News & Opinion

It’s a shot too good for Tour not to take

Maybe other big-name celebrities secretly yearn to host a PGA Tour event. Maybe they also want to align themselves with the world’s best golfers and broaden the audience of a sport with a finite number of engaged, passionate fans.

And now they’re wondering: How did the Tour mess this up?

That’s a fair question, with no easy answer.

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Stephen Curry

Last week’s news – the PGA Tour abandoned plans for a new fall tournament in the San Francisco Bay Area, to be hosted by two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry (“In the news,” Jan. 9) – stunned those paying attention. Most details had fallen into place between the Tour, sports-management company Octagon and Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City, Calif., to the point that Tour and Octagon officials were plotting a news conference for Jan. 10.

Then, poof! The whole thing fell apart.

Granted, the event was ambitious, complicated and perhaps unrealistic in the first place. Lake Merced members agreed to substantive course upgrades, to the tune of more than $3.6 million (Octagon pledged to cover most of the costs). Those changes needed to happen before September, because an LPGA event also was scheduled at the club, for May 2-5.

Not an ideal timetable, by any measure.

But strip away all this for a moment and remember: Steph Curry, one of the most popular and likeable athletes on the planet, wanted to host a PGA Tour event. Curry looked forward to recruiting Tour pros to participate. He would have wandered the course during the tournament and presented a trophy to the winner, all while spreading his love of golf.

Sorry, but the Tour absolutely must make that work.

Why exactly it didn’t work remains a mystery. PGA Tour officials released a statement blaming the short timeframe. They dismissed the reality of a late, unexpected snag in months-long negotiations with potential title sponsor Workday, a finance and human-resources software company based in the Bay Area.

The Tour, naturally, wants to protect (or repair) its relationship with Workday, an active corporate presence in golf circles; Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar are among the players endorsing the company. Just last month, Workday jumped in to become presenting sponsor of this week’s tournament, near Palm Springs, Calif.

Our point: This company knows how these deals work, and no doubt understands the value of a Steph Curry partnership. So, it’s entirely logical to wonder whether the Tour made some out-of-the-blue, last-minute demands, ultimately scuttling the deal.

Too bad, really.

Eight months ago, here in Morning Read, we compared Curry to Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Andy Williams (“Tour makes key pass to NBA’s Curry,” May 29). They were entertainers of a previous generation, celebrities from another genre, but they shared Curry’s passion and fascination for golf. They hosted Tour events back in the day and helped the game attract fans.

Curry, given a chance to carry on their legacy, can do even more. As we pointed out previously, he resonates with a younger, more diverse demographic than golf’s customary audience. Curry is the ultimate crossover superstar.

He remains optimistic, saying he and his charitable foundation still are committed to bringing a new tournament to San Francisco. It probably won’t happen next year, given the PGA Championship at Harding Park in May 2020. Curry’s event might wait until the fall of ’21, potentially at Harding.

The Tour, for its own good, needs to make this happen.

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