Made-for-TV events: Fun? Obscene? Obscene fun?
So all of you who wondered why I was writing about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes last week were certainly justified. “Why here?” you hollered.
Fair enough. I guess I figured if David Feherty could report on his struggle with Demon Rum (or Demon Irish Whiskey in his case) in Golf Magazine, I could vent about the Cult of Fame we in America seem so obsessed with.
But back to the golf:
The made-for-TV-event The ING Par-3 Shootout wrapped up today at Treetops Resort in Gaylord, Michigan. If you don’t feel like staying up for the tape-delayed coverage on ESPN2, Andy North was your winner. North pocketed $350,000. Gary McCord was second with $90,000, and defending champion Fred Couples and Phil Mickelson tied for third with $50,000.
Now, speaking of the Cult of Fame, I must say that I am conflicted about events like the Par-3 Shootout. I covered the mini-skins game for three years, and was standing just 12 feet from Lee Trevino when he aced the 8th hole on the first day in 2001, thereby winning $1.01 million bucks. This was the single most lucrative single swing in the history of the game, and I high-fived Lee Trevino.
So I will admit: I loved the event in person. I got to watch Lee’s son and Fred Couples’s son caddy for their old men. I got to ride around the course during a pro-am with Phil Mickelson and talk about our daughters and psychology (Phil was a psych major). I got to hang out with Rick Smith before he became a media darling and hear all sorts of great stories about the pros he’s tutored over the years. I loved to play the course, Threetops, as it was set up for the tourney.
Nevertheless, I couldn’t shake the ambivalence: Why should I, or any one else, want to watch rich guys getting richer? True, North’s winnings this year for two 9-hole days dwarfed his best year on the PGA TOUR ($212,268 in 1985), and he’s not exactly lighting fires on the Champions Tour. But I’m guessing his commentator gig at ESPN and appearance fees as a former U.S. Open Champ are still keeping him comfy.
But $50,000 for Mickelson and Couples? These guys spend more than that on dinner. Heck, when Couples won the event in 2002 and earned $410,000, I was the only media guy in the trailer when he called home and told his assistant to tell his wife that they should buy “that land in Montana.”
Oh, hooray for Boom-Boom! He can now feed his kids…and buy acreage in Big Sky Country!
But I was also the only media guy with Trevino’s agent as he called St. Jude Children’s Hospital and told them that they were going to receive $500,000 – half of Lee’s take for that ace.
Events like these were conceived in a day when all but the elite pro golfers were scraping by. In a day when future baseball Hall of Famers like Harmon Killebrew were handing out free samples of Vienna Sausages in grocery stores on off days to pay the bills (I know, I got a sample from Mr. Killebrew once).
Do they have any relevance today, when purses at the second or third-tier PGA Tour events reach upwards of $3.5 million?
I don’t know.
I do know that I will be watching the Par-3 Shootout tonight on ESPN2. But I also know I’ll be fighting ambivalence throughout – pleasure at watching good golf on a course I know well, distaste for watching rich guys get richer while I ponder my ballooning credit card balance.
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