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The Sports Professor’s Weekly Sports and Entertainment Dollar: February 28, 2014

By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek

As it Swings into Florida, PGA Tour Met with Bear Hug

Right about now in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Honda Classic Executive Director Ken Kennerly and Tournament Director Ed McEnroe are breathing a sigh of relief.

On Friday, their tournament’s infamous Bear Trap claimed uber popular PGA Tour pro Phil Mickelson, returning to the PGA National course after an absence of many years. But it failed to entrap World Number One Tiger Woods, who made the cut by a stroke and thus preserved the casual fans’ interest in this first stop on the PGA Tour’s Florida Swing for the weekend.

Even if Tiger’s tail had gotten caught in the Bear Trap, the Honda Classic, its pro tournament peers, and the thousands of recreational golfers who descend on the Sunshine State each year provide a critical cog in the Florida economic engine.

And in many ways, the PGA Tour’s return to Florida every February is not just a homecoming—it’s a journey inward to the sport’s very heart and soul.

All told, according to the Economic Impact of Sports and Recreation Activities in Florida report prepared in 2005 for the Florida Sports Foundation by the Washington Economics Group, sports in Florida combine for a $36 billion industry that provides 434,000 jobs to citizens of the state.

Alongside NASCAR and the nine major pro sports franchises in the state, the PGA Tour, LPGA, and the PGA of America all call the Sunshine State home. And at last count, Florida boasted more than 1,100 golf courses.

In 2004, the last year such a comprehensive study was conducted, the PGA Tour and LPGA held Florida events with approximately 420,000 fans in attendance. About 20% of the attendance represented out-of-town visitors, who generated an estimated 277,000 hotel room nights and $71.4 million in tourism-related spending in Florida.

Overall, the year-to-year total economic impact from professional golf and tennis tournaments is estimated at $211 million. This activity supports just over 3,000 employment positions.

Not bad work if you can get it, and the world’s top touring pros—a large percentage of whom call Florida home at least part of the year—sit atop that golf food chain.

Woods, of course, has long been at the top of that food chain in terms of on and off course earnings—and the PGA Tour’s most recent title sponsor deal is likely to put even more money in Woods’ pocket.

Earlier this week, various media outlets reported that the Tour is close to signing a deal for Quicken Loans to become title sponsor of Woods’ summertime event at Congressional Country Club in Washington, D.C. AT&T, in the final year of its title sponsor deal, was not likely to renew. Quicken, which also title sponsors Sprint Cup races at Phoenix International Raceway and Michigan International Speedway (and backs NASCAR driver Ryan Newman) could provide stability for the D.C. event for years to come.

Alongside Woods, who now calls Jupiter Island, Florida home, Gary Player is another golfing icon who spends a significant amount of time in Florida.

These days, Player is also spending a lot of time on social media.

Player might not be the most likely of people to be active on social media, but the Grand Slam champion is approaching Twitter and Facebook like everything else in his life: to do it, he’s going to do it right. At present, Player is among the most active professional golfers on social media.

Social media is just another way that Player continues to prove that age is just a number. He sees Twitter as a way to reach and engage with fans, journalists, and charities across the world. In fact, not a day goes by when Player isn’t checking the latest news on Twitter and engaging with followers.

Always passionate about growing the game and helping golfers, Player does not shy away from lending his golf advice learned over his professional career that has spanned over 60 years. In addition to golf advice, Player posts countless inspiration, motivational, upbeat and positive quips, photos, and quotes throughout the week. He also makes sure to send out congratulatory tweets to tournament winners each Sunday or Monday.

Back in the terrestrial universe, Gary Player Design has designed over 325 courses around the world in 35 countries on five continents (including properties in Florida). The firm continues to be the global leader in golf course design and the most recognized firm internationally. One region the company has paid particularly close attention to is Asia.

Gary Player Design has completed 50 projects across the continent. The company also currently has 14 Open projects in Asia, eight of which are in China. With the continent a key growth region, Gary Player plans on attending the China Golf Show next month.

Perhaps one of the most notable design projects to debut this year will be the Presidential Golf Club in Beijing. The Signature Design located in China’s capital city is being developed by Gary Player Design in conjunction with the Chinese government’s plans to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in late 2014.

In the nearer future, Player is looking forward to playing the Wednesday Par Three Tournament at the Masters with old friends Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer (fellow Floridians, natch). And you can bet that come Sunday night or Monday morning, he’ll whip out his cellphone and send a brief tweet of congratulations to whoever survives the Bear Trap over the weekend and walks away with the Honda Classic trophy and a brand new car.

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