The $67 million in prize money that will be made available through the FedEx Cup playoffs “reflects how the industry is battling back from recession…and contributing more than you might think to help boost what is still a fragile U.S. economy,” the network said. President Obama’s passion for the game is also helping to revive interest and participation, it was noted.
The “eye-watering” $67 million in prize money that will be up for grabs in the four FedEx Cup playoff events to culminate 2013’s men’s professional golf season will also reflect how the golf industry is “battling back from recession…and one contributing more than you might think to help boost what is still a fragile economy in the United States,” a report on CNN.com noted.
“The golf industry is larger than the spectator sports and performing arts industries combined,” Steve Mona, Chief Executive of the World Golf Foundation (WGF), told CNN. The WGF’s Golf 20/20 report estimates that the industry generated $68.8 billion in goods and services in the U.S. in 2011, with a total economic impact of $176.8 billion, CNN reported.
“That’s pretty substantial compared to [spectator sports and the performing arts],” Mona noted. ”And beyond the monetary contribution [that golf] makes, it also employs close to two million Americans with a combined wage income of $55.6 billion.
“What’s important about that is when people think about people employed in golf, they generally think about the Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelsons of this world,” Mona continued. “That’s true, but they are at the higher end of the scale — what people don’t tend to think about is a lot of the jobs in golf are everyday kinds of jobs filled by people who are trying to slug out a living and feed their family. They’re working at restaurants, in the grill room, on the course, taking bags out of your car, cleaning your clubs. Believe me, those people are not getting rich, but that is the real backbone of the golf industry.”
The big prize money of the FedEx playoffs “makes a very strong statement about the health and vitality of the industry, when you have world-class brands that want to associate with golf,” Mona added.
“They’re willing to put up significant sums to be associated with those events, and that the players have the opportunity to play for the kind of money reflects very favorably on golf.
“I always say there are two economies in golf,” Mona told CNN. “There’s the participation economy, which is about the everyday golf facilities, trying to attract golfers and current players to play as much they can. Then there’s the entertainment side of golf, and that’s where the professional tours come in, to relate to the interest of the game.
“If we can enhance interest in the game, that can lead later down the line to participation,” he noted.
Golf is nothing if not resilient, the CNN.com report noted, coming back out of the deep recession of 2008 to move back towards the $75.9 billion that the WGF estimates it generated in 2005. Some of that momentum may have come from once again having a U.S. President who is an avid golfer and whose February round with Tiger Woods in Florida, along with five rounds that he played during his recent vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, were well-publicized.
A report released by the Government Accountability Institute in April even suggested that President Obama has spent more hours on the golf course during his presidency than in economic meetings, CNN.com noted.
But counting the Commander-in-Chief as one of the game’s biggest and most influential supporters can only serve as a great advert for the game, the WGF’s Mona believes.
“There are a couple of things about the President that are really very positive,” Mona told CNN.com. “One, he’s arguably the busiest man in the world with the toughest job in the world, but he can make time to play. And that leads to the second point: The fact that he plays by the rules and is enthusiastic about it and tries to play whenever he can speaks to the magic of the game.
“[Golf] can be addicting in a good way, and it clearly has been for the President,” Mona noted.
The golf industry has also strengthened its presence on Capitol Hill in recent years, CNN.com noted, through a series of events “designed to trumpet the growing portion of the economy that golf supports to Washington’s power brokers.”
“It’s important for us to communicate effectively in terms of the impact golf has on the economy generally and the kind of jobs it creates for everyday Americans,” Mona explained, “because when laws and regulations are being made, it’s important the golf industry is treated like any other industry of our size and scope. That relates to the second audience we’re trying to make sure understands the facts about golf, and that is the influencers of society generally.”
However, CNN.com reported, not all politicians are in love with golf’s financial contribution–a U.S. Congress Senator is seeking to overturn the not-for-profit status enjoyed by the PGA Tour and other sporting bodies such as the NHL and NFL, which makes them exempt from federal taxes.
Additionally, it was noted, Forbes reported in May that of the $130 million the PGA Tour gave to charity last year, most of it went to the WGF, whose main purpose is to promote golf.
That could work against Mona’s statement that “it’s important for golf to have a good reputation in the court of public opinion and not be viewed as a sport for the privileged few played on private clubs by the affluent few.
“It’s not that game at all,” Mona told CNN.com, “but it gets perceived sometimes to be that kind of sport.”