January 27, 2023

CME Group Tour Championship

Pajaree Anannarukarn of Thailand advances during round one of the CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida.

(Photo: Scott Halleran | Golffile)

question of the week [Nov. 28-Dec. 4]: Ahead of the LPGA’s CME Group Tour Championship season ending, CME Group Chairman and CEO Terry Duffy expressed disappointment that no players attended the tournament’s annual leadership conference dinner. Should players be expected to participate in tournament sponsor events outside of the Pro-Ams?

TIED TOGETHER: The First Call Inbox Archive

Absolutely yes. It is a request from the sponsor who happens to be providing a significant amount of money and time to make the event possible. It should be a mandatory engagement organized by the LPGA tour under a “player revolving” system. Upset sponsors … disappear.

Peter Boyc
Strathroy, Ontario
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CME Group Chairman and CEO Terry Duffy was enraged and embarrassed when no one stood up upon spotting the players during his dinner. Nobody was there. In my opinion, the wrong question is being asked as I believe the LPGA leadership should know about Mr. Duffy’s expectations before dinner. A responsible leader would have made Mr. Duffy figure out his plans, especially when it came to player recognition. All the more so since the CME Group is one of the largest, if not the largest, sponsor of the LPGA. My question would be “How many players should the LPGA have at this dinner?”

But to answer the pointed question, yes, players should be expected to attend tournament sponsored events when it is the largest tournament sponsor on the tour and when the host expects players to be present.

Thomas R Jennings
Winder, Georgia
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LPGA players are in no position to snub or ignore corporate sponsorship outings that bring so much money to this financially strapped league. The golf is great, but there’s just no interest in this tour being so self-sustaining that it can afford the luxury of calling off that kind of sponsorship activity.

If the LPGA Tour deems this a sufficiently legitimate concern, there should be some sort of tiered rating system for players, with their participation highly recommended, if not mandatory, to continually strengthen their alliances with LPGA-affiliated sponsors strengthen.

Behind the scenes, these types of corporate events are treated as a nuisance by players. When these very sponsors raise their tent stakes and redirect funding to other lines of business, players may get the reality check that we all sadly need to remind ourselves on occasion to appreciate the relationships that have been forged to get us to the top current levels of success, that we enjoy.

Steve Villanueva
La Habra, California
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My answer is yes, unless they have a prior commitment that is communicated to the sponsor. Too many gamers either don’t know or forget that they are in the entertainment business. They have different target groups and in my opinion the most important target group is the sponsor.

Some may argue that fans are the most important audience. Important, yes, but without sponsors there are no fans. I humbly and respectfully suggest that any player who disagrees with the importance of sponsorship should find another job.

George Shutt
OrlandoFlorida
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I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the LPGA Tour to allow some players to compete in a sponsored event (e.g., a CME Group event at the Tour Championship). CME offers the biggest wallet of the season, right? The LPGA has to scrap for its share of the sports pie.

Let’s face it, golf was a niche sport before Tiger Woods and will return to that niche once Woods retires. The reason golf is so closely associated with Woods — the hype we’re going to get this month of seeing him driving a cart at some hit-and-giggel events is a prime example of that — is that when Tiger Playing golf, the sport is outside of its small niche.

I think the ladies are much more fan and gallery friendly. They’re not spoiled country club dudes like the PGA Tour pros. There’s also a lot more personality on the women’s tour. They’re not soulless millionaire machines like the overwhelming majority of PGA Tour players. I also find women’s football much more likeable for me as a fan of the sport.

So the whole point of all this is that the LPGA Tour has come a long way in the last five years. CME is a big sponsor whose event offers a big payday. I don’t think it’s overly onerous to ask some players to show up and shake a few hands for the benefit of the tour. They do it for their individual sponsors. Why wouldn’t the commissioner ask the players to have an hour or two to help the tour? You can play 20 events again – all in North America – for 10% of the total PGA Tour money. It wasn’t long ago that they did just that.

William A. Galinas
Broomall, Pennsylvania
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There’s an old saying that goes, “For a penny, for a pound.” Players lucky enough to be on the big tours today make big bucks. Yes, it’s not an easy life, but I don’t know a single person on tour who would say, “You know, I think I’d rather work at an accounting firm or build cars at a GM plant.”

I realize they got to where they are incredible players now. However, there would be no tour – or should I say no prize money – without the sponsors. When a main sponsor raises $4-6 million, I think the players need to be there to support whatever events the sponsors are planning.

Paul Vicary
The Villages, Florida
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This week’s question of the week reminds me of my leadership training. Speaking of leadership coach Jim Collins, when things are going well, I look out the window and applaud the team. When things go wrong, I look in the mirror and ask what went wrong.

Terry Duffy would have honored CME and his team by remaining silent and speaking to his team about the lack of attendance. Duffy comes across as a nag with such remarks. He would be better off addressing the situation head-on—as most competent leaders would. He could reach out to some of the proposed participants and ask them why they didn’t attend. Simon Sink recommends “Start with Why”. Duffy should take timely advice and ask the “why” question instead of reacting emotionally in public.

Perhaps Duffy would benefit from leadership mentoring and training, or it is time for a leadership change at CME.

Ralph Brown
Vacaville, California
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Players should definitely attend these events. Corporate sponsors are the lifeblood of the tours. Without them there would be no professional golf.

Mike Wells
Aiken, South Carolina
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Professional golf is a combination of three things: 1, business; 2, entertainment; 3, competition.

Terry Duffy is a key component in two of those things. From a business standpoint, his sponsorship dollars bring in much of the “money money” that is critically tied to the competition that pays players to play in the golf tournament.

In fact, if you don’t have the money, you can’t have the competition. In this regard, Duffy is extremely important and players must be sensitive to the business interests of CME Group and should therefore attend the event. It was clearly in the players’ best financial interests to be there, but as the LPGA commissioner said, there was a “disconnection”. As a businessman, I find this error really shocking. Shame on the LPGA and their players for insulting the CME Group who has been a wonderful sponsor of women’s professional golf. Triple bogey on this one.

Reid Farrill
Toronto, Ont
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Totally agree with Duffy. His company puts up a big purse and gets nothing from the players and not a word from the very weak and inept LPGA officer. A complete failure.

Mr. Duffy should take his tournament away from the LPGA.

Douglas Fraser
Ocean City, NJ
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After receiving the Tour Card, don’t the players have an introductory seminar? What a time to lay out expectations, sponsorship commitments, pro-ams, dress codes, rules of golf, interviews, pension details and a basic concept of playing professional golf at the highest level while maintaining a form of personal lifestyle. As more countries produce competitive players, the tour must accommodate an increase in cultures, languages ​​and personalities. If you want people to do something, they might have to be told.

Michael Schuman
Durham, Ontario
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