For 10 years after that the PGA and television had a fuzzy connection in which neither party was entirely satisfied. Nor was either side cognizant of the enormously rich possibilities of a full-scale working merger. In the beginning tournaments such as the Masters, the Open and the Crosby were purchased and sold under individual contracts; later many of the regular PGA events were handled in the same manner. During this time the sponsors of the tournaments owned all of the television rights, and the players became increasingly concerned with where this TV money was going. They felt that, with no bargaining powers, the sponsors were being whipsawed by television and, further, that when the sponsors did get the money nobody from the PGA side really knew how much of it was there.
It was not until 1964 that this situation was changed. Through their television representative, Martin Carmichael, a New York lawyer, the players finally obtained the TV rights to many of their own PGA events and sold them in a package deal. Now they knew how much money TV was shelling out and, of far greater importance, they knew exactly where it was going.
"Our first package was for seven tournaments and $75,000," says Carmichael. "But in 1965, a year later, the dam broke and, for twice the number of events, we went up to $700,000. The money has been moving steadily upward ever since."
For the 1967 and 1968 seasons Carmichael negotiated for the PGA the first major sports TV contract worked out simultaneously and individually with two different networks (ABC and Sports Network, Inc.). It provided for live telecasts of 15 tour events a year, about the same number as is included in the recently signed agreement for the 1969 and 1970 seasons. That two-year contract calls for approximately twice the figure per year negotiated in the PGA's original "big money" deal of 1965.
"We have tried to advance on the theory of selling fewer tournaments for more money," says Carmichael. "The PGA is constantly concerned with putting too much golf on television. But if the networks keep paying for it and advertisers still want to buy the time, I guess we're not overexposing ourselves yet."
(In the midst of the PGA's internecine struggle last week Carmichael went ahead and quietly closed part of the new TV contract involving a four-tournament package of Doral, Greensboro, New Orleans and Atlanta. It is fairly certain that no matter what the eventual outcome of the players' revolt, both players and sponsors will honor their television commitments.)
In recent years more and more tournaments are being supported, if not entirely taken over, by such giant business sponsors as Ford, Buick, Eastern, Kaiser and Kemper Life Assurance. As this trend continues, as the demand for more and richer golf tournaments exceeds the number of weeks in which to play them, the PGA is faced with a dilemma: either replace the older but cheaper events with new, more lucrative tournaments or turn down the new offers in order to stand fast with old friends. However, for all the sponsors the question is, in effect: What can you do for me now? And the solution ultimately will depend on who comes up with the most money.
"We have two responsibilities, one to the players and one to the sponsors," says Frank Beard, a member of the players' tournament committee. "But we've got to think our primary obligation is to the players. How can we tell our guys that we've turned down maybe a million more dollars next year in order to retain all of our old sponsors? Tournament golf is a sponsor's sideline; it's a player's livelihood. All we've received over the last few months is criticism about being money-grabbing, power-hungry, poor little rich boys, and we're tired of it. Most of us would like to see this whole problem out in the marketplace."
In the light of the many new offers of tournaments received by the PGA, a letter from the tournament committee was sent out in May informing all sponsors of tournaments held during the summer months that their events were up for review (SI, June 3). The wording of the letter (and its use of specific figures) was unfortunate, because it has been misinterpreted as a demand by the PGA that all sponsors come up with a $200,00 purse or else.
"We aren't trying to dump anybody indiscriminately," says Jack Nicklaus, another member of the committee. "We have just explained our situation and we have told everyone that, after this review, we will call in the sponsors of our weakest tournaments—and these are not necessarily the cheapest ones—and try to agree upon some improvements. The figures we talk about are mostly intangibles. Contrary to what a lot of people believe, a good golf tournament is made up of more than just money."