Michelle Wie reportedly received $700,000 in appearance fees to attend the Asian Tour's 2006 SK Telecom Open. Tiger Woods' bonus for showing up at the Australian Masters will top the $3 million mark with the state government footing half of the bill! Are appearance fees a good idea and can they help fuel a weakened economy?
Crowds no doubt swarm to an event where Tiger Woods is in the mix. A report from Ernst and Young stated that an estimated "10-20,000 overseas and interstate visitors would travel to the southern city to see Woods." That translates into over $19 million dollars in income for Australia! This is a win-win situation for the Masters but the Open, which plays only two weeks later, will probably suffer with a lax in funding and attendance.
Endorsement deals are lining pockets but, in the future, will larger-than-life players require appearance fees before even deciding to play? Phil Mickelson's presence at the Barclays in Singapore grossed him seven figures, Michelle Wie is said to have received over $20 million in just one season and, although fees for LPGA golfers are far less than their male counterparts, Annika Sorenstam earned over $12 million off-course and champions like Cristie Kerr and Natalie Gulbis are known to travel to events on private jets.
In this new media age, you can even "rent" your very own sports personality right off of the internet! Procurement agencies such as Mastergolf.com claim to be able to "turn events into sold-out standing room only spectacles". Gulbis is said to command a mere $18-38,000, Nancy Lopez' fee is over $35k and Crenshaw and Couples top out at over $65,000 each.
Although no blame is to be exacted in this column, one of the earliest golfers paving the road with appearance fees could be tracked down to Greg Norman who, as far back as the mid-nineties, is said to have commanded honorarium upwards of $200,000 and fuel for his private jet.
Top golfers are now considered celebrities and are basically being paid to perform. Whether they win or lose, they are still the draw that bring fans, and their dollars, out to the courses. So I ask, is it better to be Tiger Woods who happily accepts, and seeks out, appearance fees or Lorena Ochoa who, according to her brother and manager, is "not the kind of girl who's looking for options to be on TV or in magazine articles,” but "just wants to be the number one player in the world."
Also, on this week's Golf for Beginners show, Barry and I offer several swing drills. One assist comes from the David Leadbetter Academy which can help set your hand position in your backswing and the other drill comes from Rick Smith whose drill will help increase your accuracy!
We also talk about Annika Sorenstam's two big announcements and their effect upon the LPGA Tour!
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