A recent Global Golf Post article caught my attention — not because I recognized Frank Sinatra and Frank Beard, both smiling broadly in the accompanying (1963) photo; nor because of the catchy “A Tale of Two Franks” headline.
It was the beauty of Jill St. John, who was standing between the two Franks; she was smiling and presenting a check to Beard while Sinatra smiled directly at the camera.
The story would transport me to an important part of professional golf history that I certainly did not understand back then, gave no serious consideration to through the years, and only now can fully appreciate as the LIV continues to impact the world professional golf landscape.
It was a reminder that the LIV experience, while significantly more complex, can be better understood if viewed in an agreed upon context: a glance backwards. Sinatra was 47 years old; St. John was his 23-year-old girlfriend. Arnold Palmer was the Tour’s leading money winner in 1958, with earnings of $42,608.
Two years later, Palmer won the Masters and the U.S. Open — on television. Professional golf had entered a new dimension, if not the Twilight Zone. Two years later, Palmer was raking in more than half a million dollars in prize money, endorsements and exhibitions.
A movement was started to address what players believed were management issues that were negatively impacting full-time tour player earnings. When Sinatra sought to schedule an event at the same time as a PGA tournament, and offered almost double the prize money, an already heated pot of player dissatisfaction boiled over.
Frank Beard was among those who spearheaded a closed-door meeting just prior to the U.S. Open, the product of which became known as the Association of Professional Golfers. The APG morphed into the PGA and became totally independent of the PGA of America.
The PGA Tour and the PGA of America eventually boarded a peace train, and the train rumbled along like a Cat Stevens song until LIV Golf was born.
WHAT IT IS
Eight events in five months. Huge sums of money for high-profile, low-profile and no-profile players; unprecedented income and lifestyle changes for caddies. That’s LIV. Controversial, litigious (as an entity and among individuals), loud, boisterous and carnival-like. That’s LIV. Here to stay? It sure looks like it at this point.
WHAT IT WILL BE
The first LIV season is over, and virtually everyone involved in any capacity made mad money — except for its financial backers, who at least for the moment, are unfazed. The second season, comprised of 14 events, starts in February. If there is such a thing as a “sophomore jinx”, LIV is about to find out.
Plans for the future have now been revealed, and include: a new crop of players (to be signed by December), fixed teams and a new ownership structure focused on deriving commercial value in the model of other sports franchises.
Team ownership will be 75 percent LIV and 25 percent “principal players,” the one dozen of which will include Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson. The remaining spots are unfilled, but LIV teases that really big names will be coming on board.
Simply stated, the LIV has its sights on becoming something like the NBA, MLB or NFL. The LIV COO has been quoted as saying, “Our belief is that people understand team sports. They play team sports. They can relate to be associated with a team, while having a favorite player as well. We feel that trend can continue in golf. … I understand the concept is new to golf but the inherent human nature of wanting to be associated with a team is not”.
WHAT WON’T BE
LIV this year funded caddie travel costs, and annual salaries for physios, trainers and others. Team budgets will now have to cover those expenses.
Also, the season won’t be competing with the NFL. Its season will end in September. Schedule? There is none as of this writing.
WHAT MIGHT BE
A television rights deal, which LIV says is being negotiated with multiple (unnamed) entities. What also might be is, well, whatever one can imagine. Writing for GOLF, Nick Piatowski perhaps summed up best. Said he: “The LIV season is over. Do you care?”
Frank Beard won Sinatra’s tournament, and had no idea that the win would place him in the middle of a sea change in the history of the PGA Tour.
Be safe, on and off the course.
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