The PGA Tour announced earlier this month that it would partner with the LIV Golf Tour to grow the game of golf and end the two-year feud between the leagues. The announcement happened so fast that there wasn’t time to even brief all of the players on both tours.
What started as exciting possibilities quickly turned to one of the most confrontational times of the two-year feud. There is not one source who can confirm the details of exactly what they agreed on and that has led to a whole new level of frustration.
At the center of the confusion is PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan. The previous PGA Tour Commissioner was Tim Finchem. Finchem is credited with the largest advances the PGA Tour took during his tenure, but that was of course aided with the most popular golfer ever in Tiger Woods.
Woods’ popularity as the biggest figure in sports who happened to play golf allowed the PGA Tour to capitalize off the leverage, maximize tournament purses, exploded partnerships, and ruled the TV ratings for its major tournaments.
Finchem resigned in 2016 and Monahan took over in 2017. Coupled with the decline in performance of Woods, the PGA Tour not only leveled off, but with the pandemic, it was forced to cut back onsite of its lofty goals.
LIV Tour was a game-changing opportunity
When the LIV Tour, championed by former PGA Tour player and major champion Greg Norman, began officially playing in 2021 it became a threat to the PGA Tour. It was heavily funded by the Saudi Arabia National Wealth Fund. Several PGA Tour notables including Bryson Dechambeau, Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson headed for the greener pastures of the LIV Tour, which was literally throwing millions of dollars to players to transfer to its upstart league. Backed by the Saudi Public Fund, money would be no object as the oil-rich nation would provide the backing needed for the tour to have everything it both needed and wanted.
The hope for black golfers was that with two tours, there would be exponentially more openings to make a professional tour. With several former HBCU players on the APGA Tour and the Korn Ferry Tour, the hopes of making it to one of the two mainstream tours escalated.
Willie Mack III on the cusp of a regular PGA Tour card
One of the most prominent HBCU golfers in the cue at this time is Willie Mack III. Mack attended Bethune-Cookman where he helped the Wildcats to the MEAC Championship. He was by far the best golfer in the MEAC during his college years. He excelled and was granted playing status on the APGA Tour. In 2021, he would win the APGA Tour Player of the Year Award, which guaranteed him access to the Korn Ferry Tour. He has elevated to a full time player on the Kron Ferry Tour (the PGA Tour’s development league tour) and has made seven starts on the PGA Tour. With his experiences on all the the tours, he is positioning himself to make strides in his desired career as a regular PGA Tour member.
There’s one more problem; no one can explain exactly what the PGA Tour and LIV Tour have agreed to. Meanwhile, the most prominent black golfer in Harold Varner III has been steadily elevating his career on the LIV Tour. He was once a member of the PGA Tour and represented the most promising black golfer since Tiger Woods, but was lured to the LIV Tour and he has excelled. Not only has he made millions in his guarantee to be on the LIV Tour, but he recently won LIV Tour event in Washington D.C. which paid him $4 million for the win.
Howard University’s Gregory Odom Jr is expected to be the next HBCU Golfer to make a run at the professional ranks.
Even more confusion as to what the proposed partnership of the PGA Tour and LIV Tour has begun to emerge. PGA Tour Hall of Famer Tom Watson joins the list of players formally denouncing the merger/partnership. Watson wrote a scathing letter asking what exactly the deal entailed. As an eight-time PGA Tour major champion, Watson sits on the upper echelon of respectability among world golfers.
To top that off, the concern and lack of details has reached the U.S. Congress. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, (D-Conn.) has asked for a congressional review of the deal. By involving a country which the U.S has had strained relationships with, the matter of national security can not be ignored. What seemed as a bright future for golf on June 6 has turned into the most chaotic era of professional golf to date.