It's hard to look like Che Guevara while wearing a Ping visor, but a band of insurgent professional golfers is stirring up a quiet rebellion against one of pro sports' most conservative elites—the PGA Tour. The newly formed Tour Players Association (TPA), which claims 50 members from among the 200 or so touring pros, charges that the Tour is secretive about its more than $400 million in annual revenue, of which only about 18% goes to tournament purses. The TPA wants to know where the other 82% goes. It also wants to know why the rank-and-file pros, who make a 10th of the $2 million a year in prize money that a big star does, don't share more of the wealth.
Commissioner Tim Finchem calls the TPA's speaking out "divisive," while player Paul Azinger refers to a proposal that would pay players who miss cuts a stipend of about $2,000 for expenses as "socialist." Yet pros like Azinger, who is 12th on the career money list with $7,451,410, don't have to sweat expenses. Others do. When Mark Woodforde, who ranks 100th on the tennis tour, lost in the first round of the 1998 U.S. Open, he took home $12,000. When 100th-ranked Omar Uresti missed the cut at golf's Open, he got nothing.
The TPA leaders are Danny Edwards (201st on the career money list, with $1,212,304) and Larry Rinker (151st, $1,741,655). They question whether the four player-members of the Tour's policy board—Jay Haas, Tom Lehman, Davis Love III and Mark O'Meara, who are all among the top 20 career money winners—share their concerns. Why, the rebels ask, will only the top 64 pros be allowed into next year's three-event World Championships, the richest tournaments in history? Why will loot from those events count as official earnings, which will only widen the income gap? In a meeting with Finchem last week in San Antonio, Edwards and Rinker stood by their demands for more information, more power and more money. Touring pros are too prosperous and too independent to support radical changes, so a strike is about as likely as a modeling career for John Daly. Yet many pros support the TPA's goals of getting the Tourocracy to open up about its finances and spread the wealth.
For Finchem there's a sure way to test the TPA's support, as well as make good on his claim that his administration has never made a decision "that wasn't in concert with the majority of the players." Let all Tour players vote on the TPA's proposed expenses stipend, and open the Tour's books.