By Stan Olenik, Editor-Publisher of The Golf Club newspaper
The BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by TD Synnex will announce the celebrity participants on Tuesday for this year’s tournament to be played June 6th -12th with the final two rounds played at Thornblade Club in Greenville.
The event has done a good job of bringing in celebrities who want to be at the tournament in the Upstate and occasionally hitting on a star who can sell tickets.
They may not be A-listers, but they are recognizable and approachable and some can even play a little golf.
Not being a boxing fan, last year I had no idea who Canelo was until I saw his large following and looked him up on the internet.
Having him in the field from boxing was the equivalent of seeing the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers tee it up.
The celebrities help sell tickets, which helps produce revenue for Upstate Charities supported by the tournament and the proceeds from the tournament have mattered to the charities.
Lets be honest, while the golf has been great, the Korn-Ferry Tour players producing the scores often couldn’t get picked out of a police lineup unless they had their clubs with them.
But this year the tournament has a chance to include a golfer in the field , no guarantee, but one who has a good chance to help the event sell some tickets.
ACC Champion Jacob Bridgeman from Clemson.
There are still two very important college events left on Bridgeman’s schedule, but for the last two months there has not been a hotter college golfer in the country.
Bridgeman was ranked fourth with a bullet on the PGA Tour University rankings before he won the ACC individual championship.
The top-5 golfers in the ranking at the end of the college season get exemptions into the rest of the Korn-Ferry Tour schedule.
There is a good chance Bridgeman will earn one of those spots and not need an exemption to play in the BMW, but why should tournament organizers take a chance.
Invite him to play on a sponsors’ exemption right now and reap the benefit of promoting one of the best players to ever come out of the Upstate and let him help you sell tickets.
This year the tournament returns to Spartanburg at the Carolina Country Club for the first two rounds. The club had hosted a part of the tournament from 2008 to 2011 when the BMW used a three course rotation.
Honestly, when the tournament was in Spartanburg neither the tournament organizers or local sponsors and golf fans really got behind the event.
Inviting Bridgeman to play in the BMW would give Chapman High School fans, Clemson fans, Upstate fans and especially golf fans in Spartanburg someone to follow and cheer for.
Every tournament director has a little wiggle room when it comes to inviting players who would not otherwise qualify to be in the field.
Selling tickets is often cited as a reason for an exemption, but there are dozens of other reasons a non-qualifying player gets into the field.
Sponsor exemptions can go to friends of a celebrity who commits to playing in the tournament. An exemption can be given to someone recommended by a big tournament commercial sponsor as a way to keep the sponsor happy.
In some cases and in the past, the BMW event has done this, letting some non-qualifying golfer, parent or sponsor buy his way into a sponsors’ exemption.
I don’t know if it has happened in recent years, but it once was a way for the tournament to increase its bottom line, and what the heck, its for charity.
Tournament director Mike McGovern has already given a sponsors’ exemption to Johnny Travale from the University of Central Florida.
The exemption was an added award for winning the Carolina Collegiate Invitational at the Carolina Country Club last fall.
The BMW tournament is rumored to be interested in helping to make the college tournament into a much bigger event in the future.
The added incentive of a guaranteed Korn-Ferry start to the winner should increase the number and quality of teams interested in playing in future tournaments and makes good sense.
But lets get back to this year, golf can be streaky even for outstanding players. Bridgeman could have an average NCAA Regional and the Clemson team, which has struggled in the last few tournaments, might not make the national championship.
Putting Jacob in the field now would give the BMW another promotional opportunity and might even get the local media, who covers golf like it is a second language, to bring a good story to their readers, viewers and listeners.
And one last thing, I have a fair amount of experience helping to run tournaments. I’m very proud of the work I did on the Jay Haas Thornblade Classic, so I’m not just someone looking for online clicks.
If I ran the BMW, I would make sure Jacob Bridgeman was on the first tee at about 11:AM on the first day of the tournament at the Carolina Country Club.
I would start him late in the morning so working men and women could come to the course during their lunch break, or even take a few hours off from their jobs to follow Bridgeman.
The tournament would sell tickets and some concessions and probably more than a few beers.
If golf fans didn’t go any further then the 9th or 18th greens they could see how the Carolina Country Club is a great place to watch golf.
They might enjoy the experience enough to be fans even if Jacob isn’t in the field for the next tournament.
And one last suggestion, the tournament can do the same thing on Friday with another local player.
Georgia’s Trent Phillips from Boiling Springs is right behind Bridgeman on the important PGA University rankings.
He will make his Korn-Ferry debut the week before at the Rex Hospital event. He may play his way into the BMW with a good performance in Raleigh, but again why take a chance.
Give Phillips an exemption too and schedule him for a tee time at Carolina on Friday.
Two local players who can give Spartanburg golf fans two golfers to cheer for and maybe help make the BMW’s return to Spartanburg be a success.
Categories: Clemson golf, College Golf, PGA Tour, Video Highlights & Interviews
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