Tour Pros, Sponsors Swing at First Tee; Making Golf Hip for Masses – Younger – The First Tee Association; Delta Air Lines Inc.; PricewaterhouseCoopers L.L.P – Brief Article

Chuck Stogel

The First Tee Association, a nationwide youth golf program now entering its second phase of development, has sealed sponsorship and co-promotional deals with Delta Airlines and PricewaterhouseCoopers and launched a $50 million capital fundraising initiative aimed at attracting and retaining fans of the green for decades to come.

“Hopefully this is just the start of many sponsorship arrangements that will help us grow over the next five years,” said Joe Louis Barrow Jr., director of the First Tee, last week during “Golf 20/20: Vision for the Future.” The three-day summit saw top decision makers from the world of golf outline strategic plans for the future of the game at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla. Weeklong events included World Hall of Fame and LPGA ceremonies, unveiling a new course that will host a Senior PGA Tour event in 2001 and staging the CertainTeed Hall of Fame Golf Challenge, pairing Senior PGA and LPGA tour players.

Backed by the sport’s major associations, First Tee targets youths 8-18, especially those without access, to get into golf. There is little or no charge for participants to attend First Tee sites, which are not full-sized golf courses but rather specialized training centers. First Tee chapters are forging links with Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs and other youth groups and some schools to help recruit and transport participants. To date, Barrow counts roughly 134 First Tee facilities on board nationwide.

The goal, said Barrow, is to reach 250 standalone First Tee facilities by 2005, plus affiliate relationships with another 500 existing courses to accommodate 500,000 young participants. A $50 million fundraising campaign, co-chaired by tour pros Jack Nicklaus and Juli Inkster, was launched last week with the aim of funding chapters and constructing facilities.

Barrow, son of the late boxing great Joe Louis, said the second phase of the program will be “where we move from concept and planning, into reality and operations.”

To get there, Delta Airlines will make the golf group the beneficiary of a third-quarter 2001 promotion called SkyWish, where frequent flyers donate mileage points for products or services. First Tee and Delta are working on the specifics, with a lavish vacation golf package likely included. Delta will tout via in flight video, direct mail and some media buys. “If we can get I million miles, or more, we could split them up and distribute them regionally to help our local chapters,” said Barrow.

Among other tie-ins, financial services giant PricewaterhouseCoopers will commit $2 million in media to tout First Tee during the PGA Tour’s Fall Finish series; musician Billy Mac will perform up to 10 fundraising concerts; building products maker CertainTeed will give First Tee $100,000 during its Hall of Fame Challenge; and the PGA of America, which represents club pros, will donate $1 million to the Nike will renew its Nike Golf Learning Centers sponsorship for 2001 with American Golf Corp., which operates more than 200 public and private courses in the U.S. The program dangles special offers and instruction. “We consider this a major initiative with both short-term and long-term goals that will help grow both our businesses,” said Chris Zimmerman, Nike vp-marketing.

Learning centers at 40 sites this year led to 25,000 incremental rounds of golf played on American courses. Nike supports with product and brand clout. American promotes on-site and with local ads. Another 25 Nike centers are due in 2001.

Just the beginning, is the way PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem labeled Golf 20/20.”We’ve begun a process where all the stakeholders in the golf industry can come together, establish a working relationship, and discuss common issues and goals,” he said. Headed by a blue-ribbon board and steering committee– comprising execs from the PGA of America, National Golf Foundation, U.S. Golf Assn., LPGA, National Golf Course Owners Assn. and Golf Course Superintendents of America–organizers plan to meet again, as an industry next fall. Among highlights of a multi-part agenda: conducting consumer research; assembling task forces to examine the general fan base as well as junior golf; analyzing “alternative” golf facilities; developing a nationwide “Link Up to Golf” program. “I think we’ll look back five years from now and say ‘See how far we’ve come. See how much has been done’ said David Pillsbury co-CEO of American Golf Corp.

Pitch shots: Actor/comedian Bill Murray and his six brothers plan to open a restaurant at World Golf Village, appropriately named Caddyshack … Notably absent from the confab were major retailers and corporate sponsors.” I am surprised more people from the sponsorship side weren’t invited,” said Tony Derhake, brand manager for Buick Golf, which titles four PGA Tour events among numerous supporting sponsorships. “We certainly have a stake in what’s going on” … “Retaining golfers is just as important as attracting new players,” said Ed Hughes, vp-marketing for Dunlop Sports Group America, which markets Maxfli and Slazenger brands. With 3 million new golfers offset by 3 million players leaving the game each year, the net result is a flat base of approximately 22 million regular golfers. “We need to get more families involved, we need to make golf more fun,” said Hughes. “As an equipment manufacturer, we can help support these organizations and their programs.”

COPYRIGHT 2000 BPI Communications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

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