I am sure you read the articles regarding Julio “The Machine” Bell, (self-proclaimed) who received a sponsor’s exempt position for a Web.com Tour event and shot 93-105. Of course he missed the cut, however the plethora of remarks from the golfing world sparked my desire to comment.
As am amateur golfer and a competitor, I can appreciate both sides of the argument. I understand the frustration of the professionals playing with someone who shot 26 strokes more than the leader after the first day. I have played in events where I shot in the low 70s and my playing partner shot in the high 90s. It is a slow, agonizing round where I spent more time looking for golf balls then anything else. However, that was the nature of my event and I stayed focused on playing my game.
Some of the comments I want to highligbt are from a Golfworld article:
However, Bell’s score has generated its share of controversy among players and caddies at this week’s event.
“I will tell you a lot of players are not happy about it,” a caddie told Golf Digest. “Just some local that’s taking a spot from guys who are trying to make a living.” That this is the event right before the first reshuffle hasn’t helped matters.
“It’s (nonsense),” relayed another caddie. “Ken (Looper, a Web.com Tour pro and first alternate) is sitting out because someone paid money to play.”
The caddies oints were not lost on me as they emphasized that these professional tournaments are someone’s lively hood and to have an amateur who shot so poorly take a position was crazy. However, I would suggest that this scenario is no different from any other sponsor exempt player who did not make the cut.
The minor tours continue to use sponsor exemptions for non-professional players. There are numerous players (Jerry Rice, John Smoltz, Jake Owen, Steph Currie, Tony Romo) who are tried to compete while playing golf professionally, but failed to rise to the occasion. However, because these amateurs are famous, the criticism was not as harsh. As a sponsor at the minor golf tours, it is their choice on who they wish to allow to play. Since 1992, the PGA Tour has restricted sponsor exempt players to professionals trying to make a living playing golf. Of course this restriction does not apply to Pro-Am events.
I would pose a question, was it fair to have Michelle Wie received 13 sponsor exempt opportunities to play in Men’s professional events. Starting at age 13, she teed it up and fared well, but only made one cut in 2006. Did she not take 13 positions from players who were trying to make a living at golf. Some would suggest that Wie is a professional golfer, however I would suggest that at the time she was given the exemptions, her situation was no different from Juilo Bell’s.
There is a reason that sponsors are given an opportunity to place a player in a tournament; it is all economics. If the minor tours (and the Major Tours) expect companies to dole out large amounts of money, they should receive something in return. Of course on the PGA Tour, advertising is the biggest return, but what do the sponsors receive for their donation on the minor tours. They are allowed to sponsor any player; professional or not. So for those complaining about the one or two positions that the sponsors use during an event, you should rethink your position. Without the sponsors, there are no minor tours and you do not have the opportunity to make your living at golf.
My last point relates to Pebble Beach on the weekend. The cut occurred after day three. David Duval, a one time world number 1, was behind the leaders by 35 strokes and missed the cut by 22 strokes. As a professional, is Duval really competitive. Should a younger player who had a better opportunity to make the cut been given his position. The short answer is of course not, but I am sure the first alternate at Pebble Beach was pulling their hair out watching some of the players hack their way around the course. In this case, it is a matter of perspective.
My bottom line, if the sponsor exemptions are allowed for any player, professional or not, then complaining that an amateur played poorly and ‘took’ a position from a professional is nothing but white noise. If Julio Bell was given the position fair and square, then there should be nothing to complain about. Sponsorship exemptions are part of the golfing business and as such complaining about them is a waste of time and effort.
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!