WELCOME to The Money Issue, where we crunch the numbers on all things golf and reveal just who is really benefitting financially from this great game.
As Tiger Woods’ career earnings tick past $US1.4 billion this month, it’s a timely reminder of just how powerful golf has become in the world of economic struggle.
While industries the world over are looking for shortcuts to bail them out of the red, golf continues to spend big to get one-up on its rivals.
Golf clubs are splashing millions on course improvements as they feel the pinch of justifying exorbitant membership fees.
Governing bodies are pouring more cash into their development programs to meet KPIs in a results-driven era.
And then there are the manufacturers, who are setting aside more and more of their annual profits to bankroll marquee player funds.
One source familiar with endorsement deals, speaking with Australian Golf Digest under the condition of anonymity, estimates that TaylorMade spends “$20 million to $25 million” combined on its big four signings [Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose].
Of course, stories like this are all positive for the sport. But it poses the question: has golf become too obsessed with the dollar? Shouldn’t more of this wealth be farmed out to our grassroots for long-term sustainability?
There’s an old saying: find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. Yet some tour pros hit a little white ball around for no other reason than making a quick buck. But who can blame them in today’s world?
Speaking with Golf World senior writer Tim Rosaforte recently, Thai superstar Kiradech Aphibarnrat shed some light on why he turned to the tour life: shoes. Aphibarnrat revealed he has 15 pairs of Yeezys, which can cost more than $1,000 each.
But that’s not his only materialistic pursuit.
“Watches, I think all that I can make – the earnings from last year – has gone to buy all of my watches,” he says. “That’s why I play a lot around the world. I spend a lot of it on all that stuff.”
The world’s 70th-ranked golfer (yes, 70th) also pulled the trigger on a white Ferrari recently. Why white, you ask? “If I go anywhere, everybody knows there’s only one in Thailand,” says Aphibarnrat.
That’s a tale of good fortune but golf has had its fair share of insanely stupid money stories, too, many of which revolve around John Daly. The Wild Thing once threw $55,000 off a bridge because his wife was annoying him. Classic John. Then there’s his autobiography, My Life In and Out of the Rough, where he details the time he cashed a cheque for $750,000 after being pipped by Tiger Woods in a playoff at the World Golf Championships event in San Francisco. To celebrate the occasion, Daly went out and blew $1.65 million in five hours playing $5,000-a-hit poker machines.
One thing this scribe learned on a recent trip to America is that there are worse things you can do than become a full-time caddie abroad. My bagman revealed he clears $US80,000 a year after tax and you can probably throw at least another $10,000 to $20,000 in tips on top of that. To put things in perspective, a US PGA Tour caddie whose player finishes 40th on the moneylist can expect to receive $US161,332.
When you consider the median household income in America across all jobs is a little more than $US50,000, lugging clubs around definitely has its rewards.
If only Australia had a caddie culture…