News & Opinion

PGA’s sappy promos: They’re ad nauseam

The self-aggrandizement starts slowly, almost imperceptibly, at the Masters, the first major championship of the year.

Commercial interruptions that week are few, and the lone broadcast appearance during live play by organizers at Augusta National is a brief, recorded spot underscoring the irony that, in fact, advertising breaks have been reduced to a trickle by design.

By the time viewers get to the PGA Championship, though, commercialism has taken deeper root than the famous, mighty oak that stands outside the Augusta National clubhouse. The repetitive ad spots seem endless, and although every entity has bills to pay, there’s one additional annoyance that pushes some to their tolerance limit.

As event sponsors or organizers increasingly subject viewers to self-serving spiel from the broadcast booth, it practically requires a TrackMan device to measure the backspin rate in millions of rolling eyeballs. As if the ad content isn’t enough, on-camera appearances by officials associated with the 99th PGA Championship represent yet another layer of unwanted intrusion for fans hoping to see golf, not hear from largely anonymous administrators drawing checks from the game’s global payroll. 

To be fair, the PGA has laudable programs, and its top guns capably represent the organization’s nearly 30,000 club professionals nationally. That said, it was easy to cite that number without looking it up, because it’s been repeated dozens of times on the broadcasts this week. So, it’s illustrative of the thesis here.

After surviving a season of CEO business-speak on network PGA Tour broadcasts, TV viewers don’t need for host organizations at the majors to use the tournaments as another platform to spin product and spew propaganda. Seriously, the PGA’s well-crafted self-promotional spots already are airing during the telecast, over several online portals, and are posted on its Internet pages.

It’s already ad, ad, ad, ad nauseam, so the organizational puffery just makes it worse. Sure, the week represents the PGA’s one shot at the spotlight, but the vast majority of those tuning in couldn’t care less about the latest in a series of grow-the-game initiatives. We’re already devotees.

Fans watching weekday play quickly were introduced to the horn tooting when PGA secretary Jim Richerson made an appearance on one of the secondary DirecTV channels, which served to reinforce another annoyance about the parade of officials from the PGA or U.S. Golf Association. These folks are temporary committee members who won’t be around in a couple of years, so their authority is transitory. Next time around, it’ll be a different guy repeating the same clichés, with the same degree of permanence.

Over at TNT, the network carrier in the first two rounds this week, newly minted PGA president Paul Levy, who took over in November, detailed the organization’s do-good deeds to hosts Ernie Johnson and Jim Nantz. It’s become the mass-media equivalent of swallowing an old-school teaspoon of castor oil. It might be better for the game’s constitution, but nobody wants it shoved down his throat.

As though the self-serving appearances by the PGA brass weren’t bad enough, Johnny Harris, a member of host venue Quail Hollow’s founding family and president of the club, has been making appearances in the video and TV booths all week. Harris is an Augusta National member, a Charlotte-area developer and scion of an affluent, deeply rooted North Carolina family. 

“We’ve come up with a very, very nice place for championship golf,” Harris said.

There’s a purely objective opinion, right? It was hard-hitting, illuminating stuff.

“What’s your favorite hole out here, John?” Johnson asked.

Enduring the saccharine conversations between network hosts such as Nantz or Dan Hicks and the corporate suit whose firm is sponsoring that week’s PGA Tour event has become like dropping a drawer of silverware on a tile floor. It’s a testament to the professionalism of Nantz and Hicks that neither cracks a smirk while serving up live softballs such as, “Tell us, [insert corporate shill’s name here], you must really be proud of your company’s wonderful charitable efforts in the [insert host city] area.”

Don’t we deserve a break at the majors? After all, there are fewer corporate egos to feed because there is no primary title sponsor.

Even when Mike Davis, the U.S. Golf Association’s executive director, appears on camera at the U.S. Open, it sounds like something other than a pimping of the organizational game plan. Then again, Davis has spent most of the past three years with the media in attack mode, and has been forced to defend his brethren from pitchfork- and torch-toting fans who are upset about the staging of the national championship. He hasn’t had time to push an agenda. As for the British Open, if officials from the host R&A have made appearances on the U.S. broadcasts, did anybody notice? 

Viewers already are enduing roughly 20 minutes of commercials per hour, so suffering through several more minutes of hubris from the host organization is further depriving them of what they want to see most: golf shots during one of the most important weeks of the year. 

For those at home, on-camera testimonials by spotlight-happy officials are just another commercial intrusion, masquerading as content. And that’s not growing the game one iota.

Steve Elling has covered golf for the Orlando Sentinel, and numerous other global print and online outlets. Email:; Twitter: @EllingYelling