at creating a personality for every tournament.”

You see Barry, alternative formats require thought and for players to adapt. Same with varied course setups. Very dangerous ground we'd be on here. You risk engaging platforms that are very complicated like the Stableford scoring or match play. That distinct variety impacts the indices and delivers too many dynamics that might engender consumer confusion.

Manougian said, “Making the brand relevant to Gen Y.”

Greatest hit: Votaw said, “There’s no upside for me to answer that question, really.”
And on that note...