This weekend changed the lives of a few dozen professional golfers. Thirty players received PGA Tour cards at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship and 10 earned LPGA Tour cards at the Epson Tour Championship. There were also players that fell agonizingly short of achieving their dream and had to face the harsh reality of their uncertain futures once again. These events make golf unique and show the human element of sport. They just lack context.
Unless you are a complete golf nut that has the free time to follow every professional tour, you likely haven’t heard of many of the players that earned better status this weekend. The vast majority of people who turned in to watch Josh Teater grind his way to a PGA Tour card or read that Auston Kim won on her way to an LPGA Tour membership likely hadn’t heard their names before. It’s the nature of a sport that has thousands of players, multiple feeder tours, and limited resources allocated to coverage of anything below the top tours.
Still, something has to be done to make this weekend more notable for fans and impactful for players.
The current structure of both the Korn Ferry and Epson Tours require fans to do research on their own throughout the season since most events aren’t available on television or via streaming. Korn Ferry Tour events are covered decently well at the end of the year, but there is a lot of season-long context that viewers don’t have. So, only the most diehard golf fans get to fully appreciate what’s going on during the end of the feeder tours’ seasons. There are too many barriers for everybody who isn’t deeply engaged all year.
Every season, fans are greeted with new faces on both the PGA and LPGA Tours. And every season, fans have little idea who the new players are. Imagine if the 2023 NFL season started and most fans had no thoughts about the rookies on their teams. That’s the situation in golf right now.
The recently created PGA Tour University program attempted to alleviate this problem by ensuring that the best NCAA players have guaranteed status, but that only came about because the Tour felt pressured by the emergence of LIV. If the golf governing bodies want to get viewers more engaged in its product, fans need to be able to see players develop. Post-round interviews can only go so far. Broadcasting tournaments and showing discussions of both on-course performance and personal background will help fans understand who they want to root for and why.
We will never reach a point where the golf fan knows everything about every player that comes across their screen. But through an increase in coverage and better cohesion between tours, we can get closer to the level of familiarity felt by fans of team sports.
The final week of the feeder tour season is exciting. Let’s make it feel that way.
This piece originally appeared in The Fried Egg newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.