Sports | January 21, 2021 10:22 am

Appearance Fees Help Drive Top Golfers to Play During Pandemic

Money from sponsors is giving elite golfers a good reason to travel during the pandemic

Appearance Fees Help Drive Top Golfers to Play During Pandemic
Tommy Fleetwood before a shot during the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images

Though it has yet to be adopted by the NCAA (which may change now that there is a new administration in the White House), “pay to play” is alive and well in professional golf, even amidst a global pandemic.

In fact, the appearance fees that are paid by sponsors that often allow golfers and their entourages to travel to and from tournaments in remote locations essentially for free have become vitally important during a time when traveling comes with added risk.

Golf’s elite players usually receive fees of more than $500,000, whereas lesser players can sometimes only have their airfare and accommodation (as well as bonus money for their caddie) covered, according to The New York Times.

“Players typically commit to play 35 weeks, which leaves you 17 weeks a year off, or for holidays or sponsor obligations,” Nick Biesecker, a longtime golf agent, told The Times. “Time is your most valuable commodity. It has to be lucrative to carve out a week.”

Especially at events with few or no fans in attendance due to COVID-19, having a field of big-name players is important for sponsors who want to attract attention and sustain a TV audience.

“When you’re trying to sell sponsorships, you need to have the best field possible,” Biesecker said. “If you have to load some pockets up to have that field, that’s what you do. Sometimes the sponsor says I want this guy to come, and here’s the money for it.”

Although the PGA Tour prohibits players from being paid to come to a tournament, some events on the Asian and Japan tours pay players, and the European Tour allows tournament promoters to pay golfers to show up.

Though it was just held in November, The Masters, the first major of the season, is set to be held April 8-11 at Augusta National.

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