One thing I have notice when attending practice rounds at PGA Tour events is the large number of manufacturer’s reps hawking their products to any Tour player who will pay attention. At the Buick, the reps hung out near the putting green, with bags of goodies, hoping to get the bigger name players on their roster of company sponsored pros.
They also apparently are a big deal at Q School. And why not? Signing a pro just before he hits the Tour has got to be a bit like having a pick in the NFL Draft. You’re not sure exactly what you’re paying for, but with the proper background research, you just might hit on a big star.
An article in GolfWeek chronicles the efforts of the companies to gain prestige by signing players.
Apart from the on-course competition of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, there is the off-course competition among golf equipment companies.
Any player advancing through Q-School—no matter how obscure or unknown he may be—can parlay endorsement money from equipment manufacturers and other commercial businesses into a minimum of $150,000 to $200,000 a year.
Just look for the logos to see who is sponsoring whom. For well-known golfers, the payoff can easily be $300,000 to $400,000 in endorsements. These figures were verified in a multitude of interviews with players and agents.
Looking at the big picture, that’s how important it can be to earn a PGA Tour card. It’s guaranteed money that is not based on victories or high finishes or television exposure or any other yardstick measurement.
Why do golf equipment companies pay endorsement money to so many touring pros? There are two big reasons.
One, tour validation is extremely important in the sale of golf balls and golf clubs. If the pros use it, amateurs want to use it, too.
Two, an official golf equipment count is conducted at each tournament by the Darrell Survey, which has been doing this for 75 years. Golf companies want desperately to win as many equipment categories as they can.
I maintain that no one I know has ever bought a club just because a particular pro plays that brand. (I have, on the other hand, refused to buy a club based on who played it. I don’t think that’s what the company had in mind when they signed the guy.)
All of my golfing friends buy clubs based on their impressions at demo days, and on the recommendations of other golfing buddies. I have bought a couple based on how I did with a club borrowed from a partner’s bag (totally against the Rules of Golf, I know, but there it is).
In that sense, I think that the millions paid by the companies to their pro staff are wasted.