News & Opinion

Tour makes key pass to NBA’s Curry

Stephen Curry never met Bob Hope, Bing Crosby or Andy Williams. They were entertainers of a different generation, celebrities of another genre, but they shared Curry’s passion and fascination for golf.

So, it’s only fitting to see Curry carrying on their legacy, in a sense.

Hope, Crosby and Williams were high-profile hosts of PGA Tour events back in the day – Hope in Palm Springs, Crosby at Pebble Beach and Williams in San Diego. They were cool, stylish ambassadors for the game.

Fast forward to 2018 and now we have Curry poised to slide into the role. Great call. He’s the right man at the right time, one of the few professional athletes who could widen golf’s audience simply by attaching his name to a tournament.

That’s the plan of Octagon and PGA Tour officials, who are plotting a new event to debut in the San Francisco Bay Area in September 2019. Curry would be the tournament host, with proceeds benefiting his charitable foundation.

This counts as a fresh, intriguing twist. It doesn’t signal the return of celebrity sponsors/hosts as much as it illustrates Curry’s widespread appeal – a transcendent NBA player in his prime (age 30), the face of the league’s premier franchise and one of the most popular athletes in Northern California history.

Oh, and a relevant reminder: He’s utterly consumed by golf.

Curry has been playing since age 10, constantly watches Golf Channel and has a putting green and practice net in his backyard. He regularly plays in the American Century Classic, the celebrity event in South Lake Tahoe, Nev.; has participated in the pro-am of the Safeway Open at Silverado Resort in Napa, Calif.; and made hisWeb.com Tour debut last August, missing the cut but shooting respectable rounds of 74-74 in the Ellie Mae Classic in Hayward, Calif. (“Curry gives golf an edge this week,” Aug. 3).

This borderline-obsession stretches even further. Personal aside: My job includes writing frequent features on the Warriors, and thus occasional interviews of Curry. Those conversations inevitably end with idle golf chatter (Who do you like this week?), just two fans shooting the breeze.

At any rate, the PGA Tour shrewdly is seizing on Curry’s interest in hosting a tournament. He resonates with a younger, more diverse demographic than golf’s customary audience. Curry is the ultimate crossover superstar, with off-the-charts name recognition – even a better fit than Justin Timberlake, the former host of the annual fall event in Las Vegas.

The timing also is convenient, with the Warriors scheduled to move across the bay to San Francisco for the 2019-20 season. Curry’s event probably will be held in the city or somewhere to the south, on the peninsula.

Also worth noting, as we’ve pointed out before: He will enter the fray amid a striking stretch for big-time golf in Northern California (“Major tours rediscover Bay Area gems,” April 24). Pebble Beach will host this year’s U.S. Amateur and next year’s U.S. Open; the PGA Championship will come to Harding Park in May 2020; and The Olympic Club will host the U.S. Women’s Open in June 2021.

Curry’s event will not have the same cachet, given its spot on the calendar – after the FedEx Cup playoffs, just as football season starts to grab the attention of sports fans across the nation. But he’s Steph Curry, and he no doubt will embrace his role as host of a PGA Tour event.

That’s good for golf, absolutely.

Ron Kroichick has covered golf for the San Francisco Chronicle since 2005. He also is a regular contributor to NCGA Golf, the Northern California Golf Association’s magazine. E-mail: r.kroichick@comcast.net; Twitter: @ronkroichick