The Web.com Tour has existed under that name for five years, after previously being the Nationwide Tour, the Buy.com Tour, the Nike Tour, and, initially, the Ben Hogan Tour.
Those facts were looked up in order to write the preceding sentence because, well, it’s minor league golf and your humble correspondent can barely stomach the highest level of the favored game of embattled current United States presidents. More on that guy later.
This week, the Web.com Tour is in California for the Ellie Mae Classic at TPC San Francisco Bay, and it would be otherwise completely not worth noting that Nicholas Thompson was the first-round leader with a 7-under-par 63, if not for the context. That context would be that 2016 NBA MVP Stephen Curry finished Thursday in a tie for 143rd place, 11 shots behind Thompson.
Curry is playing on a sponsor’s exemption, a nifty quirk of professional golf in which anyone – absolutely anyone – can get into a tournament and play alongside professionals. In this case, it was used absolutely brilliantly to draw attention to the event, the tour, and the sponsors. Thanks to Curry’s presence, there have been searches launched to find out what the Web.com Tour is (see above), what Web.com is (a site design and hosting firm, naturally), and what Ellie Mae is (a mortgage software company).
Elite athletes competing in sports other than their own is always great, even if you don’t like the second sport. It’s just a fascinating thing to see. Curry made it all the more so on his very first shot by doing what he always does, sinking a shot from long range – this time into a golf cart’s cup holder.
Minor league baseball teams generate attention for themselves all the time with zany promotions and attractions. There’s no reason that minor league golf cannot or should not be doing the same. In an atmosphere where only diehard fans of the sport would otherwise be paying attention, there is nothing wrong with adding some extra intrigue. It doesn’t have to turn golf into the kind of sideshow that would make those diehards cringe, just as Curry showed with his performance, generating attention while maintaining the usual standards of the links.
Now, when it comes to not maintaining usual standards of pretty much anything, we have Donald Trump, whose relationship with golf was profiled this week by Golf Magazine. The piece by Alan Shipnuck generated a stir because of the revelation that Trump has said “the White House is a real dump” in chats with golf club members to explain why he’s constantly teeing it up, and Trump responded by referring to Golf Magazine as “Fake News” and the report as “TOTALLY UNTRUE.”
While that was the attention grabber, the thing that’s hard to shake is this passage:
“In 2007, Trump called (Sports Illustrated senior writer Michael) Bamberger to brag about a 68 he had shot at Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles. Trump’s handicap index is officially 2.8, but he has posted only three scores since ’14. (Golfer Ernie) Els, a South Florida resident who has known Trump for many years, estimates he is “an eight or a nine.” For Trump to shoot 68 on a tough course like Bel-Air would require him to play nearly perfectly from tee to green while making a number of substantial putts. One of his playing partners that day confirmed that Trump played ‘good,’ but that he took all the usual liberties common among everyday golfers: mulligans, gimmes, improved lies, etc. There was no mention of the 68 in a subsequent story, and Bamberger heard about it from Trump.”
It’s hard to say what the best part of this is. Trump called a reporter to brag about a round of golf, but for as much as he plays, hardly ever cards a true round for his handicap. In the round he was so proud of, witnesses say he cheated, and there’s no official record of it having happened. The rest of us should only be so lucky, but the real stinger is “improved lies” in a story about Trump. It’s just too good.
The good news is, there’s an easy way to prove just how good of a golfer Trump is. Next week, the Web.com Tour heads to Springfield, Mo., in a county Trump won by 27 points in November, for the Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper. The president is on vacation anyway, so let’s get a sponsor’s exemption set up and see what happens when Trump plays it as it lies.